We have finally finished our first book! “Scrum 101: the most frequently asked questions about Agile with Scrum” in now available to buy on LeanPub.
Why did we write a book?
I was finding that the same questions were cropping up during training sessions and talks that I was giving on agile and Scrum. So I decided to write a book that answered the most common questions. This was late 2013 and I thought that I’d complete the book in about three months; I quickly realised that writing it on my own was a mistake and asked Jim and Jit to join me.
What approach did we take?
First, we listed the questions that we wanted to answer. We grouped them into roughly related topics, and entered them onto LeanKit – which we used to limit WIP.
One of us would take a question, summarise our answer as bullet points, then one or both of the others would comment on it. We might go back and forth a bit, but eventually we would agree on what we wanted to say.
One of us (maybe the person who wrote the bullet points, but maybe one of the other two) would then write the chapter in full. Again, one or both of the others would then be required to approve the chapter.
Only then was the chapter merged into the book. I use the word ‘merge’ because we published the book through LeanPub (so we could release the text incrementally and iteratively) which was fed from Github.
We then regularly asked people with agile/Scrum knowledge and experience to review the text. This gave us some insightful feedback that we could use early on.
Why did we take that approach?
“Pair writing” had massive benefits.
Before we started, I assumed that Jim, Jit and I would quickly agree on each answer; turns out we didn’t agree a lot of the time. Sometimes we interpreted the question differently, other times we just had different opinions. On occasion, we would discuss a seemingly simple question for a week before we got near to agreeing an answer.
Secondly, pairing also had the benefit of allowing three people to write a book but still have a consistent writing style. Unless I’d told you, I don’t think you would have even thought about it being written by a group of people. Pairing also gave us the benefit of constant proof-reading.
Finally, it helped keep the flow. With three authors, even if one of us became unavailable, there was still another to pair with.
More proof reading. Everyone knows that, however much you read your own work, typos will be there. I remember a friend recently saying they didn’t want to hear about any spelling or grammar errors in their recently printed book. We want to avoid that. Luckily, because it is digitally available through LeanPub, any changes we make are applied immediately and are also available to everyone who has previously purchased the book.
We’ve asked an illustrator to make it more visually attractive by designing us a cover and some illustrations within the book. We don’t know how long this will take: he’s coming back to us with some options that we can then collaboratively refine. Once we have these discussions, maybe we can start guessing at how long the process will take.
Over the next 6 months, we hope that we will receive loads of constructive feedback and can make iterative improvements and corrections where necessary. As mentioned, these are applied instantly and are available to previous purchases. At some point, once we feel happy that we’re not hearing new feedback, we will self-publish through Amazon.
What did we learn?
- Github + LeanPub is a great combination for collaborative writing. (Jim and I have already agreed that we will be using these for our next book)
- Three people writing a book together is good (see above for why)
- Writing a book takes a lot longer than you think
- People are happy to offer their opinions on early proofs if you ask
- Writing a book is a great way to challenge and check your opinions
Can I get a discount?
Yes. We have decided to offer the first 101 people a 10% discount. The book usually costs $12.60 (that’s about £9.50) but with this discount you can buy it for $11.34 (that’s about £8.50)
Please feel free to send us feedback.