Services like Lulu are a great idea if you don't want to publish with a formal publisher. I personally enjoy working with Addison-Wesley. Why?
- AW's production team is top-notch. I think every book I publish is formatted and printed in just the right manner. They convert my lousy PowerPoint scribblings into real artwork. They know how to lay out the pages properly. The text is easy to read. Doing all that work myself would result in a lower quality product that takes more time to write.
- AW's editing process is excellent. They challenge authors to write the right books. They circulate proposals and drafts among peers who more or less provide helpful feedback. Their copyeditors are usually grueling taskmasters who ensure the book reads well. (I prefer writing to copyediting any day -- oh, the pain, the pain.)
- AW's marketing never stops. They get space on bookshelves. They set up shop at conferences and sponsor USENIX. They create and print flyers for me to hand out. They work with magazines and news sites to get content to potential readers. I literally have a team trying to sell books on my behalf. They even ship a few freebie books here and there as give-aways when I speak.
- AW fights pirates. This is an argument for letting the publisher hold copyright. If I held copyright for my books, I would have to personally fight every pirate who copies and distributes my books. AW has a team that works to shut down sites distributing pirated books.
- I've had three great publishing experiences with AW. I hope they will consider publishing my work in the future.
I'm sure a dozen or more of you want to jump all over my piracy comment. Here's my thoughts on book pirates: stop kicking a guy when he's down. It takes months, usually years to write a book. Once published, the content may not be relevant in three years (or shorter, depending on the book). You might still be listening to the Beatles in 2014 (50 years after their hey-day), but you won't be reading my first book 10 years after it was first published!
My understanding is that the best-selling security book of all time, Hacking Exposed, has sold over 500,000 copies since it was published in 1999. That's about 72,000 copies a year (6,000 per month -- easy math). With three lead authors, royalties are split three ways. I can't publicly say how much royalties I would expect on a book like that, but I'm guessing the average security consultant salary would easily exceed the yearly royalty amount.
So where does the "kicking a guy when he's down" come into play? Guess how many books must be sold to consider a title "a hit" in the security space. 500,000 is considered the king. So what is it -- 200,000, 100,000, 50,000? Try 10,000 or less. Imagine spending a year or more, full-time, writing a book, and then getting a third or less of your normal salary -- over several years after the book is published. Remember -- that's for a "hit"! Most technical books sell 5,000 copies or less.
In other words, nobody gets rich writing technical books, and hardly anyone could afford to live off royalties. Seeing one's book distributed on p2p networks is just a final insult.
Of course being a published author has advantages beyond royalties, but how many of you are willing to devote such a large chunk of your time to an endeavor that might result in gain somewhere down the line? In conclusion, most authors write for the opportunity to share what they know and advance the state of the practice.