Leanpub Podcast Author Interview With Tony Narlock, Author of The Tao of tmux

by Len Epp

published May 02, 2017

Tony Narlock

Tony Narlock is the author of the Leanpub book The Tao of tmux. In this interview, Leanpub co-founder Len Epp talks with Tony about his career, his book, and his experience self-publishing on Leanpub.

This interview was recorded on January 23, 2017.

The full audio for the interview is here. You can subscribe to this podcast in iTunes or add the following podcast URL directly: http://leanpub.com/podcast.xml.

This interview has been edited for conciseness and clarity.

Tony Narlock

Len: Hi, I’m Len Epp from Leanpub, and in this episode of the Leanpub Podcast, I’ll be interviewing Tony Narlock. Tony is a software developer who has worked in startups from New York City to San Francisco, including a Y Combinator startup. He’s a prolific open source contributor, and has participated in more than 100 open source projects.

The Tao of tmux by Tony Narlock

Tony is the author of the Leanpub book The Tao of tmux. His book is focused on helping developers optimize their workflows by explaining what tmux is, and how to use it like a pro. As Tony puts it in his introduction, the book “is the culmination of years of explaining tmux to others online and in person.”

In addition to using tmux for years, and having written a popular tmux starter configuration, a python tmux library, and a tmux session manager, Tony is also the author of an already popular introduction to tmux that you can find for free online.

You can follow Tony on Twitter @Journey2DaWest, and @TheTaoOfTmux, and you can also check out his website at git-pull.com. You can show your support for Tony’s open source efforts by donating at www.git-pull.com/support.html.

In this interview, we’re going to talk about Tony’s career, his professional interests, his book, his experience self-publishing with Leanpub, and ways we can improve Leanpub for him and other authors.

So, thank you Tony for being on the Leanpub podcast.

Tony: Thank you very much Len. Nice to meet you.

Len: I usually like to start these interviews by asking people for their origin story. I know you’ve been around the block, and I was wondering if you could tell me how you first got interested in what you’re doing now, and your path to where you are - in the suburbs of Chicago, as I understand.

Tony: I think you’d have to begin when I was maybe 12 or 13 years old, and you’re kind of like a poor kid with his parents, and you want to get started with something. Well, what are you going to do? You can’t afford a license for Windows. You go [looking], and you see Linux. A free operating system. You can download it, install it on your computer - no problem, right?

It’s kind of like the gateway thing into open source, and doing other types of programming. You’ll grab a copy of say - at the time it was Mandrake they called it? I think they call it Mandriva now? But you would grab a copy of that. And over a couple of years, you start to hip, hop and flip between Linux distributions. Going from like Debian into Slackware.

I remember the days when I was on Slashdot, and I think, one of the creators of Slackware got sick for a while. And everyone’s like, “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh you have some mysterious illness,” and all that stuff. So it’s like we’re kind of like living out all this stuff, way before there was ever Digg or Reddit, there was Slashdot. And you would see all this open source action happen out there.

Good memories. Doing Gentoo Stage 1 installs, being up at night, and then you’ll be compiling it from Stage 1, doing the whole bootstrap of it. Compiling the compiling. Compiling the kernel. And then you’ll go to sleep with the compile compiling. You’ll wake up the next morning, and you’ll realize 15 minutes into the installation process, it crashed. And it’s like, “Oh.”

My first patches to open source projects, I was doing open source with something called Drupal. Drupal is a CMS web framework in PHP. This was about 2007, 2008, before Git really came to prominence. I mean I’m probably part of maybe like the end of the generation when we would actually not use Git, and not use all these decentralized versions and systems. We would be still uploading diff files.

And I decided, there was something here that was a little bug, and created the difference for it. I went ahead, uploaded that thing. And it felt like a huge sense of collaboration, of empowerment, to take that patch, have your difference be a part of the big thing, and fix something. It’s like being a co-author or something. It’s spectacular. And it gives you a good sense of teamwork.

You’re working with people from all around the world. You’re collaborating together. It’s like this perfected form - it’s like a business where you’ve never even seen the person before, but you’re all working together with all these inter-moving parts. And it’s happening, wow.

