By January 7, 2021

I Made Over $250,000 Selling My Programming Book

A lot of you probably aspire to write a book, and you probably have heard a lot of different things about writing a book, whether it's profitable or not.

Should you do self-publishing should you publish through a publisher?

How do you even go about it?

I'm gonna try to answer a bunch of those questions in this video.

Transcript Of The Video

John Sonmez:

What's up, guys? John Sonmez here from simpleprogrammer.com. What I thought I would talk about today is writing a book, as a software developer, as a programmer. I know a lot of you have been asking me about that. A lot of you probably aspire to write a book. And you probably have heard a lot of different things about writing a book, whether it's profitable or not. Should you do self-publishing? Should you publish through a publisher? How do you even go about it? I'm going to try to answer a bunch of those questions in this video.

Guys, if you're just joining me for the first time. I'm John from simpleprogrammer.com. On this channel I teach you the soft skills that you need to know in order to be a programmer who is more than just a geek, more than just a nerd, but is a super nerd. No, to be someone who's well-rounded, has a successful career, makes money and enjoys their life, isn't just your typical developer.

Most people teach you technical skills. I used to do that, but now I teach you the fun stuff: how to get along with people, how to advance your career, how to get six-pack abs, if you want to. Actually that's in the Soft Skills book. But anyway, click Subscribe and join us on this journey. And like I said, if you haven't picked up Soft Skills or the Complete Software Developer's Career Guide, go ahead and pick it up.

All right. So what I'm going to be talking about today is writing books. So I'm going to start off by addressing the question which so many of you have: whether or not it's worth your time.

And here's what I'll say. Most people will tell you that writing a book is not worth a lot of money. Now I have a different story. From the books that I've written, I've made probably over $350,000 of profit. That's pretty safe to say. That's a pretty good amount of money in six years of basically two books.

That's not the usual. That's not the average. In fact, if I had published this book originally on my own, I probably would have made a lot more money. But I published Soft Skills, the original version of it, with a publisher. And so I'll talk about that in a minute, but first let's address the issue of whether or not you can make money on publishing a book.

So the short answer is: probably not a lot because most books aren't going to do well. You'll notice that my books, Soft Skills and the Complete Software Developer's Career Guide are fairly generic in the sense that they apply to all developers. It's not the C# Guide. It's not How To Use Java or How To Use AWS. Those are fairly broad topics, but there's still going to be only a small segment of the audience that they're going to apply to, especially the more technical that you get and the more advanced you get.

So most books like that are going to be novelty type of books in the sense… Not really novelty. Specialty type of books, almost like textbooks, where only specific kind of people are going to buy them. So you're going to have to charge a high price and you're not going to sell a lot of copies and you're going to have to keep them updated.

So there's nothing wrong with creating those kinds of books, but you just have to realize that the majority of software development books are technical books and technical books typically just don't make as much money. If you have a really good best-selling one, like Jon Skeet's C# In Depth or In Depth C#, whatever it is. That's a really good book. It's a really good technical book. It does well.

But if we were to look… In fact, let's do this fun little exercise and let's look on Amazon. So let's look at this one. And let's look at the categories. Let's take Software Development, Kindle Store. So at the top is Python Crash Course. So that is a language specific one, but then there's The Self-Taught Programmer, which technically this is a Python book, but not really.

So Python is really popular. So you know, it can happen. But then we have The Manager's Path. We have Accelerate. We have The Pragmatic Programmer. We have Clean Code. We have Agile Transformation. Here's one that's technical, Learn SQL in One Day. Building Microservices. Domain-Driven Design. Good to see Evans' book jumping up there. Working in Public. Okay. That's interesting. And then, Software Developer Career Guide. SAFe Distilled. Clean Architecture. User Story Mapping Code.

So anyway, if you look at this, Code Complete is up here. You don't see a lot of very technical books that are in the top here, and you might say… Oh, look, there we go. Soft Skills is there, the new one.

Okay. So you might say, “Well, okay. That's like a specific…” Well, if we go to programming. The higher level again, now we see a bunch of Python books because Python is very popular. And yeah I guess Python is kind of showing up there. Learn C# In One Day.

In general though, you're not seeing a majority of the books that are highly technical. That's what I would say. There's a lot of very technical books. Very few of them make it up here. Whereas if you have a more widely usable book, you're more likely to do that.

