Signature Series Criteria

3 August 2004

From time to time people ask about how you get a book into my signature series. There are lots of book series out there and each series has its own way of deciding what to accept. Here's how I decide

The first question is what kinds of books do I aim for in the series? The books I'm looking for are experience accelerators for people who are, or are learning to be, technical leads/architects in enterprise software projects.

  • I keep the focus on technical books, rather than management and process books because there are plenty of series for those things.
  • The enterprise software focus comes from my own background - I don't think I'm qualified to judge on books outside my broad field.

Many of the early books in the series are heavily oriented towards patterns, but that's more of a co-incidence than a true characteristic of the series.

Acceptance Process

One of the things I very much want from the series is quality. I want it to contain only really good books so that potential readers can really rely on it. As a result I have an involved process to admit books to the series. I'd rather reject a worthy book than accept one that's sub-par. That leads to the rather involved acceptance process.

When people are preparing a book one of the first steps is to produce a proposal that describes what the book is going to be like. Authors usually use this to sign a deal with a publisher and they produce the proposal before they commit to significant work on the book.

Because of my commitment to quality, I'm not going to consider books at the proposal stage. Any judgment about the book will only be done once there is a substantial first draft of the book. In practice this means that an author will have already agreed to go with a Pearson imprint (Addison-Wesley or Prentice-Hall) before considering the series.

Having said that I work with books that are on-track for the series from the proposal stage. In that case I'll work with the book authors to help produce a book that will be accepted. I can't guarantee on acceptance, but I can help.

The actual judgment of the book for the series isn't done by me alone. All authors who have books in the series get to review all candidate books and decide whether the candidate should go into the series. In the end the final judgment will be mine, but I take my fellow authors' comments very seriously. In many ways I have them as a panel to prevent me from being overly generous to a book I like. So it's very possible that I will like a book but reject it because some of my co-authors think it's flawed.

The co-authors will also be involved in the general technical review. Essentially a co-author gets to do technical review on any candidate for the series. So any author coming should be prepared to do this in the future. In my view it's in the interests of every author in the series to keep the series quality high.