Survey Says! New Book Version Results From My Readers

After three editions of my book with Focal Press, I'm now creating a new version that I will self publish. To help me with some key decisions, I put up a survey using Survey Monkey.  I advertised the survey here on this site; on the show control mailing list, and also on Controlbooth, and I promised to randomly select two respondents for prizes (see below).  I thought it would be cool if I got 25 responses; I was surprised and delighted to get 123!  Thanks to all of you for giving me some of your time. Now, onto the results:

One problem with the current edition of the book is that people think it's only the "show control" book.  It certainly does cover show control in depth (it's still one of the only to do so), but it's always been the entertainment control system book.  Over the years, network technology has come into our world in a big way, and there are multiple chapters in the existing edition that cover networking in some depth (and more to come in the new version). Because of all this, I wanted to add "network" to the title in some way, so I put up a bunch of title variants and asked people to award Gold, Silver and Bronze medals.

There was one very clear favorite:

So, my current title for the new version is Networking and Control Systems for Live Entertainment.  I thought this was a bit long and unwieldy, but clearly it's the crowd favorite!

The current edition lists for about $56, and I personally thought that was too expensive.  I guess I was wrong!

77% of the respondents are willing to pay $50 or more for a printed trade paperback (I asked them the maximum they would pay). This was a bit surprising to me, and while I do plan to keep the book as inexpensive as possible, this information definitely helps me set the price in a way to help me recoup my up-front, self-publishing costs as quickly as possible.

Clearly, the respondents want to pay significantly less for E-Books:

It almost flips right around that $50 point, with 85.2% wanting to pay $45 or less, and the most willing to pay around $25 or $30.

Only 13.9% prefer an electronic edition:

This is good for me because I've been planning to develop the printed edition, and then port that format over to an E-Book format.

I do want to keep the costs for all involved as low as possible, and when I posted the survey, I thought that increasing the "trim size" of the book would reduce the page count significantly, so I asked the readers what they would think of doing that:

A clear majority (46.7%) don't really care about the trim size, which is good since it gives me flexibiility.  Also, yesterday I opened up the existing book edition in Framemaker and changed the page and text flow sizes, keeping the margins the same. The existing book is about 150,000 words with lots of graphics and tables, and--amazingly to me--increasing the trim size from 7.5" x 9.25" (the current size) up to 8.5x11" only reduced the book from 418 pages down to 405.  Using CreateSpace's cost calculator, that is only a 14 cent savings per copy, which isn't really worth it on a financial basis.  So, I'm still kicking around the trim size decision, but my current feeling is that a larger trim size would better for things that are more "workbook" oriented, while the smaller size (which is used by a lot of other technical books in my industry) is a bit more portable and readable.  We'll see...

In the three open ended questions, I got lots of good suggestions and support for ideas I've been kicking around (like adding a glossary, which is in the plans). A few other points to address some common issues:

  • One thing more advanced people and those in product manufacturing in the industry may forget is that this book isn't really targeted at them--it's specifically aimed at entry-level, end users, and those who need to learn about an area new to them.
  • Other than pictures for examples or proprietary standards used widely, I've long stayed away from specific manufacturers and gear.  In the first edition, for example, I included a bunch of commercial show control systems, but those were all hopelessly obsolete even by the time the second edition came out so I cut them for subsequent editions, and focused on the fundamentals.
  • With the expansion of the networking section, I am currently planning on adding information on select open transmission standards like AVB
  • Many people ask for information on troubleshooting, and I do have a section on a generalized process for that in the current edition.  I honestly don't know how to expand it much beyond that, since a huge amount of troubleshooting involves simply understanding what you're doing. 
  • I am currently planning to add more practical networking examples, and one person suggested adding personal anecdotes, which is intriguing.
  • A few people asked about keeping older protocols in, and I do plan to do that.  
  • I looked into doing color, but, using CreateSpace's print on demand service, that raises the cost of the book by more than 500%, which isn't really practical.
  • A couple people offered to review sections, and I appreciate that. I typically send out each chapter to an appropriate expert for feedback before I submit it for copy editing.  Also, if I have a question, I usually put it out to the show control mailing list.
  • One person suggested adding more Belgian Beers, so I'll look into a "beer on demand" machine.

And now, for the moment you all have been waiting for, the winners!  To select a winner, I listed all the names in Excel and then used random.org to pick two winners.   The winner of the calendar was Eric Cantrell, of Medialon, and the winner of the new book edition (should be out sometime this summer) was Luke Hadsall, of the University of Central Oklahoma.  Maybe I'll deliver his copy personally when I'm out in the plains storm chasing later this year! 

By the way, if you're curious (as I was) what these Print On Demand machines look like and how they work, here's a video:

Thanks again to everyone for helping me out, and now, I better get back to actually writing this thing.