Yeah, you read that right. I'm writing a book (holy shit)!
Crazy! But so very awesome. And exactly the sort of thing I hoped would happen during the course of my career as a web professional.
What's It Going to Be About?
The book will be about microformats (big surprise) and is going to be published by Peachpit.
It is (tentatively) titled Microformats Made Simple. Although, I think Andy Clarke's suggestion for Microformats Are Way Fucking Cool! is much more "me." Yet I suspect that title wouldn't go over well with my editor(s) and publisher.
And I like the irony of Microformats Made Simple: microformats are, by design, simple. Yet from my own experience and in speaking with other developers, it seems that the simplicity of microformats is often lost in technical jargon and poor examples.
Not to mention, a comparatively small percentage of the web community even knows what they are, much less how and when to implement them.
Hence, my book.
How Is This Book Different?
But one of the things I've discovered during the course of learning about microformats is that the available information can sometimes be difficult to digest. As I mentioned, I think there are issues with technical jargon and examples that are challenging to apply to real world implementations (particularly on the microformats wiki).
What I hope to achieve with my book is to make microformats easier to understand, using conversational explanations and lots of examples of how to implement them according to various "real world" needs.
And in the examples, I plan to focus a great deal on semantic markup. In part to address common misperceptions that microformats require the use of unnecessary markup (
spanitis). But also to reinforce and spread the word about my passion for valid and semantic HTML.
How Did It Happen?
Frankly, I'm still astounded that I've been given this opportunity. Writing a book was an idea I toyed with but never took any action towards making it happen. Or so I thought.
I started this blog less than a year ago and when I started it, it was more of an exercise in learning ExpressionEngine than anything else. But the more I wrote, the more I discovered I enjoyed it.
True, my first "career" after college was as a writer and an editor … mostly news, technical and media writing (I can't write fiction or creative worth a damn). But I never enjoyed that writing. It was a job, and I just happened to be good at it.
Now, I find deep satisfaction in the writing I do for my blog. I've learned how to write in a way that (I think) people can learn something practical and still have my "voice." My microformats series is a prime example of that.
And it is that microformats series that was the catalyst for how this book opportunity came my way.
The Power of Twitter
Just like my blog, I've been active on Twitter for less than a year. And like most folks, I initially used it for talking about the mundane aspects of my life. But once I started blogging actively, I began to "promote" my blog on Twitter.
And, meanwhile, I was freaking out (in the best way possible). I started the series because I wanted to document what I was doing on my own blog: nothing helps me reinforce what I know better than writing about it.
I had no ambition or aims that the series would get the attention it did (although I'm eternally thankful that it did).
Lucky for me, one of the editors at Peachpit, Wendy Sharp, follows his tweets.
Wendy then perused my blog (making particular note of the fact that I've been a professional writer and editor) and contacted me via email, inquiring if I would be interested in writing a book.
The rest is history.
Thank You, Thank You, Thank You
I'm no fool. I would not have this opportunity if it wasn't for the people who read my blog and follow me on Twitter and other social networks. To you all, I owe you a debt of gratitude I fear I could never repay.
I also owe a tremendous amount of thanks to my friends and family who not only read my blog, but have encouraged me to do more with my career.
They have listened to me talk about my ambitions, have offered their perspectives and have always supported everything I've done. I can only hope that my feeble attempts to return their friendship and support are enough to let them know how much I love and appreciate them.
Special Thanks for Some Special People
There have been a few folks involved in my book journey who deserve shout-outs (and much, much more):
As I mentioned, it was Andy's tweet about one of my microformats blog posts that caught the attention of Peachpit.
And since then, Andy has continued to support me professionally: mentioning me on his blog and on Twitter, and being available to me via chat and DM for questions, suggestions and support about publishing a book.
I'm going to be meeting him face–to–face later this month, and it is going to take all my willpower to not gush my appreciation non-stop.
Months before this opportunity came my way, Virginia encouraged me to write a book or, at a minimum, create an e-book from my microformats series. Once this book deal became a possibility, Virginia was a sounding board as I worked on my proposal for Peachpit.
As a professional writer, Virginia's input and suggestions were invaluable, and her constant encouragement continues to give me the confidence boosts I need.
I'm quite certain as I move forward with writing, I'll turn to Virginia regularly for guidance and suggestions.
I briefly met Jeff Croft a bit over two years ago at the 2007 Webmaster Jam Session. At last year's event, we talked much more and stayed in touch after. This past December, I spent some time in Seattle, and Jeff indulged me in a few conversations about my career and goals.
The one thing he said to me that I think about every day is to be assertive; go after what I want. Sounds simple and obvious, but I had never really tried before.
And Jeff, too, boosted my confidence, assuring me that I was heading in a good direction. He also suggested writing a book. Who knew at the time his suggestion would be my current reality.
It is also worth saying that Jeff is one of the most "real" people I have ever met. Even with his reputation as a stellar developer, he is approachable, kind and enormously funny. I admire him (well, except for the girly White Russians he prefers) and hope I can do for someone else what he's done for me.
Enough Emo. What's Next?
I begin writing the book in April, with a scheduled completion date at the end of August (which means the book could be ready by October).
So the next five months are going to be extremely busy for me. I still have my full-time job, I'm still involved in Webuquerque and I still plan to post regularly to this blog.
Because this opportunity is so new to me, I've decided I'm going to write a blog series on the process I've gone (and will be going) through as I work on the book.
While I've explained in this article how the opportunity came my way, there is much more I'd like to share. For example, how Wendy and I decided on a topic for the book, the proposal process, what a P & L is, my writing schedule, working with the editors, etc., etc.
Not only will this series help me document, for my own nostalgia, this exciting chapter of my life, maybe it will prove useful to other folks interested in writing a book.
Stay tuned …