Over a period of time, I started getting into doing other stuff. And while I was involved with Drupal, I ended up getting into the Google Summer of Code.

Len: And what’s that?

Tony: Google does this thing where they sponsor these open source projects, and they pick a different set of open source projects every year. What happens is, you can get a stipend as a developer, and they’ll set you up with a mentor on the project. Or you can start doing some development on a project on a particular task.

So what I did is - I’m bringing a proposal for an improvement I wanted to make to the Drupal project. It ended up getting picked by the people who had the power to vote on it. And for a summer, I got to work on an open source project and get paid for it.

Len: Fantastic.

Tony: Wow. Fantastic. And that’s what eventually led me into my first startup here - not even graduated out of college yet, and I got people emailing me with jobs. So it’s like this amazing thing where you can get a foot in the door through open source programming. And that is a very cool experience. So that actually had me end up in New York City, where I ended up meeting up with a company called Social Amp. Ended up getting acquired - acqui-hired by a company called Merkle.

So here I am, I’m at this place and it’s kind of an interesting story, because I was at this incubator run by NYU Poly and Bloomberg at the time, and I was about to leave this other startup I was at and just go back home, go back to Chicago. And then I get a phone call from one of these people I was just chit-chatting with at the office. And they were like, “Come on in, we want to talk to you.”

And then I ended up going with them. And in a period of three to six months, we’re moving out of the incubator, and we’re going into a corporate environment, and this is like an amazing - it’s like I like ran, almost like blindfolded, I came into an acqui-hire, just not even trying. Just pure luck. And that eventually down the road led me to doing another Y Combinator startup, being one of the first hires there in San Francisco at a company called Boostable.

I did a lot of Django, did a lot of Python. I love Python a lot. Great, really smart people there. And eventually that led me to wanting to do my own thing. And I have all these open source projects that ended up accumulating over time. I have this introduction to tmux. I have a lot of other things I have kicking that just aren’t even released. Kind of like a musician has like tons of stuff that they haven’t even been bothered, or put up on SoundCloud yet. It’s like how do you even manage, you have this big backlog?

So that eventually led me down the road to doing this book.

Len:: You mentioned getting job offers before finishing college.

Tony: Correct.

Len: And I wanted to ask, did you study computer science in college?

Tony: I mean that’s the funniest part of all. It’s the biggest irony of all. I’ve never taken a single computer course in college. I was just doing general studies. I mean, I love to do world geography. I love to do things like Spanish and languages - the kind of things where you can study things around the world. Those are the things that were fascinating to me.

Studying programming in their little tiny areas was never of any interest to me. I figured it would be a downgrade from the kind of programming I was already doing when I would get back home in high school, when I was already doing Linux at the time. They didn’t have any Linux courses. You’re kind of sitting there, and you’re like, “Oh wow, I can go learn Windows, but all the investment and my whole wheelhouse is already doing stuff in Linux and open source.

Len: So how did you get into Linux? Did you have someone who pushed you in that direction? Or is it just something that you discovered on your own? Did you have like a mentor?

Tony: I did have mentors in my past. Not necessarily for Linux, but for programming. I remember - the Linux thing came from just being a poor student, and wanting to try out new things, and liking the aspect of customizing your desktop system in terms of the software, not the hardware, but actually being able to customize your desktop environment, your workflow and stuff like that. Having some ability to tinker around inside.

And one of the things was - you can just download it, burn the CD, install it. It just happened through experimentation, just wanting to tweak things over time. When everything’s working, some people just give the thumbs up. For me - when everything’s working, I like to keep things working. But it gives me an idea like, “Well, maybe I can optimize this somehow? Maybe I can improve this somehow?”

So that’s how I ended up bouncing between Linux distributions. I think what kept me in it was all these package management systems, where you can just very easily, at the time, compared to anything else it is very easy - download packages, and search through all these software packages. And they were so immense, it was so abundant. Even back then, even back in like 2003, 2004, when I was really getting into it.

