You Should Write a Book by Katel LeDû and Lisa Maria Marquis

When I first started working in User Experience, my mentors explained to me that part of my responsibility as a designer was to pass on to others what I had learned. My team exemplified that ethic: they were running the IA Summit that year, most of them had given at least one presentation about the things they’d learned at work, and one was writing a book.

“Someday, that will be you,” they said. “You should write a book.”

I was shocked years later to find out that not all UX teams or leaders believed it was our responsibility to pass on what we’d learned. Still, I knew enough people who, like me, felt that passing on our knowledge was one of the responsibilities of a good designer, so I found myself writing a column on a design-related site, then launching my own design-related site with some friends, then giving talks about the things I’m passionate about. But finding time to write a book? Hah.

Now I’m in a situation where the time has been thrust upon me. I don’t particularly like public speaking, and I’d much rather not attend a mess of conferences in our not-quite-post-COVID 19 world. Writing a book seems like a reasonable choice. Still, I am not usually a person to take big risks.

You Should Write a Book by Katel LeDû and Lisa Maria Marquis is a critical book for people like me, who don’t want to move forward without some guideposts and who don’t want to bug their friends for hints or tips.

It does not go into depth about every single step. (There are lots of resources that will provide that for you, and they are dependent on the choices you make on how to write, polish, and publish your book.)

It does give you the map of the process, the understanding of why each of the process steps is there, what differentiates one choice for another, and a pretty deep appendix of next-step sources.

It is also intentionally written to encourage both non-marginalized and marginalized writers. The authors acknowledge in the beginning that they are “college-educated, able-bodied, cis white American women whose direct book-publishing expertise derives mostly from a single organization: A Book Apart. While we hope our perspective is useful, it is also bound to be limited in certain respects.” These authors essentially say that the process for publishing a book is the same for both marginalized and non-marginalized authors, except that that marginalized authors have to do it on hard mode.

This book will not tell you how to choose whether to self-publish or not. It will tell you about self-publishing and what the differences between it and traditional publishing are. It won’t tell you where to find editing or marketing services. It will tell you what they are and why you want them. It won’t tell you what to write about. It won’t tell you what anything costs — those numbers go out of date too quickly anyway. It will gently laugh at you if you think that you can retire on the money from one book.

Because the authors are deeply and intimately familiar with the publishing house A Book Apart, where they both work, they are able to not only give you insights into ABA’s publishing methods but also give you insights from ABA’s authors, who they’ve spoken to about the publishing experience.

In short, all models of the publishing industry are wrong, and this one is useful.

Everyday Information Architecture by Lisa Maria Martin

I’m a three-time failure at reading the Polar Bear Book.

I’m also a Principal Information Architect with 10 years’ experience.

I’m not telling you not to read the Polar Bear Book. I am telling you that if you want a short, direct, and well-structured book on what Information Architecture is, how to get started practicing it, and real-world examples of prior work, Everyday Information Architecture by Lisa Maria Martin is the book to start with.

It is the IA cohort to The Elements of Content Strategy And y’all know I’m a big fan of that book.

I started this book while sitting in a hospital room watching my husband sleep. It’s readable even under extreme stress. The book starts with the LATCH system of organization, which I had learned… but when I’d learned it through the quasi-apprenticeship of a mutual fund company’s design department, it didn’t have a name. So here I was, middle of the afternoon, snoring and beeping filling the room, and ten-year veteran of information architecture, learning things I didn’t know on page 5.

Your milage may vary (YMMV), especially if you’re one of those younger folks for whom information architecture degrees were available. (We had library science but I was too short-sighted to major in it.)

The book is vibrant and well-structured enough that I could put it down for a week at a time if I needed to and pick it up again and keep reading and understand where I’d left off. (Also, YMMV.)

Plus, this book isn’t afraid to use Star Trek, Ravelry, cooking, self-deprecating spreadsheet jokes, and colorful, useful examples.

To sum up, this book is going on the list of books anyone who asks me how to start a career in UX, along with Don’t Make Me Think, How to Make Sense of Any Mess and Universal Principles of Design.