I had the pleasure of meeting Joseph LeBlanc at a recent conference — among other things, he’s the author of a technical book on Joomla (Joomla! 1.5 Essential Training). We got to talking and Joseph pointed out something very interesting: while his book has helped him build his reputation and has provided some income, he’s actually made more money with projects like turning his expertise into videos, ebooks and other online resources.
Thinking Outside of the Book
It’s important for writers to explore multiple avenues of sharing information. There are, admittedly, pros and cons to the screencasts Joseph has done — the different format doesn’t appeal to many readers, given that they can’t skim through a screencast to a specific topic and the fact that it can take longer to watch a screencast than read a chapter. But being open to opportunities beyond the expected is becoming increasingly important, and it doesn’t make you any less of a writer. Drafting a script for a screencast makes just as good use of your writing skills as pounding out a chapter.
Moving Beyond A Book
Many writers focus on getting a book published, often to the exclusion of all other options. There’s a certain assumption that writers write books in order to make money. I think, however, that one of the reasons that Joseph has been successful beyond his book is because he doesn’t necessarily consider himself first and foremost a writer. He says, “I’d describe myself as a programmer looking into becoming a technical trainer. I enjoy figuring things out, then explaining them to others. Finding a way of communicating a lot of little details is essential when teaching someone how to code. I find writing to be the quickest and most comprehensive way of communicating those details.”
In part, Joseph’s approach may be a result of how he wound up writing a book about Joomla. He didn’t query publishers, although he had previously considered the idea of writing a Joomla programming book. Instead, his expertise led a publisher to seek him out: “Packt Publishing found my website and contacted me to write the book. Packt has a unique business model for technical books: they primarily target open-source software projects and find members of the community to author books. When someone buys a book covering a specific open-source project, royalties are paid to both the author and the project.”