Sponsor Spotlight: The Pragmatic Bookshelf

Welcome to another Sponsor Spotlight …today we’re talking to PragProg!


Please tell us a little bit about The Pragmatic Bookshelf :slight_smile:

The Pragmatic Bookshelf was launched in 2003. Andy Hunt and Dave Thomas were looking to put together resources to help new teams get started—a sort of boot camp to launch with the best information, best practices available at the time. But to do that, they needed to write a couple of books. They’d already written the immensely popular The Pragmatic Programmer as well as the ground-breaking Programming Ruby. Their first two titles covered version control and unit testing, with a third on Pragmatic Project Automation by Mike Clark. These first three titles from the Pragmatic Bookshelf were called the Starter Kit, for obvious reasons.

Several hundred titles and fifteen years later, the Bookshelf has covered everything from CVS, Ajax, Antlr, perl, Java, Rails, books on learning, coaching, testing, and Agile methods to Elixir, Phoenix, Absinthe, the latest JavaScript, Clojure, Crystal, and Elm. Some of our newer and upcoming titles include topics in machine learning, chatbots, and practical AI.

Our guiding principle is to publish books that actually help the reader, not merely brag about the author, even though we have some of the best authors in the industry. We want to give you, the reader, new superpowers with each book.

It’s also no secret that you are rooting for Elixir - why? What is it about Elixir which makes you feel it is something special and worth investing into like you have done to date? Does it, for instance, complement or nicely level-up the skills of your existing customer (/fan!) base?

We feel that Elixir is the current best new idea and community. Whether Elixir itself will be the way of the future, no one knows, but this style of language and the OTP environment represents the next crucial step in programming for reliable modern multicore systems and beyond.

What criteria do you use when selecting or short-listing titles or authors? Do you, for instance, have an open door policy where authors can contact you with a pitch, or do you research the market and put out ideas seeking authors on specific topics or even contact potential authors yourself?

Yes, we have an open-door policy. We welcome proposals from any potential author who is passionate about the subject area. We do seek out specific authors or specific topics on occasion, based on the sorts of things that we’d like to read. You may even see our Managing Editor, Brian MacDonald, at a conference near you, scouting for authors and topics. Please say “Hi” and let him know what you think.

If you operate an open door policy, what tips do you have for people thinking about pitching a book idea and getting it published with yourselves?

We have a lot of advice and details on the submission process at pragprog.com/write-for-us. But here are some exclusive tips on getting a proposal accepted:

  • Be passionate about your topic. Infect us with your enthusiasm.
  • Have a laser focus. It’s very easy to ramble on a set of semi-related topics. Don’t.
  • Similarly, specifically target your audience. A book aimed at “developers, testers, managers, users, executives, and real-estate agents” will not be useful to any of them.
  • Be helpful. Don’t tell the reader “you could do X.” Tell us when to do X, when to do Y, and how to choose.
  • Write about the reader, not about yourself. Your story of being born in a log cabin that your father built is undoubtedly splendid, but that’s not why we’re here.

What is the process, once signed, of writing a book with PragProg? How involved do you get with the writing/editing process for instance?

Very involved! Most other publishers might sign you, then not contact you much until the book is done. And then to add insult to injury, they’ll dole out a paltry 10-15% royalty, scrimp on production, and go to press riddled with typos and errata. We do things a little differently.

Pragmatic Bookshelf pays a 50% royalty. No joke. You get assigned a Development Editor who works with you throughout the process, from beginning to end, helping you focus on writing one of the best books available, period. Our Development Editors are experienced, talented, and frankly some of the best in the business.

Oh, and your work in progress is safe under version control the whole time. The Development Editors, copyeditors, indexers, and layout and typeset folks all work on the exact same repository. There’s even a continuous build machine running in the background.

We have frequent and early deliverables with our Beta Book program. Readers get a jump start on new tech, authors get valuable feedback to help hone their work before final publication.

So really, we run our publishing business more like a successful software project.

Can you share how your Elixir books are selling in relation to the books of other languages right now?

Our Elixir series and other functional-style books dominate our best-sellers list at the moment. We are very pleased to see the leading edge adopters embrace Elixir, and have high hopes as it continues more into the mainstream of development.

If you’d like to learn more about The Pragmatic Bookshelf, please visit: https://pragprog.com