When you look around at the variety of software packages on sale, it's very tempting to think, "I could do that!". With software going for between £15 and £ 100, it seems that if you can write a good program in your spare time which might sell a few hundred copies, then you could potentially make several thousand pounds. Great! Resign your job today, go freelance, your fortune is assured but don't tell the taxman.
Meyer Solomon is Software Editor for BBC Publications. His job is to evaluate software and books from hopeful writers, knock them into shape for publication and negotiate terms with the authors. Using his experience in these areas, he has written The Software Business', a guide giving do's and don'ts to help you, but also to make you think carefully about what you are doing and your prospects for success or failure.
The book is a brave attempt to provide some genuinely helpful and useful information. It succeeds in parts, but when it comes down to it, guidelines on ‘How To Succeed' are necessarily a little fatuous. There was a Monty Python sketch which went something like: 'And now. how to win a Nobel Prize for medicine. First you learn all about medicine, then become a doctor and cure all of the world's diseases.' That about sums it up, However, if the first half of the book is full of comments like'make sure there is a market for your idea1 and ‘think carefully', the second half perks up a lot. Solomon covers the mechanics of approaching publishers once you have written a demonstratable program, what they wifi expect of you and what you can expect of them. There is a whole wealth of information packed into the last 50 pages, full of names, addresses, prices and facts. Everything from how to get ISBN numbers for books you publish, to a sample contract of the kind you would get as a first time writer. The information covers both programming and technical book writing There is advice on how to write adverts, how to get magazines to plug your product (tip: always send a photograph, preferably as both black -and-white print and colour slide) and what to do if you get a bad review, or worse still, an unfair review.
What it comes down to is that having a good idea is something that no-one can teach you to do 'The Software Business' tries to teach you and fails. However, taking your idea and marketing yourself to a publisher is something you can learn, and you will find much useful help in this book.