So as for mentors, I remember I had some people who were also going down the path of programming, who were already hired at places back when I was in high school. And they would like help hook me up with web hosting and stuff like that, and were very generous. If I ever had a programming question, they would help me out with stuff like that. It’s amazing. I didn’t go out seeking mentors, but just through chatting people up, those things fall into place.

It’s amazing. It’s kind of like the introduction to The Tao of tmux. I just say - you know what? People end up - there’s not necessarily a math equation to it. But birds of a feather. People end up coalescing with each other. And if they have similar interests, they end up forming friendships, forming acquaintanceships. Even sometimes forming a startup.

Len: So, you obviously don’t feel like you’ve missed anything by not studying computer science in university? I’m only bringing it up because it’s sort of a theme in the interviews that I do with people with a programming background. It comes up, “Should you go to university, or shouldn’t you go to university, to become a programmer?”

Tony: I love the question. Because, you know what? Sometimes there’s certain types of jobs which treat having that degree very seriously. And there’s some people in HR, if you don’t have a college degree, they won’t even look at you. That does happen in some places. A lot of other places, the Googles - a lot of the places that are Y Combinator startups - they’re not focusing on that as much, but they’ll say, “Or equivalent experience.” And if that’s the case, I could go ahead and I could give them a resumé - where I’ve worked at previous places, done open source projects, portfolios and stuff like that.

One of the things you do miss out on, is in some of these interviews, you’re going to get data structures and algorithms thrown at you. And that’s something, if you don’t have that CS [Computer Science] background, you’re going to end up having to study yourself, to make sure that you can get past that part of the hiring process. Even if you don’t necessarily use that in a startup company.

There’s this belief, this fad I guess you could say going around. This trend of hiring where we look for data structures and algorithms, when we don’t necessarily end up using them in practice at these companies.

Len: Speaking of startups. You’ve mentioned something called NYU Poly, and also Y Combinator, which is probably better known. I was wondering if you could sort of talk about your experience at Y Combinator, and maybe compare or contrast it with the NYU Poly experience?

Tony: At the Y Combinator company?

Len: Yeah, and what it was like being part of that ecosystem.

Tony: I love this, because it’s very interesting. When I was at the incubator environment, I remember walking in. And it was for a company called Buzzr. We were a Drupal SaaS platform, and this was back in 2011, 2012. It’s one of those environments where there’s no like really high cubicles or anything like that. From standing, you could see to the other corner of the windows on the other side of the building, because there’s no high borders in between. And you will see office, after office, after office.

But it’s one of these layouts where you could be sitting down in front of your computer, and right behind you will be the founder of another startup. It’s great. It’s great for making acquaintances, making friends and all that stuff. And the networking opportunity is amazing, because I’ll be there on the computer, someone will walk by, and they’ll be like, “Oh that guy’s chomping away at whatever he’s doing programming-wise. Oh let’s go talk to him.”

And that’s how I ended up meeting people. One of the persons at the Y Combinator startup, I’d later end up working at, his name was Alex Chang. He would be this kid there with this big monitor, right? And he would be programming on it. And it caught a lot of attention, caught a lot of eyes. And I’ll go up to him, and I saw that he was playing for - at the time, he was done with work for the day. And he was playing a game. And I came up behind him, and I’m like, “Oh yeah, you need to go build some marines. Then start back….” So and that’s like one of the games I was addicted to at the time. And that’s how we hit up a conversation. And eventually that led to me working with the company he was at….

There’s something about having all those borders down, being able to talk to people - similar interests, similar skills. Being able to collaborate together. That was awesome. And you couldn’t have done that at a place where it’s much more impersonal. If it’s the internet, it’s really difficult to form those kinds of bonds you can do in real life.

Len: That’s really interesting. Is there a difference between the sort of startup life in New York and San Francisco? I mean, if you’re just working all the time, do those things that people might think about not matter so much? I’m just really curious, since you’ve had that experience in both places.

Tony: By San Francisco, do you mean the Y Combinator set up?

Len: Yeah.

