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SAP PRESS Authors Survival Guide | How to Get Your Book onto the Shelves and Live to Tell the Tale

Be Prepared

Ever thought about writing a book for SAP PRESS?

In this blog post you will find information about how you might get your own book onto the shelves with insights about the process from acquisition to publication.

Writing a book requires effort but the rewards are well worth it. Below, I will share some of my own experiences as published SAP PRESS author.

Questions? Please post as comment.

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And If Not Now, When? 

Why write a book?

There are many good reasons why you might want to write a book. There are also a couple of motivations that may not work out so well.

Rich and Famous

According to Tucker Max in Why You Should NOT Write A Book, the not-so-good reasons are

  • Getting rich
  • Getting famous
  • Living the writers life

For a technical writer, motivation number two and three are probably quite rare but given the relatively high price of hardcopy titles you might be tempted to think that writing technical books is a highly profitable pursuit. Alas, technical handbooks books rarely reach a wide enough audience to hit the jackpot.

Hitting the Jackpot

PRO TIP: SAP employees might want to know that unless you can convince your manager otherwise, working for SAP PRESS does not count as working for SAP.

Although SAP PRESS is a joint-venture of SAP and Rheinwerk Publishing, you will need a bit of spare to time for this adventure.

All Work and No Play

How long does it take to write a book? It depends.

Book or E-Bites?

How many chapters and pages?

How many authors?

To share my personal experience, it took about nine months to write SAP HANA 2.0 – An Introduction and another ten for SAP HANA 2.0 Certification Guide: Technology Associate Exam, 441 and 615 pages or 110,302 and 185,747 words respectively.

Your mileage may vary, of course, but as ball park figures these numbers worked for me

  • Duration of the project: 9-10 months
  • Actual writing time: 10-14 weeks

On average, this is about one hour a page (including research, writing, editing, reviewing, etc.).

For the E-bite e-book format, typically 100-125 pages, writing time will be 2-3 weeks with the project taking 2-3 months.

Should you be getting frequent HR request to reduce your surplus of vacation time, writing a book might be good solution. However, keep in mind that you likely will need some evenings and weekends as well.

PRO TIP: For your first book, consider to start with an E-Bite first. As this only takes a couple of months and as a project is much easier to combine with a full-time job.

Writing is a creative process and it can take time before you get into a flow. Taking a day off from work to write typically is more productive and sustainable than trying to write a page or two every evening. As an author, keep an eye on your work-life balance as well!

Man Against Machine 

Docendo Discimus

Little profit but a lot of work. What are good reasons to write a book, then?

The rewards could be professional and this may take several shapes. As published author you might find it easier get a (new) job, get a promotion, or receive a raise. This assumes your work is being valued by management. They might prefer you would focus on your job and hence get none of these perks.

You may also receive invitations to speak on events, write an article, or otherwise find your expertise more in demand. This assumes you did a decent job, of course.

With the outcome uncertain, it may be prudent not to focus too much on the outcome at all. You may find that in the end the reward is in the sense of achievement and mastery of the material. As the Romans said (Seneca): by teaching, we learn. As with many things in life, it is about the journey, not the destination.

For me, the motivation is the same why you might want to study for certification. We addressed this in an earlier blog post.

Destination Unknown
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First Things First

Contact the Publisher

Unless you are considering publishing your own books, it is advisable to get in touch with a publisher first. Writing a book requires some effort and it would be a waste if it is not published.

Reach out to the acquisitions editors of SAP PRESS when you have a good idea for a book.

When you are active as blogger, for example on the SAP Community, or present at conferences (not necessarily the big ones like SAP TechEd; could be the many smaller events as well), SAP PRESS might reach out to you and query about your interest in working together on a project.

PRO TIP: Consider writing a book with others. This will allow you to divide the work, share experiences, review each others work, and keep each other motivated.

Meet and Greet

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Concept of the Work

Table of Contents and Contract

When you have agreed on a topic, the first phase of the project is the Table of Contents (ToC). During this phase, you will be working together with the acquisitions editor.

You will produce a document with a title, a description, a list of chapters with sections and page count. The ToC will serve as the input for the publishing contract. The contract contains the usual legal phrases as the “subject matter of this contract is the Work of the Author (hereafter: Work)” and so on, covering the subject matter, rights and obligations, royalties (more on that below), the manuscript, timelines, free copies, and some other matters judged relevant by the lawyers. As appendix, the ToC is included.

PRO TIP: Take your time with the ToC. In your excitement to get started it is tempting to make a quick draft on Friday afternoon only to realise while writing that the contents should have been organised differently.

As the ToC is in the contract, this is what you have signed up for. Although it usually possible to make adjustments, this might take some effort and convincing.

Try to make a mind map of the subject. Flesh out the chapters, sections, and paragraphs a bit in an attempt to discover any weaknesses in the proposal. Discuss your proposal with colleagues or co-authors.

