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Pragmatic Hero's Journey »

Ever wonder how authoring books compares to writing articles? More importantly, is making the switch from short-form to long-form worth the effort?

Discover how Paolo Perrotta went from writing short coding articles for programming magazines to authoring full-length technical books for The Pragmatic Bookshelf, and find out why he thinks that experience is not only rewarding but nothing short of mystical.

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PragProg Hero Paolo Perrotta
December 17, 2020

A Mystical Hero's Journey with Paolo Perrotta

This month we checked in with PragProg author Paolo Perrotta, to discuss his journey from short-form article writer to full-length book author. If you're thinking about making the jump yourself or if you've ever wondered what it's like to write a book, Paolo's insights into managing expectations is a conversation you don't want to miss.

On becoming an author...

While it may seem strange to hear coming from someone who’s accomplished so much, Paolo says he was "kind of blessed a little by not being really, really good at anything in particular." Sure, he was a decent coder and a decent writer—mostly because he enjoyed doing it—but he wasn't what he called "a no-brainer hire."

Little did Paolo know, people like him—people who can both code and write—are rare and in high demand.

Paolo stepped into the role of author/programmer after responding to a forum post he found on the internet. The poster wanted to know if anyone knew a programmer who could write magazine articles about coding. Paolo, who was a freelancer at the time, certainly fit that profile.

This unassuming internet exchange set into motion Paolo's journey to becoming an author.

After a few years of writing technical articles for print magazines, Paolo started thinking about writing a book. In his mind, if one article has enough content to fill three pages, then 100 articles could surely fill an entire book. He would later discover that writing a book was so much more than simply creating additional content, but, at the time, Paolo was blissfully unaware.

On challenges and rewards...

Paolo admits that his first book, Metaprogramming Ruby 2, Program Like the Ruby Pros, was a "pretty reckless" choice since he hadn't considered all that goes into writing a book; but that didn't stop him. He'd been reading about the topic on various blogs, and he liked the subject, so he wanted to write a book about it...but not just any book.

Paolo wanted to write the book that he wanted to read—the one he felt was missing from the Ruby space. And, since no such book existed, Paolo "naturally concluded," as he says, to write the book himself.

But did Paolo really know enough about metaprogramming in Ruby to actually write a book?

As it turns out, he did…even if he had to do some research and take deeper dives into the topic before he felt fully ready to teach it. And that’s when Paolo made an interesting discovery.

Many of the techniques Paolo wanted to use didn't have a name—a pattern-like description that people in the industry agreed upon and were using. Faced with this inconsistency, Paolo came up with the names on his own, an overly ambitious task for a first-time author.

In the end, Paolo's ambition paid off. There wasn't anything else like his book on the market, and it filled a much-needed void.

On career and beyond...

Although Paolo currently has no plans to write another book, he says the experience of writing two books with the Pragmatic Bookshelf led to some exciting adventures in his career, such as being a public speaker and world traveler.

But what Paolo enjoyed the most was working with a group of individuals who believed in fairness and partnership—and a company that understood how to build a toolset for programmers who like to write.

Now that you know how Paolo got his start, complete your collection of his titles today:

Then, start or continue your own hero's journey by sharing your latest book idea with us.

You Could Be a Published Author

Is there a tech topic you are deeply passionate about and want to share with the rest of us? You could become a published Pragmatic Bookshelf author! Take a look at our pragprog.com/become-an-author page for details, including our 50% royalty (yes, for real!) and world-class development editors.

Remember, the best way to tell the future is to create it.

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