Thursday, June 28, 2012

Publishing DFIR Materials

At the recent SANS DFIR Summit, Corey Harrell, Christopher Witter and I had a chance to chat with someone from Syngress Publishing, who proposed a new business model for DFIR materials to us, and I wanted to get a feel for how others felt about it.

Right now, for a new author, it can take a long time to get material out into a book format.  My first book took about a year to write, and then 3 1/2 months to get through printing.  Some authors don't get beyond the initial couple of chapters before walking away from the project.  Writing a book can be a daunting, and often overwhelming project, and even if it is finished, it can take a year or more before any of the information appears in the public.

The new model takes a different approach.  Instead of full books, authors will write "modules", 30 - 120 page packages of what might be part of a book, but stand alone in and of themselves.  If you've see WFAT 3/e, you'll see that there are several of chapters in the book that could be provided in this manner, perhaps with some additional work.  These modules would be provided much quicker, going through the same review process but being shorter, would be available in a much quicker time frame.  Initially, they would be available in electronic format, (hopefully) at a reduced price.  This way, if you were waiting for WFAT 3/e to come out because you were interested in chapters 3 and 5, you wouldn't have to wait a full year or more for the materials.  Instead, you would have access to them in a much quicker time frame, and then as other modules came available, you would be able to combine the modules into print material.

This model reduces the time in which material is available, reduces the cost-of-entry for the material, and takes a great deal of burden off of the author, as well.  Rather than being engaged in a project that is a year long, the author might be engaged for only 2 months at a time.  Technical reviews would be much quicker, as would the overall final review before going to "printing".  This model also allows for updates...if you purchase a module, there will be an update model available for you to get the latest and greatest version of the module.

From a topics perspective, look at it this way...take one chapter from WFAT 3/e, perhaps expand it a bit with some applicable screen captures or other applicable material, and consider that a module.

Given all of this, I wanted to get some feel from the community at large as to (a) how you feel about this approach, (b) what topics you might like to see covered, and (c) who might be interested in providing this material.  Feel free to comment here, or email me at keydet89 at yahoo dot com.


Anonymous said...

Or, the effort could go into an editable wiki format that can evolve with the field. If the content is not guaranteed to be codified in a book, I think it might be best for everyone for the ideas to be published in a live document.

Anonymous said...

I don't know much about writing books, but I have to ask, why not self-publish via Amazon or something? That way there isn't the lag time. You could also publish these "modules" this way. It seems like the politics of a middle-man takes some time. I'm going to go out and guess on this one, but I would assume your already large following via Twitter, your blog, etc. would provide just as much media coverage as someone like Syngress Publishing would.

It's a specific audience that forensic books target. It's not like it's the latest love novel from someone that you have never heard of.

If they were priced right I think this could be useful. On the flip side, if it's a chapter only a few people need more information about you might run the risk of making less money. Similar to CDs. $10 for the CD, or 99 cents per song. If only one song is good you wont be making much money, which might prevent some people from writing books.

Also, it would have to be better than a blog post. Books are nice because they have all the material right there in your hand. Modules might be treated more like a blog post.

Anyway, that's just a couple ideas.

Keydet89 said...

Interesting idea...but who are you?

Keydet89 said...

I don't know much about writing books, but I have to ask, why not self-publish via Amazon or something?

Again, interesting idea...but do you know what that takes?

...I would assume your already large following via Twitter, your blog, etc. would provide just as much media coverage as someone like Syngress Publishing would.

I'm sure you're right, but my presence on social media hasn't really led to any noticeable action by people who follow me. I would submit that being aware of something doesn't specifically lead to someone taking action. might run the risk of making less money.

True...if it's about making money. For the publishing company, that's clearly the case. However, in the long run, I think that once this model gets going, it opens up a great deal of new territory, such that the publisher not making as much money on one module is covered by all of the modules that are available.

Brett Shavers said...

The pen-to-paper-to-print time is a long time to wait for a book, plus, by the time the book is printed, certain points made may be already outdated. This is especially true to highly technical books.

But...I really like having a bound reference manual at my side. ebooks are convenient, but not as convenient as picking up a book and flipping to the section I need at the moment. And I can write notes in my book or slip a copy of a test I did to validate a task between the pages of the book.

Also, I feel that any non-fiction book is only as good as the sum of all the chapters. There are many books in which I skip a chapter just to get to the chapters I need. Other people probably skip different chapters than I would. Eventually, I believe all readers get to all the chapters eventually and figure out that there was a plan in how the book was written and the information from each chapter supported each other chapter.

As mentioned, self-publishing may be the fastest method to go from pen to print.

Richard Brackett said...

I think the Amazon self-publishing route would be outstanding to publish smaller volumes that treat a single subject in some depth. At a buck or two per volume it would be a no-brainier from known authors. I would not even have to think about it.

I have not published in this way, but there are so many independents writing now that it can't be difficult. The biggest challenge would likely be getting good editorial and technical reviews. Maybe someone could form a group of authors, a co-op of sorts to help provide that.

Keydet89 said...


Thanks for recognizing the issues surrounding self-publishing...I think that most folks who think of this only view it from the point of having the material available, not what it takes to get there. A while ago, I started looking at self-publishing routes...maybe this is something I need to revisit, just for comparison.

Maybe someone could form a group of authors, a co-op of sorts to help provide that.

I like this idea, but I'm not sure that there are many in this field that have authored more than one book. I get the impression from what I'm seeing that in most cases, the idea is to finish the book that they contract for, and that's it.

Alex said...

I think this idea has potential, particularly if content can be revised and updated modularly too. If it's only the content in Chapter 2 that has change since publication (or needs correction), then an updated Chapter 2 could be provided more rapidly than a revision to the entire book.