Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year! Closing Out 2009

Well, Happy New Year!

Thus ends (almost) my first full calendar year working exclusively with Apple technologies and also my first full calendar year as a published book author. I started working on Beginning iPhone Development in March of 2008, but because of the NDA and very beta-status of the early SDK releases, didn't start full-time writing on it until after WWDC 2008.

It's been a hell of a year. We finished the year on a positive note: More iPhone 3 Development shipped out a few days ago and some people have received it already. I've also heard that Beginning iPhone Development is fairly close to breaking 100,000 copies sold between the two editions. It's hard to say for sure if that has happened because of the way books are inventoried and sold, but our sell-through (books known to be in the hands of consumers) was over 75,000 several months ago. When you consider that Apress' expectation for our book when we contracted with them was that it would probably sell between 4,000 and 5,000 copies, that's really something. We were told before the book went to press that Apress would consider it huge success if it sold 10,000 copies.

I have to say that I love what I'm doing now much more than anything else I've ever done for a living, and infinitely more than what I was doing when I started writing the first book. I'm really glad I've been able to do this. I used to travel 48 or 50 weeks a year doing large-scale Enterprise software implementations. That was a realm where most of the challenges came not from the complexity of the algorithms (most of the work was pretty easy stuff), but the complexity of the social landscape and the politics of working in a large organization. As regular readers know, I'm not shy about giving my opinion even when it's unpopular, so you can imagine what I was like in highly-politically charged corporate environments. Yeah. I was miserable, even though I was good at it and it paid well. But the schedule was brutal. I'd leave my house like 2:00 or 3:00 am Monday morning or sometimes even Sunday night, and I'd get back late Friday night every week. I lived in hotel rooms and ate in hotel bars, and missed most of my kids' birthdays and other special events.

This is so much better. In many ways, this is the life. But, there's a downside to it as well, one that I've been aware of for a while but am only now coming fully to grips with: Even a "best selling" programming book doesn't really put the money on the table the way consulting does, and the blog doesn't generate any income worth mentioning. Some year-end financial calculations have made me realize that I've got some tough decisions to make about how I spend my time in 2010.


At this point, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I won't be writing any books in 2010. I really enjoy writing books, and have a couple knocking around in my head that I'd love to get out on paper, including a soup-to-nuts OpenGL ES book, but I really need to focus on projects that bring in money more effectively and more immediately (royalties take no less than six-months, and often longer to start rolling in).

Dave and I both have similar philosophies about writing books, and neither of us are willing to rush a book out just to capitalize on a trend or hot market. But that, combined with the way we work, means writing books is incredibly time-intensive for us and there's no way to avoid that without compromising what we believe. I'm not comfortable writing about something I don't fully understand, and it simply takes time to wrap my head around something well enough to explain it to others.

That being said, if someone came along and offered a huge advance for a book I wanted to write, I could be tempted. But given the reality of the tech book market, the chances of somebody offering the kind of money it would take to make it worthwhile are slim at best.

If 2010 goes well for me financially, though, I'd like to write another book in 2011.

The Blog

I have no intention of stopping work on my blog. I enjoy it, and some of you seem to as well. I will be more focused in 2010 and will mostly stick to technical subjects and covering things directly relevant to Mac and iPhone programmers. Writing lengthy opinion pieces is time-consuming and tends to provoke people in ways that I don't necessarily intend, even if I do get a lot of page hits from them. But I definitely do plan to continue posting installments of the OpenGL ES from the Ground Up as well as more virtual chapters for our existing books and code snippets that I write that might be useful to others.

The pace of new installments may not be as frequent as it was this past year, at least the part of last year when I wasn't actively working on a book, but the posts will definitely continue.


I'm still thinking about whether I want to continue teaching workshops. It's decent money, and I rather enjoy it, but I'm not sure I want to get into doing regular travel again and I don't want the workshops to interfere with my ability to take on contracting work. I'll probably continue to teach, but probably not more than every other month or so. We'll see, though.


