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Programming Fundamentals in JavaScript

The author says:

A textbook for a college freshman level computer programming course. The goal of the book is to teach programming fundamentals, and it uses JavaScript to do that. This is different from some textbooks which are written to to teach JavaScript.  I am interested in the feedback from others about the comic on the back, which I freely admit is “art for a refrigerator”. However, I wonder if it is appropriate for the audience of the book.

Nathan says:

This is… dull.

Not that a programming primer is supposed to be whiz-bang exciting, but “clean and straightforward” doesn’t mean that it needs to be dull.  Take a look at the other programmings books on Amazon, and take note of the common factors:

  • clear, solid type
  • a simple but pleasant color scheme
  • explanatory subtitles
  • a simple central image

Your cover definitely has clear type, but it falls down on the rest.  And given the description you give above, I think even the title works against you — it still looks like a text on the basics of programming JavaScript itself, and the minimal description on the back does nothing to clarify that.  Something that separate the concepts better — “Using JavaScript to Learn Programming Fundamentals,” “The Fundamentals of Programming: Using Javascript Examples,” etc. — would help.  Then use a subtitle of the length of your back-cover description to explain more fully: “Understand the core concepts of all computer programming, using JavaScript as an example.”  And then put something substantive on the back cover: How this book approaches the subject differently than others, what exactly is covered, and why you’re qualified to explain this.

I think the idea of the cartoon is fine (the art, as you note, isn’t professional-grade), provided that there are some lighthearted moments of wit in the book — if it’s entirely dry-as-toast, then including the cartoon on the cover is false advertising.

Other comments?

Comments

  1. I don’t think people would mind a cartoony mini-comic on the back, however the current quality is lacking. The pun is funny enough, and the situation is relatable. I’m not sure if the intention was to use it as is, but it would need to *at least* be inked cleanly, using a ruler for straight lines.

    Still, I find the character’s posing to not be very dynamic which takes away from the humor a bit. The background elements also aren’t all needed (people will assume there is a PC tower even if it is not pictured); and the font could look more like a font used in comics. I… would kind of like that PC to get blown up– I made a quick rough of how it could be, taken up to eleven
    https://preview.ibb.co/iktEqv/rough.png

    I hope I wasn’t too harsh; overall some clean-up is needed but the base concept is fine.

  2. The Python people have a bit of an advantage making interesting covers, don’t they?

    It’s a constant challenge trying to figure out what to put on the covers of books like this, but actual pages of JavaScript code are way too dull. Even a plain cover that just uses design elements and an interesting palette would be better.

    For the back cover copy, I agree you need to use it to clarify what this book is about. I’m thinking a bulleted list like the following would both be clearer and fill the space better:

    Jammed full of real examples, this book uses JavaScript to teach basic programming concepts, including:
    ● If-then statements
    ● Do loops
    ● Switch statements
    ● String manipulation
    And more!

    The comic is funny! But seriously, just get an artist to draw it for you. There are plenty who would do it for like $50.

  3. Agree with others on the cover looks just like another dull text book. And why purple?

    However speaking as a former programmer and tester, I LOVE your cartoon. The whole execute your program is BRILLIANT. It really speaks to you knowing what it is like to test software. Just blowing up a computer with a bazooka – not nearly as funny.
    In terms of the drawing of the cartoon – I went and looked at Dilbert -http://dilbert.com/ and yes, he does get his straight lines straight. Also I couldn’t work out for a while what the thing on the floor was in the second scene – and finally worked out it was her chair turned over. That isn’t obvious.
    To me having on the front cover that you have lots of worked examples is the big sell. That the text book is for avoiding the frustrations of other text books. And oh boy, have I trudged through some text books in my time, trying to work out if a bracket is punctuation or part of the command.
    Do you also have common error messages? As in “if you get this weird result you’ve done that wrong?”
    If yes, make that clear on the cover too.
    You don’t see the back cover on Kindle unless you are planning to put both front and back up as the cover image – but I don’t think Amazon allow that. You need to check whether people will see the back cover online and plan the front cover accordingly.