So I'm kind of going off on a tangent here, but what I'm trying to say is that for the most part, if you're writing a technical book, don't expect to make a lot of money on it. And then the second part of this is in order to make money today, in anything, you need an audience. It's very rare, it's very unlikely that you're going to publish a book, as good as it may be, and have it suddenly go viral and rank.

The reason why my original Soft Skills book, this first edition, why it did so well… In fact, the reason why Manning had approached me and said, “Hey, write a book.” And I said, “Well, what kind of book do you want me to write?” And they're like, “What kind of book do you want to write?” And they were basically like, “You can write any book that you want.”

Why did they say that? Why did they give me a blank check to write any book that I want? Because I had a huge audience with Simple Programmer and it had a huge mailing list. And they knew if John writes a book, he's going to sell a lot of copies of that book. Because he was a popular Pluralsight author. He's got a huge audience. So having that already made that book popular.

So then when I did the launch for the book, I launched it to my email list. I launched it and talked about it on my blog and my YouTube channel at the time. And I sold a lot of copies of it, which made the book popular. Obviously the book was good, but… The same thing with The Complete Software Developer Career Guide. This book, I was able actually to get into The Wall Street Journal. The Wall Street Journal. It was like number five or four on the bestseller list. It made it to Amazon Charts. And it was number four on Amazon Charts. Of all of Amazon, this book. I think the only time a technical book has ever done that.

Now the reason why, again, audience. I had a huge audience. I did a huge launch for it, just like I did a launch for the second edition of Soft Skills now. And that's what makes it successful.

So if you have a big audience and you write a book, you can definitely make a lot of money. In that case, it probably makes sense to be self-published.

But that's not the only reason why you might want to write a book. You might want to write a book because it's a good business card. It's clout. If you've written a book, especially a traditionally published book… A self-published book, you don't get quite as much credit unless you sell a bunch of copies of it. But if you write a traditionally published book through a publisher, now you're a published author and that carries some value.

People are going to be more likely to employee you for a job. You're going to possibly get a higher salary. You're going to probably get more freelancing work. People might just contact you for freelancing work and opportunities. It's a pretty good way to market yourself.

By the way, I've got a course called How to Market Yourself as a Software Developer. If you want to check that out, there's a link up in the cards and in the description below, or you can just go to simpleprogrammar.com, and you can buy the course and you can learn how to market yourself. That's one of the reasons for writing a book.

So now we've addressed the issue, will you make money from the book? Okay. If you use a traditional publisher, they're going to pay you 10% royalties, roughly. Some pay more, most that's about standard. And then, so you're going to get 10% of the book sales, which is not going to be a lot of money. Even with the book like Soft Skills.

When the first edition first came out, it was selling a lot. And I was not making a lot. I think my royalty checks were at first, maybe around 4 or $5,000 and then like 2 to $3,000 every quarter. So that's still a decent amount of money, but it's not a lot of money.

As opposed to when I self-published a book, for example this book, The Complete Software Developer Career Guide. When I launched this, I was making $10,000 a month profit. I'm still making 5 to $6,000 a month profit depending on the month. So, yeah.

So you can make money, if you have an audience. If you use a publisher, you're probably not going to make a lot of money, but you're going to get the clout from it. Next question would be, should you use a publisher or not? Again, this depends on whether or not you have an audience and how much you care about making money versus fame.

If you have a big audience, I probably wouldn't use a publisher. I probably would just publish it myself and just do a launch myself. It's not that hard. I can show you how. Again, I should put a course. Again, this is a good chance, if you want me to create a course on how to write a book and publish a book for programmers, leave a comment below, let me know.

But anyway, the next thing that I'm going to talk about is how to actually write a book and how to pick a topic for the book. And I'll do that in the following video after this. Hopefully this has given you an idea of what to do, but I'll give you a preview.

So here's some things just to think about, and then we'll go into depth in the next video, which is this. First of all, what's really important for a book is the cover and the title. And notice how this cover is designed. This is one that I designed when I kind of knew what I was doing. It's almost all words. And they're big words. Think about that. The cover and the title. Very, very important for a book today in today's age.

The next thing that you need to think about is what structure, how many chapters. And I've got some opinions on this that I'll give you, like I said, in the next video. So make sure you click subscribe. Let me know if you want another video. Let me know if you want a course on how to create a book and I will see you next time.

About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."