Tony: So it’s an interesting one, because Y Combinator is more of a thing that provides the seed funding to startups, while the incubator is something that provides something that’s a little bit different. They don’t necessarily provide funding, but what they do is they give you sort of an office. They give you a prime location to be at. They give you meeting rooms, they give you internet. They give you support. Not necessarily financial backing in that case.

Whereas Y Combinator - they helped give our company support. We would’ve ended up going into our own office. We would end up, after Y Combinator, after that initial phase, we would end up getting our own funding, and then going off that way. Something Y Combinator does help a lot with is getting access to other Y Combinator companies that also do software as a services type things that could help your company. And you can get in and get a deal on those things.

So it has some things that would be a bit similar to what you get in an incubator. Because that networking and all that stuff is almost pre-done for you. If you wanted to collaborate with another Y Combinator company, you can just be like, “Hey.” There may be already a special deal if you’re a Y Combinator company. But I don’t speak on behalf of them of course.

Len: I understand.

And how did you end up back, I’m assuming, in Chicago after all this travelling around?

Tony: So one of these things is, I also ended up popping by China for about a year, and I did a lot of open source programming, and I did a lot of meeting people there in China. I did a lot of programming there. And I did end up going back to Chicago. It’s a very interesting story, because I had an opportunity to take at least three jobs abroad, and I turned them down, because I wanted to come back to United States. And in retrospect, I wonder - did I miss out on anything? I mean, I could’ve been there….

I had some pretty nice job offers overseas. But I turned them down, because I was like, “You know what? There’s a big future in United States, and I don’t want to miss out on things.” I go back to Chicago, and I want to do my own thing. You feel this compulsion. You feel this thing that you can do this stuff yourself. And that’s it’s own thing. So that’s like, “You know what? You’ve done these open source projects. You’ve collaborated with other people. You can pull together what you need to” - whatever it is. “Want to write you book, you want to do your startup then?”

That’s something that we all can do. That’s something that we encourage people to do. Other people do it, we deal with them, and that was one of those things where I was just resolute to start something.

Len: And what did you end up starting?

Tony: I have a couple of things cooking that are - I don’t know if I want to go into this.

Len: You don’t have to if you don’t want to.

Tony: … what I’m doing as a startup. But I think what we can do is segue into the book thing?

Len: Sure.

Tony: I think that would be the best thing.

Len: Yeah, sure, I’ve got a lot of questions about that. I know the project’s got a little bit of a history, and I was wondering if you could talk about how it got started?

Tony: So, The Tao of tmux starts long before there was ever a book itself. There was a project I started called tmuxp. tmuxp is this Python-based session manager for tmux. Basically you can create a YAML or a JSON file. And just like tmuxinator or tmuxo, you can go ahead and have it so you preset your session name, your windows, what commands you want to automatically run inside of them, keep it as a file, and then load it - and it will automatically create that tmux session, your project work space for you. You save that YAML file or JSON file, it’ll work across all your systems.

It’s ery convenient to have, especially if you’re a system administrator, you’re a developer - and you always go back and snap back to the same workflow, it’s priceless to have that. It was also my first large Python project that I ever embarked on.

Len: I was just going to say - that’s just so cool.

Tony: Yes. You’re in the command line, right? You’re there and you’re at your terminal. And you want to be able to navigate around it efficiently. You want to be able to have that same sort of calibration you would have if you were moving through the desktop with your mouse and keyboard, and you just know things intuitively.

The power tmux gives you, is you can split up your terminal into what they call panes. So you could have multiple terminals inside the same window, right? A feature that you would already have. If you’re using something like iTerm2, those features and other types of like GUI terminals - you can also split windows. The benefit with doing it the tmux side is, you can keep those splits preserved, even if you disconnect from tmux.

So you can go ahead - if you’re in an SSH session - connecting remotely for instance, because some of the main developers and programmers do - you can detach that session and come back into it, and boom we’re still there.

Len: Okay. [Some lost audio follows - eds.]

Len: Sorry for interrupting you, please carry on. That was a good description. And if you could carry on talking about your project?