Are you sure? Y/N
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Guidelines and Templates

The Tools of the Trade

Once you have signed the contract, you will receive the SAP PRESS writing guidelines and Microsoft Word template. There is a guideline for text and for figures, and this addresses how to use text elements (introduction, summary, sections and headings) and supporting elements (figures, tables, lists, and boxes), plus some suggestions about style and tone.

The template for Microsoft Word contains a menu specific to book formatting with different tools and views.

PRO TIP: First write, then format. It can take considerable time to format the text properly. Boxes, listings, screen elements, figures, and print screens all require time formatting and this is time wasted when the text or element is removed during editing. Best to focus on the content first and on the appearance later.

Enabling Macros

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Day in the Life an SAP PRESS Author

Now it is time to start writing. From this stage on, you will be working with your editor who will support you with the process, contents, and timelines.

For the editor’s point of view, see

Sample Chapter

Writing starts with a sample chapter. This could be the first chapter but also another one, depending on your choice. After you have finished the sample chapter, your editor will review the text and check the figures and print screens with the help of the production department. This to avoid that significant changes need to made at a later stage when time is running out.

Working on the Draft

With the sample chapter behind you, the real work starts and you will be spending many hours behind the screen of your computer typing away on your keyboards. From time to time, your editor will  be checking in to hear about the progress made. When you are done with a chapter, you can upload to document to a shared drive for safekeeping together with the illustrations.

PRO TIP: Get feedback early. Consider sharing the draft chapters with colleagues or friends willing to help you out. After spending many days upon a text, getting a fresh perspective can be very helpful.

Copy / Paste

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Development Edit

This May Come as a Shock

Time has gone by, you have finished your work, and all the chapters have been uploaded. Now the development edit phase starts.

During a few days (E-bite) or a couple of weeks (book), your editor will review the text as a whole, making corrections, adjusting the flow, with suggestions about how to improve and modify words, phrases, or whole sections. Depending on how far away you strayed from the sample chapter (and now for something completely different), the result may come as a bit of a shock.

Now it is your turn again to review and accept or refuse the change proposals, and adjust the text accordingly.

You will have another couple of weeks to provide a final version of the developed draft. During this time, you will be working much closer together with your editor, with feedback after each chapter.

PRO TIP:  By now, the deadline of the book may be approaching and you may experience this phase as fairly stressful (in particular, when you informed your stakeholders that you were almost finished).

During development edit there may still be a significant amount of work to be done but now under time pressure.

Anticipate that you may need to take some days off and you might not want to schedule too many weekend activities during this period.

Time waits for no one

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Proof

Review Copy

When you have finished the development edit phase your work is almost done but that of the SAP PRESS production department is just getting started. They will turn your draft work from a Microsoft Word template into the actual SAP PRESS book format, and this includes the index, official product names, and illustrations. When the proof is ready, you will receive a copy for review as PDF.

Now is the time for a last cover-to-cover reading and iron out any issues, mostly about hyphens and commas, not entire paragraphs.

Coming Soon

Around this time, you will also receive a proof of the cover and the book might already be listed on the website for pre-order.

Upcoming releases are listed on the SAP PRESS website.

During this phase, you will be contacted by the SAP PRESS marketing department to discuss promotion activities.

PRO TIP:  This is a good time to start making a bit of noise on social media channels like LinkedIn or Twitter. Maybe start a blog post series on the SAP Community or create your own website to blog and brag about.

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Publication

Your Name on the Cover

After another couple of weeks, you will receive a congratulations message with a license key for your personal digital copy, for download from the SAP PRESS Library.

After some shipping delay, you will also receive a box with ten hardcopies. This moment is often shared by SAP PRESS authors on social media and you may find this the best part of the trip.

Review Copy

Signed copies of the book make for a great gift to thank those who helped you with the project. You could also consider to give a few copies away for review.

PRO TIP: Now is the time to promote your book on social media! Get some attention using the discount code or write a blog post (for example about how to become an SAP PRESS author).

SAP PRESS Library and Catalog

Published books are prominently displayed on the home page of the SAP PRESS website and also listed in the catalog.

SAP PRESS also maintains a list of the beststellers.

Amazon, Google, and the Others

After some delay, your book will be automatically listed on Amazon and other online bookstore vendors.

PRO TIP: Consider signing up for Amazon Author Central and create an author page with a profile.

Amazon is also a great place to encourage readers to leave a rating and review. Your marketing contact at SAP PRESS may also help you with sharing a few e-book copies for review.

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Royalties

Enjoy the Fruit of Your Labor

Twice a year, in January and July, you will receive a royalty statement with detailed information about the number of hardcopies and e-books sold. Around the same time, you will find the payment on your bank account.

PRO TIP: Don’t forget to put aside the taxman’s cut.

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Share and Connect

Questions? Please post as comment.

Useful? Give us a like and share on social media.

Thanks!

If you would like to receive updates, connect with me on

For the author page of SAP PRESS, visit

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