I'm planning on doing a handful of conferences this year. I'm speaking at both NSConferences in 2010 and, of course, plan to attend WWDC assuming I can scrape together the money. I'd really, really hate to miss WWDC - it's my absolute favoritest week of the year - but unfortunately, it's not a sure thing at the moment. I've also been accepted as a speaker at 360|iDev San Jose.


This is what I really need to focus on for the next year. It is my intention to stay working within the Mac and iPhone space if at all possible, so if you know of anybody looking to contract or subcontract an experienced iPhone or Mac developer, please do feel free to send them my way. Though I'm willing to travel occasionally, I am not interested in contracts that would require full-time travel or anything close to it. I'm also available for corporate training or reviewing code or application architecture. I'm a very experienced troubleshooter and have spent a lot of time investigating how to architect iPhone applications, so if you've got projects that are running into problems, I may be able to help get you back on track. As a general rule, I'm not currently looking for full-time employment, though there's a small handful of jobs (primarily at Apple) that I'd definitely consider if they opened up.

If you want to reach me about anything, you can send e-mail to jeff underscore lamarche at mac dot com.

So, on that note, I'm going to go enjoy my New Year's even and forget about anything to do with finances or the iPhone for a few hours. I wish you all a prosperous and enjoyable 2010, and I'll be back to posting in a few days.


K. A. Barber said...

Your blog is one of the blogs I have "Home Screened" on my iPhone. I am especially enjoying the OpenGL ES thread. I previously, few years back, shook my tech book addiction but I am going to make an exception jump off the wagon and buy your newest iphone book.

Thanks for an informative 2009 and Happy New Year!!

Michael said...

Happy New Year Jeff from London!

Jan Geffert said...

Happy New Year Jeff!
I am really looking forward to the next OpenGL installments.
Good luck for the MDN Community Awards!

kelvinkao said...

Happy new year! Hope it's a good one.

Ram said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on writing books and consulting.

Btw you haven't said anything about whether you considered entrepreneurial pursuits like writing and selling your own apps on the app store.

Did you consider writing your own apps, but then conclude that consulting was a better option or did you not even consider writing and selling your own apps.

Morten said...

Please write the OpenGL ES book. The demand for a book like that would be staggering. I promise.

mrsk said...

Congrats on the solid sales Jeff. Looking forward to your contributions for '10. If you're doing any workshops in NYC, let me know!

- Ben Sgro

Jeff LaMarche said...


I have considered both options. Either or both may become reality at some point, but neither produce money quickly enough for me to devote full time to them at the moment.

Honestly, we had a contract to write the book within like two days of the SDK being announced, so I just never really had the time, and then because of the NDA and the delay in getting paid royalties (we started the book in March 2008, I got my first royalty in June 2009 - well, I got one in April, but it was only for the first few weeks the book was on sale less the advance. Taking more time to write apps for the app store just wasn't viable - I had to produce income and fast, so I went into contracting right up until we revised the first book and started writing the second book.

I find myself in a similar situation. I've got some ideas, but don't want to do them unless I can do them well, and that takes time. But I need to produce income to tide me over the six months or so until More iPhone 3 Dev royalties start coming in.

Some will depend on how large the next royalty check is, of course.


Believe me, if I can find a way to write it and still feed my family, I will do it.

Everyone else:

Thanks for the kind words and well wishes. Have a great 2010!

Jeff LaMarche said...


Will do! Jonathan wants me to do one, but so far we haven't been able to find a time that works for both of us.


Wes Kroesbergen said...

I've passed your info on to a client of mine (and another colleague) who asked me to develop an app or two for them. Might be something coming your way.

Jeff LaMarche said...

Thanks, Wes!

Nom DePlume said...

Ordered the new book with a gift certificate from Amazon on Dec 14th. Shipping date on Jan 4, 2010. Checked it today- forced to either agree to an "indefinite shipping date" or forgo the amount used on the gift certificate and cancel the order.

Looking forward to getting the More... book and not forgetting how much Amazon sucks in the future.