Sunday, August 07, 2005

How I sold a million copies of my software... book review

Todays book review is: "How I sold a million copies of my software... and how you can, too!" By Herbert R. Kraft. I saw this in the Trolltech library and picked it up for some evening reading. This book presents an amusing look into making software from the pre internet boom. It was published in 1997 and so I can guess that it was written in 1996. Much of the book deals with how to get your software on the shelfs of retailers and all of the details surrounding that. What interested me in the book was the first chapter where there were a list of applications that you shouldn't write along with some reasoning behind each one. Unfortunately I didn't find much more in the book that was interesting once I read it. There was a chapter that talked about some basics that a professional application should have such as documentation and useful error messages. At the end of the chapter I felt let down. One chapter is hardly long enough to cover that topic. Another chapter talks about software management, design etc. Maybe the author felt that he needed to include these topics to be well rounded, but personally I think he would have been off recommending that that reader check out books such as "Code Complete" rather then giving such inadequate advice. There is a chapter about the internet, but due to the horrible timing of this book you can probably guess just how out of date this book is on that advice. Back then software really was mostly bought in stores and so the advice in the rest of the book probably applied, but these days I doubt that the rules still apply. Though-out the book I was trying to figure out the target audience of the book. My only guess can be the amateur programmer who has written a few small applications for their own use and thinks they can make a lot of money selling them at CompUSA. The one topic that should have been touched on more is how most applications wont be successful and how you need have more then one idea. Unfortunately the person who would buy this book is probably the type of person who has one sole application that they think everyone wants and will to try to sell. Because it is their first pro application they will be lucky to break even, wont have another app to sell, and have lost all their free time. This book takes an amusing perspective. It assumes that no matter how bad (or good) your software is you can make money if you play the market and retailers correctly. At the end of the day this book's main purpose really doesn't apply much anymore because of all the changes in the industry so I can't recommend it.

Update:
A few of the applications you shouldn't write:

Games: Most don't make anything
Childrens software: Other then "where in the world is carmen sandiago" very few games for children every are successfull financially
Programming tools: We all give them away, hard to compete
Office Suites: Is this even neccesary?
Screen Savers: Too many free ones
Word Processors: no explination needed

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