Tony: So a bit more about tmux. It’s something that comes - I think - in the base system of OpenBSD. I like to contribute, I like to participate a lot with the Freebsd community. A lot of us are familiar a little bit with OpenBSD too. One of the main programmers of tmux is someone called Nicholas Marriott, a very skilled C programmer.

And this is something - if you’ve ever used something called a GNU screen before, it’s very similar. It’s also a terminal multiplexer. A lot of people end up using Screen for a while, and then they say, “Hey, what the heck, I’ll go try tmux out.” And they end up finding, “Oh this is simpler. All the configurations and all that’s better.” And they end up getting started that way, because they were already using Screen.

What tmuxp does, is it works with tmux to automatically create those project workspaces. So if you have something say like a C++ project, and you want to have it so you have your process watching all your files, to rebuild this whenever you save a file, snd you want to have Vim or Emacs up at the top. And then on the bottom right, you want to have just a command line, where you can do custom stuff.

For instance, if you wanted to launch lldb or gdb, right? You can have it so you can just use tmuxp, load whatever the file name for the configuration is [some lost audio follows]… in your work environment. And you can just hit it. I mean, and the thing I love about it is, I’m someone who goes through three platforms. I go through through a MacOS machine, I have a Ubuntu machine, and I have a FreeBSD machine. So I can just load up that same tmux session across all those machines, and have a consistent environment across all of them. Very convenient, especially in open source, when you have to make sure whatever you put out there is working cross-platform.

Len: And you made a website where you talk about a lot of this. I forget what it’s called at the moment. But that was the basis for the book?

Tony: Yes, The Tao of tmux, inside the tmux pre-documentation. When I was writing it, I was in China at the time, and I was going to give a presentation to a university, Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou. What I was going to do is show them what I was programming. It was for Software Freedom Day, so it was an open source thing.

I wanted to give them a presentation of what exactly tmux is, because sometimes words aren’t enough. Sometimes it’s really important to convey it through screenshots, examples, even using it upfront, whowing them what this actually is - showing them the actual value you get out of it. Because sometimes words aren’t enough.

So doing that, I wrote this thing called “The Tao of tmux,” that gives you a graphical overview of some of the things that you do with it. A representation of how you compare it to a desktop environment. Kind of the concept where a desktop environment allows you to have many windows on the screen at once, many applications on your screen at once. tmux allows you do the same thing - tmux lets you attach and detach a session, so you can end up closing your terminal. And then later on when we come back, and go ahead and reattach it - it could be an hour after, or it could be months after. And you can just get right back to it.

It was interesting being there, because you’re over there in China. And my command of the Chinese language is - even though I studied it for years, it’s weak compared to English. And I’m there with other programmers. One of the benefits of meeting other programmers is, very often by necessity, they have to have some command of the English language, because, well, the documentation we have for our software projects [is generally in] English. So I’m there giving my presentation in English to them. Think about that.

Len: And when did you decide to make a book out of everything that you’d already done?

Tony: So I had this idea kicking around for a while. I would probably say for maybe a year or so. I was recovering from this massive case of imposter syndrome I had, where it’s like - if I release a book, if I release anything, will anyone care about it? Am I really good enough? Am I really expert enough on something to write a book about it?

How much more of a residence on a subject of tmux can you get than someone who’s written the “The Tao of tmux” before? I was already linked to a software project on it. I mean, I get to the point where - you’re using it every day, for thousands of hours. And I feel like, “You know what? Maybe we can just pick one thing. We already kind of have the ball rolling on this - expound upon it, and write something on it.

And I’m already a documentation… After all, because open source requires that you go in - we use Sphinx doc a lot in Python projects, and other open source projects. We document everything. So maybe this won’t be so hard? Maybe this is very realistic that we embark on a book type thing, instead of just doing documentation again.

Len: And why did you decide to use Leanpub?

Tony: This is a good one. Oh my goodness gracious. Probably for over a year, I was experimenting with my own type of - I know I didn’t want to go into my own personal startup ambitions and stuff like that. Because no one likes to hear someone’s still-stealth startup and all that. But I was going to do something with the Sphinx documentation platform for doing books and stuff, and doing just general documentation for software myself.

