September 2003 - Posts

I'm still alive
30 September 03 01:20 PM | Scott Mitchell

The four people who actually read this blog might have been wondering where I had disappeared to, as it has been nearly 15 days since my last entry. I am alive, don't worry. Just busy. A couple .NET and personal things of interest:

  • Two new FAQs up at DataWebControls.com:
    1. Returning Data in Random Order with NEWID(), and
    2. Making Select Rows in an Editable DataGrid Uneditable
  • Finished up my second article on data structures. The first has yet to hit the C# Dev Center, but will hopefully make it up there sooner than later. Honestly, though, I'm not expecting it anytime soon, I think the MSDN guys are quite busy at the time getting ready for PDC. (I also have two articles written and ready for the ASP.NET Dev Center as well...)
  • In the midst of coteaching a six-week course on Web Services Fundamentals. Finished the second week's lecture last night. The class has been going well, I think, there's two of us teaching. I think this gives students a nice view of things, as my coworker, Michele Leroux Bustamante, has a solid industry background and can provide a nice CIO/CTO perspective for the students, while I like to think I bring a developer-level perspective. Anywho, it's nice coteaching with someone, as the lectures are four hours long, so that's less talking, less material creation, and so on, for each instructor. :-)
  • I have been using Jeff Key's Snippet Compiler often lately. It's a great tool if you need to run a snippet of code but don't want to go through the hassle of creating a Visual Studio .NET project. I find myself using it when I need to do a quick test on some code, or am interested in seeing the output of some example in the docs. The current version of Snippet Compiler is nice, it has IntelliSense, a nice GUI editor, templates for common code files, and so on. (Read a review of Snippet Compiler.)
Snippet Compiler Review on .NET Toolbox
17 September 03 10:52 AM | Scott Mitchell

I just completed a reivew for .NET Toolbox of my current favorite free tool, Jeff Key's Snippet Compiler. If you haven't heard about or used Snippet Compiler, I heartily recommend it, it's a wonderful tool for quickly testing out C# or VB.NET code, as you don't have to go through the pains of creating a new Visual Studio .NET project.

Also, for those unaware, there is an RSS feed with the latest reviews from .NET Toolbox - Subscribe Here.

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An Article of Mine's on the Microsoft.com Homepage
15 September 03 10:00 PM | Scott Mitchell

If you squint very, very hard you can find an article of mine I wrote for the ASP.NET Dev Center up on the Microsoft home page - www.microsoft.com. It's in the Visual Studio .NET section, second article of three listed: How to Move From Visual Basic to ASP.NET.

Next step: have the article appear on MSN.com and/or MSNBC.com.

Speaking of Microsoft MSDN articles, I've got a whole series forthcoming in the C# Dev Center on data structures, of which I've finished the first of the tentative six part series (the article will hopefully get online in the next couple of weeks). Should be a fun and interesting series.

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Comments on eBooks - a Talk with Dan Appleman
11 September 03 11:03 AM | Scott Mitchell

In yesterday's blog entry, Self-Publishing - Has Anyone Tried This?, Scott Watermasysk made the following comment:

In general, I have thought about the e-book thing in the past. I have had two book contracts that just needed ink to get them started. However, because of different circumstances, neither deal worked out, but I still think there is a market for 40-100 page books which nails a specific topic. Of course, I have no proof to back this up, just a gut feeling. So like you said, I just might have to give it a shot sometime...

I had this inclination myself at one point, so I decided to email Dan Appleman, well-known .NET author and VB.NET guru who has released a number of eBooks that are available on Amazon.com, such as: Visual Basic .NET or C#: Which to Choose?; Exploring .NET; and Hijacking .NET: Role Based Security. (The latter book got some press on Slashdot a while ago...) Dan has also written a number of traditional print books as well; just do a Google search for “Dan Appleman” and you'll see what I mean. Dan was kind enough to respond, and I include our email conversation here, which took place back in February 2003. Dan's response is in bold. (Email reposted with Dan's permission.)


Hello Dan, my name is Scott Mitchell and I am a fellow author, focusing on ASP/ASP.NET. Anywho, I am a fan of your books and have noticed that you have been publishing a number of PDF books lately (VB.NET vs. C#, RegEx in .NET, Logging & Tracing in .NET) for sale @ Amazon.com. I was wondering if you could share some advice with me. I have a few questions you hopefully have the time to answer:

1.) How do you get your books listed on Amazon.com like that, what are their fees, etc. (I scoped the Amazon.com site figuring there is a link that explains this all, but couldn't find it)

I got lucky. Normally Amazon only handles significant publishers. They are really only at the early stages of handling eDocs and aren't set up to deal directly with lots of authors, so they typically work with aggregators who carry lots of eBooks/eDocs. The reason I got in was MightyWords. They had an "everybody is welcome" perspective, which attracted lots of content, much of which was crap. When they went under, Amazon called me. Probably because my eBook had held a lock on the #1 best selling position on Mightwords pretty much from the day it came out. I think they were pleased with the choice, since 2 of my eBooks were in the top 10 for 2002.

2.) How is it financially? That is, ballpark, how much $$$ do you get per book sale? Also, what is a reasonable # of books to expect to sell via this medium?

