Recently in Books, Articles, Papers Category

SQL Server Magazine in conjunction with Windows IT Pro just published my article on Report Builder 2.0 security issues. Actually, the content is extracted from a much larger article on Report Builder that’s scheduled to be published in the print magazine later this year. The gist? Well, basically it discusses the implication of giving paradevelopers on your staff the ability to party down on your report catalog. These folks will be able to extract cataloged reports, modify them and save them back for everyone to see—whether or not they still represent an accurate depiction of your corporate data…


SqlBulkCopy Revisited

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Another developer asked how to import CSV files using INSERT statements. Instead of simply saying “Go get a copy of the book” (again), I decided to provide the example from the book’s DVD.

SqlBulkCopy leverages the considerable work the SQL Server team has done to make importing data fast (really fast). Consider that none of the data access interfaces are designed to do bulk imports—except DBLib. That is, until ADO.NET 2.5 when the SqlBulkCopy API was added to the .NET SqlClient namespace the only way to do bulk operations was to use the BCP utility, SSIS or a TSQL bulk operation.

Using INSERT statements can be fairly easy to setup but really slow down the operation. It’s like delivering coal with a Toyota 1/4 ton pickup. This is great until you have to move 800 tons of coal to the local power plant.

Here’s the code extracted from “Hitchhiker’s Guide to Visual Studio and SQL Server (7th Edition)”

So, I've been lurking on the public newsgroups and noticed several authors and author wnanabes asking questions about what makes technical books sell. Some report sales in the 500-1000 range while others sell in the tens of thousands. I began musing on how to get one's book to sell more copies--enough to make it worthwhile. Perhaps these tips might help:

  • Write your book so it's not dependant on a specific product version. This makes your book more useful over the years as specific products come and go. Consider that the Knuth’s books are still selling after over 40 years.
  • Title the book so it's not version-specific. When bookstore folks see 2007 on a book in 2009 they'll want to pull it--regardless of how current the technology.
  • Write your book so it's unique. Perhaps this means making it product-specific but unless your book is the only source of information on the subject and the product is successful, you're going to have a short shelf-life. If you write on a time-sensitive topic (especially a beta version) make sure the book is done early. Every day you wait decreases sales by several percent. Once the beta product goes to RTM the bookstores and readers lose interest so have a follow-on book ready to go. This is more than twice the work of a single book that ships at RTM. Of course, shipping at RTM is virtually impossible as the products MS builds change so much from Alpha to Beta to CTP to RC to RTM.
  • Consider formatting the book as a textbook. If you get picked up by a junior college, technical college or university you can count on a lot more sales. This is really a lot of extra work and has a degree of risk involved as the retail (non-college) bookstores might not be interested in carrying a textbook not part of a local curriculum. This is one reason why these books sell for far more than standard titles.
  • Write your book so it contributes new material to the body of knowledge developers can find on Google. This means you can't simply restate the examples and topics in the doc unless you re-write them to make them functional (very tempting). Developers often need to get a second/third opinion about how to solve a problem.
  • Market and support the book yourself or at least work with the publisher to get seed copies in the hands of appropriate MVPs and User Group leaders.
  • When you're on a forum or newsgroup answer questions in your area and tell them that there is more information in your book. When you give a conference session, add a brief plug for the book. There is a delicate balance between self-promotion and providing pro-bono help—but I am no expert there—I often go over the line.
  • Get readers that like the book to post a review on Amazon. This might push the hesitant buyer into getting your book over another.
  • Make sure readers that complain are made happy. This might mean getting them a refund or helping answer their questions.
  • Go to the bookstore in your town and every town you visit and ask to see your book. Make sure it's shelved correctly. I went to the Notre Dame bookstore to discover my book was shelved with the graphical arts titles. Apparently the term "Visual Studio" threw the staff. If you find it, sign it (with their permission) and get them to sticker the book.
  • Work with your publisher to make sure the cover content is compelling. Don't assume the publisher knows what to put on the cover to get the developer to pick your book.
  • When you speak at a conference, work with the onsite-bookstore to setup a book signing. Help them sell the book by answering questions while in the bookstore.

Patrick, I could not agree more with your editorial this month. Based on what I hear when I leave my cave is that Microsoft just doesn’t get it. Because of politics (no, not the Bush/Obama kind) and an old-school marketing and sales plan, Microsoft has also forced its own development teams to pump out new versions of SQL Server and other serious platform engines on a ever-shortening cycle. The same is true for Visual Studio and the languages teams whose development cycles seem to be totally consumed trying to get the Entity Framework working. This means the teams place less emphasis on fixing existing long-term bugs and making development of existing architectures easier. Over and over again we hear that “Microsoft knows what’s best for developers”.

The New Books hit the Street

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November 6th is going to be a big day for me. That’s when my latest Hitchhiker’s Guide to Visual Studio and SQL Server (7th Edition) and my first EBook Hitchhiker’s Guide to SQL Server 2005 Compact Edition hit the streets. I expect to get my first copy here in Redmond tomorrow (Friday November 3rd). Addison Wesley tells me that the bookstore at the Connections conference in Vegas will have the first copies. They also plan to have copies at TechEd Barcelona that same week and at PASS here in Seattle the following week.

Another question came up in the newsgroups today that's been asked (and answered) before so to short-circuit having to repeat myself, here is a blocl of code that can be used to enumerate the providers on a system and the services that the provider can see on the network. In other words, it lists the SQL Server instances on the network and puts the list in a DataGridView.

This code is extracted from an example in my new book Hitchhiker's Guide to Visual Studio and SQL Server due to be on the streets in early November. See for more information.

It’s become pretty clear that the technical book-writing business is not worth the time and effort—not to mention the years of time that I could have been contributing elsewhere. But is there a better way? This article explores the mechanics of writing technical books and the alternatives.


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