MVPs are awesome, but even *they* know that there are others...

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2005/09/30 03:03 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2005/09/30/475578.aspx


Let me start by saying that MVPs are awesome. I have been talking to many of them here at the Summit and will be talking to many more. They are great contacts and they really are an invaluable help to customers of Microsoft products.

Now even MVPs know of other experts who are not MVPs. And there is plenty of mutual respect there, too.

Obviously some of those people would like to become MVPs (I actually can name three different people I know who are hoping they will get the nod at some point). And just as obviously there are others who would prefer to stay independent of Microsoft and not feel like they have to be as careful about what they say (which is not to say that MVPs are *that* restricted, but I think they generally recognize the prudence in not biting the hand that feeds them!).

I have talked to several of the MVP leads, and they have the same basic feelings. And none of them claim that all of the smarts are exclusive to the MVP program, by any means.

Anyway, it was recently brought to my attention that there seems to be a new policy at Wiley (the publishing company that bought most of the Wrox titles) where authors of technical books about Microsoft technologies must be Microsoft MVPs. If they are not, then they cannot author a book on MS technologies, even if it is a reprint or new edition of a book and they were authors of the original. Even if the original is selling well and the authors have been making names for themselves.

All for the privilege of putting the MVP logo on the book.

Huh?

No offense, Wiley, but such a policy strikes me as both ridiculous and ultimately unsupportable -- and several people at Microsoft have expressed the same opinion to me. Including people involved with the MVP program.

I am hoping that they will clarify this policy and explain that it is not the way things are. Or that they will reconsider this plan if it is true. It seems like a surefire way to alienate authors and potential buyers of their books.

If you are a Wiley author, feel free to say something to them about this policy. And if you are someone who buys Wiley books, then perhaps a complaint from you too will help them come to their senses. Before they succeed in scaring everyone away....


# Martin Bohring on 30 Sep 2005 3:48 AM:

O my god,
are they completely out of their mind.
This sounds to me like the stupids thing a publisher could do.

This must come from their marketing thought out by people who don't know the target audience of computer programming books.

# Adam Young on 30 Sep 2005 4:31 AM:

If it's true, it's suicide for them as publishers. Great, they can say all their authors are MVPs... but are there enough MVPs out there with good writing skills? Are there enough MVPs who actually want to / have time to write enough books for Wiley to stay in business?

Personally, when I buy a book it's the subject matter and reviews that do it for me, I can't remember *ever* buying a book because of who the author was or what their credentials were.

# Bob on 30 Sep 2005 9:44 AM:

And I'm sorry but as much as there are many experts who are MVP's, there are a chunk of MVP's that I really wonder how the hell they got there.

# Jim Minatel on 30 Sep 2005 10:18 AM:

Michael:
Somewhere along the line, you've gotten some misinformation. We have a couple of different "MVP" projects in the works here at Wiley and Wrox, but the rules that apply to those 2 books (currently just 2 books) in no way apply to all of the books on MSFT technologies that we work on.
The two books where "MVP" status is an authoring requirement are:
ASP.NET MVP Hacks:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0764597663
being written by David Yack and about 6 other MVPs. The idea here is the collected wisdom of several MVPs, techniques and concepts that these individuals know that aren't widely known. It's not meant to be a comprehensive book or an end to end read, but a collection of wisdom. This publishes early next year.

The other book, one that I didn't have any involvement with but know of because of the similar author angle is:
Windows XP MVP.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0764597868
That book is recently published.

In Wrox we'll publish more than 50 books about MSFT technologies this year alone. Of those, there's the 1 ASP.NET book where MVP is a requirement. The rest of Wiley publishes a similar #, if not more, MSFT titles and so far, just 1 MVP required book there.

In my list, yes, there are many MSFT technology books that happen to be written by MVPs. I work a lot by networking with existing authors and many MVPs recommend other MVPs they know.

Are there individual editors here who have chosen to work only with MVPs? Maybe, I couldn't speak to that as I haven't surveyed every editor here. If you got this information from a specific individual or editor and don't want to name names on the blog, drop me a line at jimminatel@gmail.com and I'll try to clear this up.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 30 Sep 2005 12:02 PM:

I will contact you directly, Jim. There are specific people at Wiley communicating a very different message than you are....

