Writing a book may become a weighty point in one’s resume and open the door to useful acquaintances and giving speeches at world-class conferences. Maxim Bartkov, a Ukrainian developer, co-authored the second edition of the book “Spring REST: Building Java Microservices and Cloud Applications”. The book was published by Apress, one of the world’s largest publishers of professional IT literature.

We asked Maxim how he managed to do it, what it takes to become a co-author, and how Ukrainian developers can promote the technological brand of their country by means of such publications.

Maxim, tell us first about your path in IT.

I’ve been working as a developer for eight years already, specializing in Java backend development, and specifically in the architecture of high-load systems and microservices. During this time I worked in companies from the USA, Sweden, Canada and the UK, mainly in the FinTech industry. Besides, I’m a technology evangelist for an open-source project. Some of my interesting career highlights include writing a research paper on rate limiting together with a PhD in Scientific Computing from the University of Michigan, giving speeches at the JPrime and Stage of Java conferences. 

Let’s move on to the book. How did you become its co-author?

I can’t say that I became a co-author of the book by chance, but I didn’t plan to do it at first. Some day I was just reading another book on Java and noticed a lot of technical inaccuracies in it. And I just thought: “I could correct them!” That’s how I came up with the idea to try myself as a technical editor. It should be said that I had the opportunity to write a few long texts for publication in specialized media earlier. 

I don’t like to put things off until later, so almost immediately I wrote a letter to Apress, an American publisher of professional IT literature that I have always liked. I asked if they had an opening for a technical editor and attached my resume and cover letter describing my experience. Honestly, I didn’t even expect a reply. But to my surprise, I received it… 12 minutes later! It turned out that they didn’t need technical editors at that moment, but they were looking for a co-author for a book about Spring REST, and my professional experience fit the task perfectly. Of course, this offer interested me even more. Here is the reply from Apress:

How and why should a developer become a co-author of a professional book? 26-year-old Maxim Bartkov shares his experience of publishing in Apress

The task was to update the first edition of the book from 2015. Much has changed since that time, so I was supposed to rewrite the book according to modern standards.

Tell us, please, about the terms of cooperation with the publishing house.

Apress sets a deadline and assigns a technical editor, with whom the author approves all the work. I was fortunate to work with Rohan Valia, a development giant who was a Software Architect at Oracle for nine years and also worked at MongoDB. 

How do you get paid for co-authorship?

I received 50% of the prepayment after completing the first three chapters, and another 50% after submitting the final version for printing. Additionally, I received a nice bonus every quarter, which was the royalties from sales. 

Did you have any deadline?

I had to rewrite and deliver the book in two months. 

What did the work on the book look like?

I rewrote chapter by chapter, and submitted each of them for further processing, which included:

  • review by a technical editor; 
  • grammar check; 
  • check by the editor-in-chief; 
  • submitting a chapter for layout and production.  

However, the process went very quickly and smoothly, and people usually responded within minutes, in rare cases – within a few hours. 

What was the most challenging part of updating the book?

The most challenging part was a technical review. Sometimes I had to communicate a lot with the editor and clarify the smallest nuances of the technology. It happened that we disagreed on some issues, and if I was 100% sure of my conclusions, I had to find a way to prove it. 

Sometimes our discussions lasted for several days, but all of them were productive. Usually, we managed to find a compromise solution. Although the author is not obliged to introduce the suggested changes, the knowledge and experience of such a top-level editor should always be taken into account in order to write a good text. Some comments seemed insignificant to me, some looked just like a minor correction, but when Rohan and I dived deeper into them, everything turned out to be much more complex and interesting. 

What amount of work did you have to do?

The final version of the book contains 264 pages, of which I completely rewrote 25%. I worked a few hours a day, and I met the deadline at this pace. 

What did you do after finishing the book?

The publishing house released the book in a few months and promoted it very actively on all the major platforms – Amazon, eBay, Springer, Skillsoft, Indigo, BarnesAndNoble, Waterstones, Books-A-Million, etc. At the same time, Apress promotes the personal brands of their authors quite well, so very soon people began to contact me on LinkedIn, send me emails and invite me to give speeches at some big conferences. 

But that’s not all! A month after the publication, I was contacted by Apress’ editor-in-chief. It turned out that they really liked our cooperation and offered me to write a book independently, having provided me with several topics to choose from. Additionally, they offered me to update some other books, among which I could choose a few titles as well. After a few weeks of negotiations, I presented my concept of the future book to the editor. A week later, he approved the concept and the budget. We planned to sign a contract at the end of February and publish a new book by the end of 2022, but the war broke out and the plans changed.  

What benefit did you get from working on the book (of course, besides the money 🙂)?

  • First, I improved my skill of writing and editing long texts, as well as understood the process of creating a book “from the inside”; 
  • I also managed to structure and deepen my knowledge of Spring REST, as during the process of writing I saw many nuances that I did not know about before;
  • Separately, the incredible experience to work with a world-class technical editor should be emphasized. With his competence, Rohan inspired me to learn more about the technology and develop further;
  • At the same time, co-authoring a book became a weighty point in my resume. Recently, I was looking for a new job, and the employer mentioned this during the interview;
  • Finally, co-authorship opens the door to participation in professional conferences as a speaker. I love giving speeches, and I noticed how much easier it became to qualify and become a speaker.

How can the technology brand of Ukraine be promoted through professional literature?

There are many talented specialists in Ukraine who have some valuable experience to share. The more Ukrainian authors will publish their books in the world’s best professional publishing houses, the more the international tech community will pay attention to Ukraine and invest in it.

The process of writing/updating a book may seem complicated and prolonged, but I can assure you it’s not as difficult as you may think. So if you have similar ideas, do not hesitate to implement them as soon as possible. Good luck!

If you have any questions about Maxim’s experience, you can contact him via LinkedIn.