What hath I wrought?
I have always been a bit of an introvert. Scratch that. I have always been a massive introvert. This is not an unusual trait for a writer or a coder and, on the whole, it does not prevent me from producing good work. When it comes to promotion, though, the implications are less rosy. The result can be that fine words and lovely products are left unread and unused. That is why, I suppose, I have often been glad to have had employers, publishers and, more recently, partners to handle the public-facing side of things.
For Hidden Hat Press, I do not have that luxury. This is, for now, a solo project and it’s going to be up to me to put the word out.
I have a decent track record in writing about code. I published my first book over twenty years ago. PHP 8 Objects, Patterns, and Practice has run to six editions now and is well enough liked that my usually rampant imposter syndrome has waned somewhat over the years. When I decided that I wanted to branch out and start writing more in earnest I had two choices. I could pitch my new ideas to publishers or I could take control and start to sell my work direct.
The upside to going indie is clear enough. I can take chances on what I write about and how I try to sell it. Also, I can commission writing from some of the amazing people I have worked with over the years. I have always liked the principle that you should hire people better than you are. So why not publish them too?
So that’s the opportunity. The problem is that I will have to actually build the business as well as the products. I will have to get the word out.
So here we are.
Where am I starting from?
The temptation was to build from scratch, to spend months designing and tweaking and to revel in a kind of Schrodinger’s business – both doomed and, in my imagination, fantastically successful at the same time. The longer I can spin things out in this way, the more I can put off opening the box and actually having to engage with the world.
I did not want to do that this time around and it happens that I have been blogging about code for many years on my business’s website at getinstance.com (spoiler: don’t look it up – you’ll end up back here). The site’s purpose as a showcase for consultancy services was always a little at odds with the content I produced for it. Articles about writing code are not necessarily interesting to people who want to engage the services of coders. On the other hand, such articles might be interesting to people who write code and read books about writing code. So I decided to give myself a leg up by rebranding the old site.
In the interests of moving fast, I gave the site only the lightest of makeovers. I further adapted the already customised Jekyll theme I use (Minimal Mistakes). I bolted on some dynamic elements to incorporate mailing list sign ups. I bought a domain (the name is a topic for a future article) and I started work on content.
The Products and the process
Last year, I had cause to return to Python after a long break. I enjoyed the process of reacquaintance but, inevitably, I spent a lot of time looking up how to manage tasks that are second nature to me in PHP. I muddled through, but often, it turned out, I crudely ported the PHP mindset over into my new scripts – I missed the Pythonic solutions that would have made my code more elegant, readable and reusable. If only, I thought, there was a guide that took my PHP proficiency as a starting point, and showed me how to translate those skills to achieve common goals in Python. And so Hidden Hat’s first project became Python for PHP Programmers. The book is very much in development at present but it’s not vapourware. I will be publishing extracts from the work in progress on a weekly basis and there is already material ready to go.
Although Hidden Hat Press obviously does not publish PHP 8 Objects, Patterns, and Practice, the book is very much an ongoing project. It remains close to my heart. Its sales will help fund this venture and I hope it will help send eyeballs this way. For those reasons, I’ll continue to promote the book here, and to write and update articles related to its topics. There may or may not be news about a new edition in the coming weeks or months (watch this space).
Naturally, I’ll be developing content for those books. But I’ll also be building hiddenhat.press as a resource in its own right. This is not an entirely altruistic plan, of course. It’s only by driving traffic here that I can build a mailing list and, eventually, I hope, win preorders and sales. To that end, I’ll publish short, useful posts every week. I know from experience that posting articles alone does not bring in visitors in great numbers unless Google is particularly kind, so I’m going to have to explore ways of attracting readers to the site. This is where I have fallen down in the past, and it is going to be my greatest challenge.
I think that struggle might be an interesting topic in its own right. So, in addition to producing words about code, I’ll blog occasionally about all aspects of the business itself. Can I overcome my chronic introversion and make a go of Hidden Hat Press? Let’s see.
How can you help?
I’m touched you asked! First of all, you can put the word out. Tell your coder friends – especially if they like PHP, Python, building online businesses or any combination of the three.
Thanks to the progressive enshittification of the bird site, I’m in the process of shifting to Mastodon. You can find me there at @firstname.lastname@example.org (follow). I’ll still post to Twitter for a while, though, and you can find me there too @getinstance_mz.
Finally, sign up to the Hidden Hat mailing list. Until I enable preorders and sales, building my mailing list will be my main way of gauging interest.
Thanks for reading. I hope you’ll look in on the Hidden Hat journey. Next time: what gives with that name?