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How did you get your book published?

I'd never previously heard of Apress. How did you come across them?

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Well, first of all, they're probably the #1 or #2 programming book publisher right now so it's weird that you haven't heard of them :)

Apress founder Gary Cornell emailed me saying he liked my website and they would publish anything I gave them. I met Gary in person and found him to be one of the nicest people I've ever met: insanely ethical, friendly, extremely interesting and a great person to have a conversation with on any topic. He's a math professor turned bestselling computer book author, and he used his experience as the author of Core Java to build a publishing company that was not organized for the purpose of screwing over the authors. Thus Apress->Authors Press. Whenever I've had any kind of issue no matter how tiny Gary always laid down the law: the author is always right ;) Even when I whined about the color combinations in the final galley proofs, after personally approving them earlier, Apress put in the extra work to redo them at my request. And although they would not put a doggie on the cover of my book as I requested, because a certain other book publisher threatens to sue his competitors when they put anything animal like within 90 feet of their covers, their graphic designer worked overtime to create underground cover art called "User Interface Design for Doggies" complete with three golden retrievers, which they framed and sent to me. All in all a classy operation and highly recommended if you're thinking of writing a computer book.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Thursday, February 26, 2004

I secnd the vote for Apress. They're the guys that did my LEGO Mindstorms book, and also my LEGO Spybotics book. Their graphic department did a fantastic job on the Spybots book, with 2 color printing that made the whole package look great.

Too bad LEGO Spybots didn't really take off here in North America......

Ralph Hempel
Friday, February 27, 2004

Can we see this director's cut cover?  Please?

Richard Platel
Friday, February 27, 2004

"... a certain other book publisher threatens to sue his competitors when they put anything animal like within 90 feet of their covers..."

If that's true, I'll never buy another book from "a certain other book publisher." That's really disappointing if it's true.

Dave Hull
Friday, February 27, 2004

I was the Tech Reviewer for my friend Ray Rischpater on some of his Apress books. I would agree that Apress is nothing but a class act towards all people involved in the process of getting a book out.

Charles Stearns
Saturday, February 28, 2004

Dave Hull wrote:

"'... a certain other book publisher threatens to sue his
  competitors when they put anything animal like within 90  feet of their covers...'"

"If that's true, I'll never buy another book from 'a certain
other book publisher.' That's really disappointing if it's true."

It is not true.

What is true is that once one competitor created a series of books that used single animals on the cover in a way that was extremely reminiscent of O'Reilly books, and we asked them not to do so.  We have built a strong brand around the use of animals on technical book covers--which is not a natural association--and anyone who imitates that brand too closely is trying to confuse consumers by trading on our success. 

I'm sure that if we had published a series of books with titles like Core Perl, Core PHP, and the like, trading on the success of Gary's Core Java, we'd have heard from Gary and his publisher.  Like anyone else, we don't like it when someone rips us off.  But making it sound like we're some kind of litigious bully is really unfair.  I already wrote to Joel privately about this and some of the other misinformation* in his piece, and I had hoped he would have retracted the innuendo.

*(Misinformation:  APress is the #20 computer book publisher in number of units sold; even in the developer segment, they are in the teens, not #1 or 2.  They do good books but have terrible distribution.)

Tim O'Reilly
Saturday, February 28, 2004


I appreciate you following up on this. You must be on the cluetrain. I personally have been keeping you guys in business for years, or at least that's what my wife thinks when she looks through the bookshelves in our basement.

For the most part, the books I've purchased from O'Reilly's have been great, the one exception I can think of was the mSQL/MySQL book with the pink lettering on the cover, that was ok as a shallow introduction. It's the only book from my collection of O'Reilly books that I don't mind lending to people for extended periods of time.

I won't even let my first edition "Running Linux" out of the house and it's practlically useless at this late date.

I've been a big fan of your books and all the great work you do for the developer community. I hope you all can keep it up.

Dave Hull
Saturday, February 28, 2004

I don't really look at sales figures for book publishers; I really meant "#1 or #2" in terms of quality and mindshare, and this was an off the cuff comment. Maybe Apress seems bigger than they are because they have a consistent look 'n' feel.

The story about golden retrievers did, actually, happen; I really did want a dog on the cover, in the Apress style, and Tim, your previous stance on animal covers had clearly had what first amendment scholars would call a "chilling effect" at least on Apress as they refused to do anything that would infringe on your trademark cover style, and, frankly, it's amusing but it's REALLY not that big a deal.

