Wednesday, December 22, 2021

On Writing DFIR Books, pt III

Editing and Feedback
When it comes to writing books, having someone can trust to give you honest, thoughtful, insightful feedback is a huge plus. It can do a lot to boost your confidence and help you deliver a product that you're proud of.

When I first started writing books, the process of going from idea to a published book was pretty set...or so I thought, being new and naïve to the whole thing. I put together an idea for a book, and started on an outline; I did this largely because the publisher was asking for things like a "word count". Then they'd send me a questionnaire to complete regarding the potential efficacy of the book, and they'd send my responses to a panel of "experts" within the industry to provide their thoughts and insight.

However, there wasn't a great deal of insight in the responses that came back, and to be transparent, it got worse as the years went on, but again it was part of the process. Having someone to bounce ideas off, and to engage in thoughtful, insightful discussions would have been beneficial, which is why I'm recommending it now.

The same is true when it comes to the tech editing. Early on, one of the tech editors assigned by the publisher would return chapters late (not good when you're operating on a schedule), and even then, the comments would be "needs work" at the top of the chapter; not entirely helpful. So, over time, at first, I just ignored the tech editor comments, until I had built up enough capital as an author to go to the publisher and tell them who I wanted as a tech editor. By that point, I'd already worked with the person and received their agreement. That way, I knew that I had someone on board who would help me and keep me on track, so that I didn't loose the forest for the trees. Just like when conducting an investigation, while writing a book, it can be easy to go down a rabbit hole and go completely off the rails. As such, it's always good to have someone you trust to give you honest feedback during the course of your writing. It's particularly valuable to have someone in the same industry, so that they can provide thoughtful insights toward your writing, as well as make recommendations to help address certain areas or fill in any gaps.

In short, you can and should "take ownership" of the process, as much as you can. I had assumed early on that the publisher had a short list of folks they knew could provide quality edits and insight, but it turned out that they were just "checking the box". You're going to need someone to review your writing anyway, so why not work with someone you know and trust, when all it takes is for you to ask the publisher?

Once the book is published, or even prior to that, there's the issue of marketing; how does the community know you've written a book?

Early on, I assumed that the publisher had this all locked up. I didn't see a great deal of "marketing" with the first couple of books, and simply "went with it" when the publisher said that they had a process. After the first few books, I started asking, "...what's the process?" 

At that point, I found that the publisher had a spreadsheet of 101 names of luminaries in the industry, and part of their marketing plan was to send a free copy of the book to each of these folks, hoping that they'd write a review. Yes, you read that right...hoping. None of the recipients was under any obligation to actually write the review. Of the 101 names on the spreadsheet, I only recognized one from the industry, and they had NO INTEREST in host-based forensics; everything they wrote about or discussed was focused on NSM.

A while later, I found out that several authors under the imprint...six of us who all had the word "forensics" in the title of our books...would be attending a significant training event, and it turned out that the publisher had a deal with the bookstore for other such events. However, when I asked, it turned out that the publisher had NO PLANS to take advantage of this opportunity; after all, there were six of us presenting, and having copies of the books at the event would make for a great book signing event, and move a lot of books. I convinced my editor that this would be a great event to attend, and to her credit, she took two days out of her family vacation to bring books to the event; all she had at the end were empty boxes.

So, my point is that when it comes to writing books for a publisher, you may have to take ownership of your own marketing, as well. It's really not hard to do, to be honest, using social media, and getting friends to write reviews of you send them a free copy of the book. Not only is there a lot of great info available on marketing things like a book you've written, there are also a lot of podcasts available, and you can reach out to offer free copies, or to be available for an interview, etc.

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