As many of my friends and relatives know, I spent the first half of 2007 writing a book with my friend Jonathan Chaffer. The book turned into two books, and they were both published last summer. Since a couple people have recently asked me about how it all turned out in the end, I thought I’d post a quick progress report here, in case anyone else is interested, as well.
The process of writing the books was an arduous one—stressful and time-consuming, to be sure, but also enjoyable. I learned more while writing than I ever could have otherwise. In a way, it reminded me of my first years of teaching, when I spent a whole lot of time flying by the seat of my pants, learning new things that I’d have to teach hours later.
The first book, Learning jQuery, was published in June; the second, jQuery Reference Guide, followed a month or so later. By the end of 2007, Packt had sold 3,333 copies of the first book and 887 of the second—many more than I had expected. They also managed to license its translation into Korean to another publisher, and, I think, they struck a deal with someone else to have it translated into Portuguese.
The reviews from blogs and amazon.com users have been (almost) unanimously favorable. Here is a sampling:
As with jQuery itself, there’s a lot to like about the book (which shares its title with a great website dedicated to the library). The authors cover all sorts of real-world UI issues – progressive enhancement of input forms, client-side validation, visual transitions during Ajax calls, manipulation of tabular data – and show how to code them in jQuery.
Personally I appreciated this as you could watch a simple css/html page become an enchanced interface with real world implications.…
If you’re already using jQuery or getting started with it, both of these books would be a great addition to your desk.
I found this an extremely easy and interesting read, with the example based approach keeping me engaged in how each situation could be enhanced with use of jQuery.
The book can be read from start to finish, as it is interesting, keeps you engaged, and gives information in a logical order. It contains many useful tips and functions, a lot of which I never knew about until reading the book.
After every chapter, I found myself reflecting on how thorough and well done the examples were. Each one starts out with a simple piece of code (probably the way you or I would accomplish some task). Then, it adds something. Then, it factors something out. Then, it encapsulates something. Then, it adds some more functionality. At each step, I kept thinking, “Brilliant! I can’t believe I never thought of doing it that way.”
Karl was an English teacher in a previous life, and keeps a semi-regular blog called English Rules. I mention that simply to say that his literary wit shines through in this book. For a code related book, it is quite entertaining. From the readability of his writing, to the quotations he uses in code examples, it all flows together very nicely. The code examples are top-notch, which is surely a reflection of the authors’ proficiency, Jonathan being a CTO at his day job.
That last one makes me blush every time I read it, but for the record, any wit that appears in the book, literary or otherwise, comes not from me but from Jonathan. He’s a brilliant guy. And funny. And a great writer.
Also, in the interest of fairness, I should cite another reviewer, who described Learning jQuery as “a little dry in tone, not to the extent that it is unreadable. But I did find that it was best studied from in limited periods.” Oh well. Can’t win ’em all.
Incidentally, The New York Times recently posted this article about blogs leading to book deals. That’s basically what happened to me, with the Learning jQuery blog. The only difference was that I was offered less than 1/100 the advance that the guy in the article got. If I had to give one piece of advice for others who are considering writing a computer manual, it would be this: Do it because you love to write or because you love the subject matter or because you love stress and mental anguish, but not because you want to get filthy stinking rich. There are no computer book author equivalents to J. K. Rowling (or even Dav Pilkey).