Getting Ready to Write a Book

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My co-author, Jacki Buros, and I have just signed a contract with Apress to write a book tentatively entitled “Predictive Analytics with R”, which will cover programming best practices, data munging, data exploration, and single and multi-level models with case studies in social media, healthcare, politics, marketing, and the stock market.

Why does the world need another R book?  We think there is a shortage of books that deal with the complete and programmer centric analysis of real, dirty, and sometimes unstructured data.  Our target audience are people who have some familiarity with statistics, but do not have much experience with programming.  Why did we not call the book Data Science blah, blah, blah…?  Because Rachel and the Mathbabe already grabbed that title! (ok, kidding)

The book is projected to be about 300 pages across 8 chapters. This is my first experience with writing a book and everything I heard about the process tells me that this is going to be a long and arduous endeavor lasting anywhere from 6 to 8 months.  While undertaking a project of this size, I am sure there will be times when I will feel discouraged, overwhelmed, and emotionally and physically exhausted.  What better vehicle for coping with these feelings than writing about them! (this is the last exclamation point in this post, promise.)

So this is my first post of what I hope will become my personal diary detailing the writing process.  Here is the summary of the events thus far.

  • A publisher contacted me on LinkedIn and asked if I wanted to write a book.
  • Jacki and I wrote a proposal describing our target market, competition, and sales estimates based on comparables.  We developed an outline and detailed description of each section.
  • We submitted our proposal (to the original publisher and two other publishers) and received an approval to publish the book from Apress’ editorial board. (Apress was not the original publisher.  More on that process after the book is complete.)

We set up a tracking project on Trello (thanks Joel and the Trello team), created a task for every chapter, and a included a detailed checklist for each task.

We have not completed all of the data analysis required for the book, so this is going to be an exercise in model building as well as in writing.  If you have any advice about how to make the writing process better or if you think we are batshit crazy, please, post in the comments.

I hope to write a book that we can be proud of.  We have a great editorial team and a technical reviewer who is kind of a legend in the R/S world.  They will remain anonymous for now, but their identities will be revealed as soon as they give me permission to do so.

I am looking forward to learning about the writing process, about statistics, and about myself.  Let the journey begin.

10 thoughts on “Getting Ready to Write a Book

  1. Good luck! and congrats, and … if a time machine comes with the book, it’ll be a best seller.

  2. Congrats, and good luck! The problem is not with “another R book” but the fact that for some reason, being in the vicinity of R does not stretch out time.

  3. Pingback: He’s getting ready to write a book « Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science

  4. Not sure if you have heard of this book: http://amzn.com/1461468485 (it’s coming out soon). One of its authors gave a talk on how they wrote the book at ENAR in March, and they had all sorts of problems with Sweave and related packages. As a shameless self-promotion, I recommend you to write your book with knitr; I’m sure it will save you a lot of time. At least I was able to finish my book in two months: http://amzn.com/1482203537 Since everything was automated (I mean the computation and the R output), I only needed to focus on writing the source.

    Good luck with the book! Sounds pretty exciting!

  5. Hi Yihui, thanks for the links and for developing knitr. I love using it! Even though my first instinct was to write the book with knitr, our publisher’s editorial process is centered around Word templates, so unfortunately we have to use those. But if we ever do a project where we can submit LaTex, knitr will be my first choice.

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