Other than these minor clarifications, I utterly and completely refuse to take sides in the rivalry between the two people I respect most in the publishing industry, Tim O'Reilly and Gary Cornell, so I'll have to leave you two to fight it out among yourselves.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Sunday, February 29, 2004

One thing about Apress is correct, they do need a better distribution system.

I didn't even know Apress existed as a publisher until I went to the WROX site and found out that much of the IP of Wrox went to Apress.  Since I loved much of the WROX books--at least from the old days--and found them to be assets in my library (I self-learned the ASP syntax thru them and I couldn't live without the ADO 2.6 reference book), I was glad to discover the existence of Apress.  Before I just thought WROX suffered from the dot-com bust or something.

However, I go into my local Barnes and Noble (which is in Massachusetts), and I can't find a SINGLE Apress book on the shelfs.  Not ONE.  I wonder if this, plus the WROX brand confusion, has caused problems getting the word out there.

What exactly happened to WROX anyway--why does it still exist but most of the IP went over to Apress?

John R. Troy
Sunday, February 29, 2004

The holding company of Wrox (Peer information) went belly up. The assets were sold piecemeal by the liquidator. Wiley got the Wrox brand name and 36 titles, Apress bought the other brands (such as friends of ED) and most (>90%) of the IP--hence, the confusion.

As fro Apress size etc, all I will say is that while Apress has a long way to go obviously, it is my intention to be the largest publisher of quality book for IT professionals in a few short years!

(By the way, Joel's next book for us will be out in the fall: stay tuned.)

Gary Cornell
Monday, March 1, 2004

've written books for O'Reilly and now I'm working on a book for Apress. It's good to hear Joel say that the author is always right at Apress. I'll have to remember that.

Tim O'Reilly is right in that book branding is a very serious matter. Many people see a book cover, not the publishing company name, and buy the book assuming it's part of a specific line or from a specific, and trusted, publisher.

In a book store, books stand out primarily by their covers. I can recognize an O'Reilly 'animal' book a half aisle away, and I'll have a fairly good idea of how it will be written and the target audience by previous experience with these types of books.

In some ways, its no different than the old inns long ago that would put a sign up with a dancing cow (For Inn of the Dancing Cow) and so on, so that when you recommend an inn to a friend, and there are no street addresses, and no one can read, anyway, you just say, "Look for the sign of the Dancing Cow). Or, "I'll meet you at the Dancing Cow inn."

Now if five other inns put up dancing cow signs--or green dragons to use a famous American inn--people would never meet, rebellions would never form, governments not overthrown, and the US would still be a British territory.

Sorry, a bit carried away there.

So, if you were to use the black and yellow "For Dummies" look for a new book, you'd be deliberately confusing the market place. Not only would this be harmful for the Dummies folks, it could be harmful for the reader, expecting a certain style of book.

More so, not using branding can hurt your book sales. Book branding in the tech book business is one of the most critical aspects of a book. It not only distinguishes a line of books and a publisher, but a writing style, and audience, and probable content. Joel, you might be famous enough to have a book that exists outside of a specific brand, but for the rest of us, we need it. And we respect the power of that brand.

Shelley Powers aka Burningbird
Monday, March 1, 2004

I guess I'm clueless! This thread has really confused me as it suggests that like many of the other mass marketed items in the US the cover is greater than the content. I could give a rat's buttocks about the design of a cover of the book. Maybe I'm a nut because I actually read the preface and then if I like that I'll read a few pages here and there and then a few of the programming examples.

BUT, and here is the biggest BUT in this reply. I listen to recommendations of people I respect. If Joel says he liked a certain book and I need to learn more on that subject I'll give that book a first review at the book store. If the book was covered with pink dots and smiley faces, it wouldn't matter.

What matters is what is on the inside! Who needs graphic artist for BOOKS? Worry more about the quality of the content instead of the presentation. But then again, my first sentence stated that I must be clueless for this thought!

Herschel Horton
Monday, March 1, 2004

Of course the content is what's important, but if you need a book on foo, and you need it today, and you're venturing into the bookstore unarmed with a recommendation from a trusted source, and when you get there you find 30+ books on foo, what do you do?

I personally start examining the O'Reilly, Wrox, and (after this discussion), Apress books first, as I clearly do not have time to read the preface, TOC and samples of all 30.

