My book is coming!
It’s almost there, so let me tell you how modern math publishing works these days.
The author of course writes the work, and we all do it in a typesetting language called Latex (some just use Tex). Google it. It’s not different in spirit from web pages, which are content surrounded by “markup code” that tells the words where to go.
We can extend the analogy. Web pages are written in a markup code which is further subject to cascading style sheet rules. The style sheet rules say how big headlines are, what background images to use, and so on. In Latex, these are called class files (or “.cls” files).
Point of all this is that we write the words and math and the publisher provides us with a class file that does all the typesetting for them. Builds the Table of Contents, numbers all the pages and formulas, lays the footnotes properly, and so on, all automatically. Latex is sweet and orders of magnitude better than other word processing programs, such as MS Word.
But, unless you are a really famous author (not me), you are even given the privilege of writing your own Index! So, in math/physics/etc. books written with Latex, there is nothing for the publisher to do. They don’t even—again, unless you are famous—provide any direct copy editing. They let the authors do that, too.
Since I’m doing everything, I decided, a la Tufte1, to bring out the book myself. Most of the copies I sell will be to the students who are forced—er, elect—to take my class. This way I can keep the price way down.
When I was a visiting professor at CMU, the textbook cost, if you bought the “Solutions Pack” and “Calculator Guide” (or whatever it was called), was well north of $100. 100 bucks! That’s nuts. Mine will be $24.95.
The rest is done automatically, including uploading the text and sending it to printers, everything is actually pretty quick. The real time is in getting the book out to the distribution channels. So while my book will be available first from the publisher’s site, it will take from 1 to 2 months to show up on Amazon.com etc.
What do you do if you can’t wait? You can check out this book. My attempt at inserting skepticism into a strange field.
1 Tufte does statistical graphics. If you haven’t seen his work, you should. His books, which are famous, are also non-traditional since there are, unfortunately, few statistical graphics courses at colleges. Still, he’s done OK with the books.