  4. To clarify, I didn’t mean that the pun should be removed. My main concern is that the character’s not angry enough. A gun is absolutely fine too, but I would show the “execution” taking place, not just the character aiming at the PC.

    1. Oh, I dunno.

      It just so happens that on my homepage (for my company) we have a slider. The very first image on that slider is a cartoon of–yup. A guy shooting his monitor with a .357. People LOVE IT. Everybody talks about it, when they call. “I saw that picture, and I just knew that you understood!” Yup, those images resonate, and not just with programmers. Hell, I’d put the damn thing on the front.

  5. @Blue – ah, I see. 🙂

    QUESTION TO DESIGNERS – Cost of cover production. It just occurred to me that all my comments have been made on the basis of assuming kindle plus Create Space – so electronic or laser printing. Some years ago, I listened to a talk from a sf small press who were really excited about a book cover and how they had managed to have it printed with multiple colours – something about three gel filters I think. That was getting a print run done at a printing house.

    So if a book is done by a traditional printer, with a printing run, is it still more expensive the more colours you have on the cover?

    1. So if a book is done by a traditional printer, with a printing run, is it still more expensive the more colours you have on the cover?

      Yes, but it also depends on just how you create those colors. For instance, you could simply add flat or screened colors—that is, for instance, a solid red or some percentage of red. That adds little to the cost in traditional printing, even if you use several different colors. If, however, you require full process colors, which entails creating four separations (CMYK) from a color original, that can become much more expensive. Most of this cost evolves from pre-press setup, however, rather than the printing itself.

      (It is possible, if an artist is clever enough, to emulate four-color process art by hand, using no screened separations at all. You can see this technique used very effectively in children’s books published in the 40s and 50s, where it was very popular.)

      However, unlike POD printing, in which the cost per book is pretty much the same regardless of how many you have printed, in traditional printing the cost per book gets less the more you have printed. This is why for print runs of more than a two or three hundred books, traditional printing is much, much less costly than POD.

      Another difference between the two is that adding even one tiny little speck of color—even if only a single period on one page—to an otherwise B&W POD book makes the entire book “color” and consequently much more expensive. Doing this to a traditionally printed book would scarcely affect the cost at all. For instance, you could have a color drop cap at the beginning of every chapter in a traditionally printed book and barely notice the difference in cost.

      1. Thanks. That clarifies it a lot.
        Was broadly wondering about covers, costs, methods of printing – and whether this black, white, mauve and purple cover would be a lot cheaper on a trad print run than say that colourful text book that was critted a few weeks back with all the checks and tick boxes.

  6. I agree that the cover is very dull. The author should look at competition in his genre. Make a list of JavaScript books that have interesting covers. What makes your book unique? Then look for other cover ideas that fit in the category. By the way, the back cover would benefit from having the book category code (see http://bisg.org/page/Computers, COM051280 COMPUTERS / Programming Languages / Java or COM051260 COMPUTERS / Programming Languages / JavaScript)

  7. Others have pretty well dealt with the other aspects; my main beef is with that dull blues-and-purples color scheme. We’re not asking for a whole rainbow, but has it occurred to you that when coding, a lot of programmers prefer to have their windows be a high-contrast white-on-black scheme with primary color highlights? That dark-purple-on-light-mauve color scheme on the front looks especially washed out; some actual screen captures of programming windows from an actual computer screen (whether from Windows or Linux or any other operating system you’re using) would serve you far better.

    Since you ask about the comic on the back: well, other than pretty obviously being shot straight from the pencils, it’s not a bad joke. The real question is whether you’re going to have any more panels like that in the book. Unless you’re looking to be the next Scott Adams (i.e. lavishly illustrating almost every page with comic strips), I’d recommend reducing it to one picture with no panel borders and shortening the joke, something like this:

    “Learn to execute code properly.”
    [Picture of gal getting ready to shoot the monitor.]
    “(Hint: this is not the way.)”

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