And in a poorly organized bookstore, being able to spot one of the above from a glance at its spine is quite useful.

Monday, March 1, 2004

We do judge books by their cover.  I'd put in a "hear, hear" with Tim O'Reilly's comments - branding is important and there almost every publisher leverages it.

I'm an avid O'Reilly fan - I've hauled tattered copies of C++, Java, Javascript and Perl books all over the country.  The philosophy is to be concise with depth at all times.

The Wrox books were also branded heavily.  They seemed to have an emphasis on beginners.  They also seemed to try to get to the market first, no matter what (or how many authors it took to get a book out - shudder).  The covers were usually a reddish color with a photo (call it "cred") of the author.  Instantly recognizable.

Incidentally, I did own Core Java (I and II) and enjoyed them much too.  But it was written in a style very obviously different than the terse O'Reilly style.

Joel's a fairly bright guy and probably understands Tim O'Reilly's perspective quite well.  It's the reason that you can't just slap a company logo on your website or call your software FogBuggerz or CityDesktop.  I'm not sure what the antagonism with O'Reilly would amount to... yeah, I don't understand it at all.

Speaking of books with animals - how about Philip and Alex's Guide to Web Publishing (  Greenspun seemed committed to the cover without trying to represent anyone other than himself.

One final note: I'm salivating at the upcoming Hackers and Painters by Paul Graham on O'Reilly (  No matter what animal one puts on the cover it's the insides that keep us buying.

David Seruyange
Monday, March 1, 2004

Apress is a great company.  A company who recogonizes the creativity of a programmer. Gary is a great person, down to earth and simple. 

Ranjith Antony
Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Disclaimer: I'm an O'Reilly author and contract editor.<br><br>

FYI, with regard to cover design, it is called "Trade Dress." Trademark is a different legal concept. You can't trademark a book title, to my knowledge.<br><br>
And the legal concept you might be thinking of is called "prior restraint." A "chilling effect" doesn't apply in the legal sense because O'Reilly is far from a monopoly and the first amendment applies to the government, not private publishers. <br><br>

I've worked with O'Reilly for over 5 years and never known Tim to be litigious. I think there was a case in which another publisher not only used the word "Cookbook" in their title (which lots of publishers do) but had lifted recipes verbatim from an O'Reilly Cookbook. That is copyright infringement, BTW, not a trademark issue. However, such stories make the rounds and evolve into misinformed claims that O'Reilly is litigious. They are not. Even in the above case, I think the other publisher stopped the infringement voluntarily without any lawsuit being brought. (Believe it or not, many publishers don't even realize if an author plagiarizes material, so I'm not necessarily accusing the publisher of any malice.) <br><br>

In my experience, Tim has consistently resorted to, and encouraged others to resort to, common decency rather than litigation. For example, he has been a vocal critic of patent suits, including a well-publicized discussion with Jeff Bezos when Amazon sued B&N for infringing the one-click patent. <br><br>

Considering  the lambasting Tim gets when a reader doesn't like a single O'Reilly book, he is rightly concerned that other publishers should not intentionally deceive the readership by presenting a non-O'Reilly book in O'Reilly trade dress. If Gary refuses to put a dog on your book's cover, that certainly can't be laid at Tim's feet.<br><br>

And if you want to compare contracts among publishers, you'll find O'Reilly's to be extremely author friendly. I've heard APress's contract is also author friendly, but I haven't read it personally. For an eye-opener, check out the contract from some of the big conglomerate publishers. They take your first born and then charge you a fee for childcare. ;-)<br><br>
Don't believe everything you read in a blog. Peace out.

Bruce Epstein
Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Can anyone point out what the "Cookbook" with an animal on the cover was that peeved Tim O'Reilly?  I don't expect Tiim to spill the beans, but someone out there must remember it.

Seems like it would be more fun if we could all judge for ourselves.

David Friedman
Monday, April 12, 2004

Bruce, I just like saying "Bee-are Bee-are" after reading each paragraph ;)

Good comments though. I think O'Reilly is an easy target, and that Joel might've stepped over the line in regards to ethical treatment of both sides.

He called O'Reilly a sue-monger, then was like "Oh, well, I'm not going to comment, I'm going to leave the publishers to duke this out. It's not THAT big of a deal."

Eh. C'mon Joel, that was such a copout.

Evan Erwin
Friday, April 30, 2004

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