And I was having so much issues getting the results I wanted. It’s not that I couldn’t do it, it’s just the level of effort to get a decent ebook out there - I’d have the formatting and the LaTeX and all that other stuff done correctly. It would have been immense. And also, the way I was approaching how I wanted to use Sphinx through a software method, and not necessarily through a command line method, was something that was causing a little bit of friction with the core maintainers of Sphinx.

And that’s something, I either had to take the time to diplomatically work around that - which I do all the time, by the way; I mean, I defuse diplomatic situations in open source on these issues way more than I should - and then, I eventually wanted to settle with something where I could make it available on GitHub publicly. And I was thinking to myself, “You know what? I love restructured text.” I mean, I love Docutils. I’m from the Python world, and that’s kind of like our documentation markup language. A lot of people really like Markdown, so maybe it’s best to just swallow your pride Tony, and just give Markdown a try. Give it a chance. What do you have to say about that, Len? Give Markdown a chance.

Len: I’m glad you did.

Tony: So I wanted to try something where I could put all of my attention into a book, and not have to worry about content, not have to worry about doing Python programming and interfacing with Sphinx necessarily. And the reason I ended up looking at Leanpub was - I’ve seen someone called Derick Bailey doing a lot of Backbone type books here, Marionnette and all that other stuff. I ended up grabbing those and a couple of years earlier.

And I’m like, “You know what? Wouldn’t it be nice to have all of the pay facilities, all of the front page and advertising. Being able to have the flexibility to give a sample, or make it available for however we want to on the internet, EPUB, MOBI, PDF. Wouldn’t it be nice to just have that done for you, so you can just focus on the content? That was the thinking.

Len: Your book is featured on the Leanpub home page today, and the minimum price is $14.99, and the suggested price is $19.99. But you’ve also made it available for free, and I was wondering about your thinking behind that decision. It’s something that quite a few Leanpub authors do, but it does sometimes surprise people, about making something available for a price and for free at the same time.

Tony: I kind of am a consummate growth hacker in this respect, because I have a lot of open source projects that I can feed into this book to give it a bit more attention. And also, it’s kind of a thing where I’m so used to doing open source, and making stuff available for….

When you’re programming open source, you’re doing a lot of stuff. You’re not asking necessarily for anything in return, and you don’t necessarily have to pay for an open source project. So it would’ve just felt a little odd to me to make something available and not have that transparency. This was one of the first things I ever sold completely by myself. So it’s kind of like a stepping stone.

The second element of it is - I already have, “The Tao of tmux” available on the internet for free, in its smaller form. Not the book form, but the page form. And I thought it would have been appropriate to have something where, kind of like a marketing type of a thing, where people could browse it for free on the web.

But a lot of people I feel are really going to enjoy being able to go and have it in the PDF format, the Kindle format, they will read it on their iPad and stuff like that. A lot of people are just generous. I mean a lot of people just see the work that you put into something, and they say, “That’s very helpful. I’ll go ahead and get a copy of that.”

Taken a bit further - it amazes me - I mean not even having spent a penny on advertising, how I could have a book out there, that’s available for pre-order, and people are ordering copies of it, right? And they didn’t even have to spend a penny on it. I never knew that would have been possible. If you tried doing that years ago, and it was just a pre-order of something - I mean, no one would’ve been there.

Len: And when you’re talking about pre-ordering, are you talking about Amazon?

Tony: That’s another thing. I mean, there’s pre-ordering on Leanpub and Amazon. And I put both of them available for pre-order. We had I’d say quite a few pre-orders on Amazon. We had much more pre-orders on Leanpub. And one of the things with Amazon, is when someone pre-orders it, they don’t get a copy of it until a certain date. So until whenever the actual date is when it delivers.

So I think that is an issue on Amazon’s end, where if we had it so they could actually get a live preview of it, like you could with Leanpub, I think I would’ve had more Amazon pre-orders. Because people want it now.