# Ann on 30 Sep 2005 11:52 PM:

From what I've heard, Martin is right about it being a marketing ploy. Let's hope that more Wiley/Wrox editors read this blog and realize that they may be shooting themselves in the foot.
I see the benefits in having MVPs for the types of titles that Jim has described. Jim seems to have a balanced approach. Perhaps other editors just got carried away.

Anyway, Michael, seems as though you've raised yet another controversial issue. I wonder if other publishers are considering such tactics? Anyone???

# Mike Gunderloy on 1 Oct 2005 11:54 AM:

Sybex is also a Wiley imprint these days, and my editor at Sybex hasn't said anything about cutting me loose for my lack of MVP-ness. Just as well, since the MVP program threw me out years ago :)

# Michael S. Kaplan on 1 Oct 2005 6:43 PM:

They got Sybex too, huh?

Man, there is going to be just one publisher by the time they are done....

# Vanessa L Williams on 3 Oct 2005 1:55 PM:

I'm a Wiley author, and I think the idea that Wiley would restrict its author set to Microsoft MVPs is laughable. Wiley's editors want the best author for a given title, regardless of the author’s MVP status.

With increasing pressure on authors to self-market, I can see the value of using MVP authors. Also, an editor could save himself the time of evaluating an author's credibility on a given topic by using the MVP credential as a surrogate. Hell, many employers (tech or otherwise) use Microsoft certifications as a surrogate for good HR practices. If you've ever worked in one of these environments, then you know that aspiring to the next highest acronym isn't synonymous with expertise in the subject.

The real question is whether there is market value in adding the MVP credential to the cover of a book, as Jim discusses. For a certain audience, that may be true. But I doubt it holds true for all audiences, which is why it is unlikely that Wiley would adopt the policy you described.

I think the tag line on your blog sums your post up nicely: "Random stuff of dubious value."

# Michael S. Kaplan on 3 Oct 2005 3:40 PM:

Hello Vanessa,

The issue is now more fully understood.

They are doing this for some specific titles to which the requirements did not apply, and they also implied when speaking to authors they were dropping that this is a wider policy than it actually was.

Hopefully they will reconsider this rather assinine policy in the cases where it was applied that do not make sense. There are enough people who are unhappy with it that such good sense may make its way into the process.

Sorry you find me bringing it up to be random stuff of dubious value. I'd follow up with you directly to give you more info on specifics to prove to you that I am speaking truth here rather than fiction, but you did not leave contact info for me to do so....

# TM on 3 Oct 2005 6:24 PM:

Hi All,
Michael, thanks for shedding a light on the issue.
I agree with some of Vanessa’s points about marketing. But as with most things, there are limits … Indeed, IMHO, Vanessa’s last sentence detracted from her comments. But, we appreciate that you choose to limit censorship and therefore left it in ;-)

At least one of Wiley’s publishing editors takes a different approach than Jim M. He has stated that Wiley wants to put the MVP logo on several titles and therefore they (Wiley) are dropping non-MVP authors from those series/books -- even if the books are selling and even if MVP is not in the title itself. I was told by Wiley that it is a marketing decision and that they believe the MVP logo will help the books sell even better.

OK ... before anyone goes ballistic at me -- err -- how about *Don't* go ballistic at me -- Yes, “my” book was selling well and will be continued (with other authors). When Wiley contacted me about writing the next edition, they wanted me to write. Regretfully, since I am not an MVP, I was not able to participate. FYI, although Wiley was concerned about the MVP status, they did not dither about the discipline. Hypothetically, they would allow Excel MVP could write .NET books with the MVP logo -- Providing the author could produce the content.
Wordy, but at least this conversation is not just anecdotal.

# Mihai on 4 Oct 2005 1:30 PM:

Just some (late) comments:
- I will start by saying that I am an MVP, but I know for sure that there are many out there with way more experience and pedagogic skills. I am just wasting a lot of time on the newsgroups. That's all.
- Having the MVP logo on the cover might give just the extra edge when one has to choose between books from competing publishers
- I think is also a degree of laziness. A bit like the saying in IT "nobody gets fired for buying Microsoft." Instead of searching for good professionals to write a book, you just pick an MVP and have your a** covered.

Now let's hope it was an isolated case and all the noise here will help to get it fixed.

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