A while ago I wrote a book about creating d3.js visualizations. You can read about the writing, editing, and hair-pulling part of the process, here.

By the time it was published, I no longer liked my book. The didactic approach needed work, the examples were kind of meh, and too much of the content had to be breezy. When a publisher gets a fixed idea about book length, pushback is hard. Still managed to make it 70 pages longer than they wanted, though.

Either way, the book has been out for five months now and with no word from the publisher, I was certain it tanked. An utter failure.

Packt‘s official statement on keeping me in the loop was, “You will get a royalty statement every quarter”.

Gee, thanks. That is very satisfying to both my inner data nerd and my ego. But probably good for peace of mind.

Other than a “Hey we have some errata” every once in a while, the book became completely invisible to me after publication. Just floating in the aether doing … something.

No discernible buzz. No marketing that I could see. For some reason I haven’t even seen the book yet. I literally have no idea how this thing turned out.

In December the first royalty statement arrived.

First royalty statement

Great, the book sold exactly ten copies in its first month. And that means I made a negative 101 euro … perfect. Just perfect.

I was right confused, so I asked what’s going on.

Hello Sir, Thanks for sending in your query . We have forwarded your query to the accounts team and will get back to you as soon a we receive an update. Thanks. Regards, Invoices Team

They never got back.

At this point I was well bummed. The book surely a massive flop. Every time the editor contacted me about errata he’d open with “First of all I would like to congratulate you on the success of your book Data Visualization with d3.js.”.

Psssht, yeah right. Sure.

But two weeks ago I get an alert email from my bank. “577 euro has just been deposited to your account”

U wot m8?

I don’t remember sending out any invoices. What is this mystery money? Where’s it from? How am I going to explain this to the tax agency? What is going on here!?

And sure enough, a few days later – new royalty statement from Packt.

Winter royalty statement

Winter royalty statement

Hey now, that’s much better! 943 copies sold across all versions.

Almost 600 euro made. Time to celebrate!

But then again, total revenue was almost 6400 euro … damn son. Not sure where all that money is going, but my chunk of the pie suddenly looks miniscule. And I think I did most of the work.

What really hurts though is that advance. You’ll see the whole advance Packt gave me to write a book came from my own damn pocket. Fuckers!

You’d think a royalty advance is something the publisher invests in a book. Nope. They take it right back as soon as they can.

That means I’ve made about 1020 euro so far, Putting my effective hourly rate at 3 euro an hour. I’d be making more weighing tables at rundown restaurants. Tips not included.

Not sure how I feel about this.

PS: I’m giving a talk about writing my first technical book (this one) at this year’s Write The Docs in Budapest. If you’re going to be there, I want to buy you a beer.

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