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Hi Johan. The techwr-l list is generally for tech writers who
write documentation, eg, who work full time for companies.
You might get a better response to your question on the StudioB
computer book author's list (http://www.studiob.com/news.cfm)
or the computerbookauthors list on Yahoo Groups.
There are a few of us authors who hang out here, though, and I can
answer your questions based on my experience (I wrote technical books
for a while in the late 90's).
> - "Proposed book length." Apart from the fact that I simply don't know
> yet, how much is 1 page?
Its a word length, not a page length. I typically wrote 400 page
books (as finally typeset), which came out to about 160,000 words.
For my publisher the rule of thumb was that a manuscript (untypeset)
page was 250 words. Screen shots and illustrations count for half a
Your publisher is looking for a general number. If you're writing a
thin 100 page book it'll be much cheaper to produce (but harder to sell
than a midsize 400 page book -- and both are different from a
honkin huge 1000 page book.
If you're still confused, pull down a book off the shelf that is roughly
the right size and has the right amount of illustrations for the book
you're looking to write, and start counting words. Take an average
per line, an average number of lines per page, and multiply those to
get the average number of words per page. Then multiply by pages
to get the total. Subtract for illustrations to get some rough number.
> - "Time needed to complete the manuscript." [...] What is a 'normal' or
> acceptable amount of time to spend on a manuscript with 400 pages? Would
> ten to twelve months be extremely out of the ordinary?
A year is a bit relaxed but not unusual. Tighter schedules seem to be
the norm in computer books, especially for books based on software
schedules where every publisher is vying to be the first out on
a particular subject. If your subject is less competitive you have
Again, the publisher is looking for a general idea so they can plan
where to place the book in thier schedule for printing and for the
sales plan. It doesn't have to be perfect.
I do recommend if this is your first book that you aim for the high
end of whatever estimate you come up with. Even if you've written a
lot you'll find that writing a book is different and a lot harder than
it looks. Use the extra time.
These are both really minor points in the proposal to worry about.
The hard parts of the proposal are the competitive analysis (why
your book is different from everyone elses and why anyone should buy
it), and the outline. Get those parts solid and neither the length
or the schedule will matter at all.
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