Len: That’s really interesting. I guess I wouldn’t call what we have on Leanpub a pre-order, because what you do is you leave your email address and the amount you might pay, then you get notified when the book is published. And people love it, because it’s just signalling interest. Whereas I believe on Amazon, if you pre-order, you actually have to pay. Is that right? I think you actually have to pay when you do the pre-order. And then it’s like when the book comes out -

Tony: I think our terminology - it’s our terminology.

Len: Okay.

Tony: When I say pre-order on Leanpub, I mean my book’s progress isn’t 100% yet.

Len: Oh I see. So what we’re talking about here - in the publishing world, on something like Amazon, what you can do is you can pre-order a book so the book, it might even be completely produced, but it just hasn’t been released yet. So you can buy the book on Amazon, and then they’ll send it to you or release it to you on your Kindle, when it’s actually released.

Whereas with Leanpub, what we have is what we call “In-Progress Publishing,” which is what Tony took advantage of so well, which is where you can publish your book before it’s finished. And then people get updates as the author adds the updates. I think we’ve got that cleared up, right?

Tony: We do - in-progress publishing, yes.

Len: One of the things I wanted to ask you about - one of the sort of canonical ways to use Leanpub is the way that Tony’s done it, which is you can publish your book on Leanpub if you want, but when it’s done, you can also have it available for sale on Amazon.

I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about that experience? Because we were talking before the interview about how you’ve been drawn into the world of print publishing as well. And I was wondering if you could talk about your experience with using the file from Leanpub, and then getting onto Amazon?

Tony: I was so happy when I got my MOBI file, and I was able to go onto [the] Amazon publishing center thing. I would upload that Leanpub file, and when I was previewing it, I was like - this is going to be awesome. It didn’t take me a second of extra work. I was able to go ahead and– No DRM, no tricks. Just go ahead and put that thing up on Amazon.

Len: Cool.

Tony: And while I was doing it through the in-progress publishing - what I would do is, I would send it to my Kindle, so I could preview it, look through it and proofread it through the Kindle device… I have to say, one of the things you notice about Amazon versus Leanpub though, it’s nice being able to upload it to Amazon, but Leanpub just gives you so much more flexibility in terms of being able to make your thing for sale, and having them download it, and easier access to updated versions of your book. At Amazon, there’s a bit more of a regimented process. Same thing would go with iBooks.

One of the things that’s a little bit different with Amazon is how they handle royalties, for instance. It’s going to be a little bit confusing to people, something to read into. Same thing with iBooks. You can end up getting into a situation where their admin interface for uploading iBooks is very similar to what they do for apps. So that may throw people off if they’re used to uploading their stuff for a book. It may be too much work, they may throw their hands in the air and just say, “You know what? I think it’s okay if I just use Amazon.” Which is what I ended up doing. I ended up opting with that route.

Len: And you’ve just gotten a print version of your book that you made on Amazon?

Tony: Yes. I have it available. You can see kind of a photo of it on @TheTaoOfTmux Twitter account. I don’t know if I can throw a link your way or not? I have to say, when I saw the cover of that thing, and it came in - I was like, “Wow. This is fantastic.” And look, all I had to do was go ahead and upload this MOBI file. Just do a little bit of editing to the cover I was already using anyway. Put it into kind of a PDF form, rasterize the fonts. And then I get a free ISBN. I get all this cool stuff. It only takes a small amount, a small cut of what you would make out of the book. And you can just do it on demand. Fantastic. It looks beautiful.

Len: I guess my last question is, I noticed you have a great cover for your book, and I was wondering where you got that from?

Tony: So I mean, I’m not a graphic designer, but I am a graphic designer. And I’m really good at pulling the aesthetic for things, and being effective at that.

But I’ve done a lot of graphic art before. I’ve used a color scheme thing on top of it. I ended up using, actually inside the book - you can’t really see on the print version of it, but you can actually see that I ended up using for my cover, the green and the grey and stuff like that. I ended up using that inside with the graphics I had in the book.

That’s kind of a cool thing to think about.

Len: Yeah that’s really cool.

Okay well, thanks a lot Tony. I guess our time’s about up. But I really wanted to thank you for taking the time to do this, and for making such a great book.

Tony: I appreciate that Len, thank you very much.

Len: Thanks.

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