Bottom line is - the economics of eDocs are still not ready for prime time. As an editorial director at Apress, every six months or so I run the numbers to figure out whether it makes sense for us to start publishing eDocs (as a publisher, we'd be in the perfect position to do so). The sales numbers just aren't there yet. To be specific - an eDoc best seller might do 1000 copies. That's all. The catch is the marketing - Think 200 copies of a $10 eBook (a more realistic number). You get 50%, so you make $1,000. How much marketing can you do with that? Not much. In my case, the reason it works is that I can piggy-back my eBook marketing onto Desaware. So I'm getting a lot of "free" promotion, which gets my numbers into the several hundred range. Without it, I'd be lucky to see a sale. To a large degree, this is an investment in the future. If readers wake up and figure out that eBooks make sense, it's not unreasonable for numbers to go into print book range (5000,10000, more?), at which point eDocs become more profitable than books (since the amount you make on each is comparable to your royalty on a book, but took 10% of the effort). Long before then I'd expect the major publishers to start commisioning eBooks directly with authors (solving your marketing problem).

3.) What software do you use to write the book? Word and then convert to PDF or do you use special software designed for generating PDFs, such as Acrobat?

Word straight to PDF using Adobe Acrobat.

Anyway, I hope that helps. If you have a high traffic web-site, you may find eBooks a nice channel. If not, you'll find that they just don't sell themselves.


Something to think about before jumping into the eDoc market.

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Self-Publishing - Has Anyone Tried This?
10 September 03 06:49 PM | Scott Mitchell

I had lunch with fellow San Diego author Brian Bischof today and, among other things, we talked about self-publishing a book. Brian had a colleague who was familiar with the process and had explained it to Brian in some detail, which Brian then imparted onto me. The process sounds interesting. Essentially, you start by contacting a printing company. I take that back - you start by writing the damned book! Then, after doing so, and after typesetting it (using software tools, I imagine), you then contact a printing company. While it sounds like there are companies that will print books at quantities of one at a time, the cost to do so is too prohibitive to expect any kind of profit. Rather, you need to buy in larger increments, like 1,000 copies at a time. Checking out this grid, it looks like a 400 page book would run $5.72 per printed copy for an order size of 1,000 books.

Once you buy these books, and drop $250 for an ISBN, you can send off five copies of your book to Amazon.com. Upon receiving them, Amazon.com will handle the ordering and delivery, prompting you to send more copies when (or if) your initial 5 copies sell out. For this service Amazon takes 48% off the top of the sales price (similar to what a brick-n-mortar bookstore takes, as discussed in my earlier piece, The Economics of Writing a Computer Trade Book). So, if you can sell the book for, say, $29.95, Amazon takes $15 and you get $15 yourself, for about a $8-$9 profit, after subtracting your costs for shipping the books to Amazon.com. Given these estimates, the break-even point of your initial $5,720 is ~715 copies.

Of course, selling 715 copies probably isn't that easy to do, unless you have an outlet to market your books for free, or affordably. A Web site would help, but checking out the Amazon.com Associates report, I noticed that via my Associates ID I've only sold a tad over 400 copies of my first book, Teach Yourself ASP 3.0 in 21 Days, from the Associates program, which is less than 1% of the total number of copies sold.

Has anyone tried self-publishing? I'm tempted to try it at some point in my life, as I'd like to eventually write a non-technical book (I'll save that discussion for a future blog entry). However, those non-technical books don't sell for nearly as much as technical books (when's the last time you dropped $40+ for a novel?), which would up the number of copies needing to be sold to reach the break-even point. Regardless, if nothing else it would be kind of cool to have 1,000 copies of one book in one house at one point in time.

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SharpDevelop Review on .NET Toolbox
09 September 03 06:09 PM | Scott Mitchell

Today I finally had some free time in order to get up Vasanth Dharmaraj excellent review of SharpDevelop. For those not familiar with SharpDevelop, it is a free, open-source .NET IDE specifically targetted for C# WinForms development. Vasanth's review also includes some good screenshots as well. Thanks Vansanth!

Would you like to author a review? It will only take a few minutes and will help other .NET developers learn about what free .NET tools you find indespensible. If you're interested, check out how you can submit a review.

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skmMenu: An ASP.NET Menu Server Control
09 September 03 12:28 PM | Scott Mitchell

I recently finished up the first of a two-part article series for the ASP.NET Dev Center on creating a menu ASP.NET server control. The article, which has yet to hit the front pages of the dev center (I did send it into Kent Sharky a mere hour ago, after all ), will contain the complete source code for the server control. I have also started a GotDotNet Workpace with said source code so others can use the menu control and add to its features and whatnot.

If you get a chance to try out the menu control, let me know what you think. The GotDotNet Workspace can be found at: http://gotdotnet.com/Community/Workspaces/workspace.aspx?id=a8ee64df-8f2a-483f-8594-10aaa66988ce

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My Latest Article
02 September 03 07:11 PM | Scott Mitchell

My latest article, Moving from Visual Basic to ASP.NET, is up on the ASP.NET Dev Center on Microsoft's Web site. This article is geared toward developers who are comfortable with Visual Basic 6.0 or VB .NET, but have yet to make the jump to ASP.NET.

For the six of you who may have noticed that it's been a while since my last post or update to the .NET Toolbox, the reason is because I have been on vacation for the past week and a half. Now that I am back in town and at a computer (finally! <g>), I plan on digging into .NET Toolbox... although the remainder of this week looks quite hectic as I play catchup. I have another article to get cranking on for the ASP.NET Dev Center, not to mention I'll be starting another book! (Gulp!) I also have to get my butt in gear on preparing coursework for a Web Services Fundamentals class I'll be teaching that starts in a couple of weeks.

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  • Teach Yourself ASP.NET 4 in 24 Hours
  • Teach Yourself ASP.NET 3.5 in 24 Hours
  • Teach Yourself ASP.NET 2.0 in 24 Hours
  • ASP.NET Data Web Controls Kick Start
  • ASP.NET: Tips, Tutorials, and Code
  • Designing Active Server Pages
  • Teach Yourself Active Server Pages 3.0 in 21 Days

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