This is from an online interview by Packt Publishing.
What is/are your specialist tech area(s)?
After studying mathematics, I decided to work in the IT. After years as IT Officer on cruise ships, I specialized in network engineering. Currently I’m leading the network and IT security team of an airline.
How did you become an author for Packt? Tell us about your journey. What was your motivation for writing this book?
On the university I learned LaTeX and loved using it. I had a LaTeX blog and was a frequent writer in LaTeX forums. So I came in contact with an aquisition editor at Packt, and we talked about the idea to write a LaTeX book for Packt.
What kind of research did you do, and how long did you spend researching before beginning the book?
Because of many years of supporting in online forums, I knew what topics would be good for beginners, and I knew the common challenges and frequently asked questions. I chose the most important things to start with, that would fit into a single book.
Once I made a concept of the book with topics per chapter, it quickly happened that we made the contract. The research was rather during writing, checking references to ensure everything I said was correct, and to come up with good, short and motivating code examples.
Did you face any challenges during the writing process? How did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge was finding enough time to write and to deliver chapters in time. That’s because of a challenging day job and a family, even more with the second edition of the first book since I now have three kids. So my writing time was usually at the weekend and in the night. The contact with the content editors though the writing time helped in pushing forward. Especially in 2021, I worked with very motivating editors.
What’s your take on the technologies discussed in the book? Where do you see these technologies heading in the future?
LaTeX is very popular for writing texts in mathematics and other sciences, but also in further fields. It evolved over time and now apart from being the best choice for formulas and bibliographies and typesetting in general, it’s capable of creating excellent graphics, doing calculations, working with databases, and making good use of PDF features.
The future will bring further improvements under the hood helping LaTeX package and style developers.
LaTeX also goes into cloud computing; now there are professional services to use LaTeX fully online without any local installation.
Why should readers choose this book over others already on the market? How would you differentiate your book from its competition?
Other books on the market are often already dated and don’t always show up-to-date best practices. There are not many modern LaTeX books, perhaps since many publishers already had introductory books many years ago, while advanced books are hard to sell in such a narrow field.
The second edition of the LaTeX Beginner’s Guide uses up-to-date tools and practices, and it comes with a website with integrated LaTeX compiler so readers can edit and compile the book examples with a single mouse click or touch on their tablet or phone.
What are the key takeaways you want readers to come away with from the book?
LaTeX is understandable and usable also for non-programmers. We can get good results quickly. As LaTeX is open source and has a very active community, it’s easy to get help in online forums. If you post some code with a problem or a question in a web forum, you usually get working code as an answer.
What advice would you give to readers learning tech? Do you have any top tips?
Just start learning and working with it. Visit online forums and don’t hesitate to ask questions. Help others if you see questions that you may answer.
Do you have a blog that readers can follow?
My blogs are LaTeX.net and TeXblog.net.
Can you share any blogs, websites and forums to help readers gain a holistic view of the tech they are learning?
I maintain the forum LaTeX.org that’s particularly beginner friendly. For German speakers I run TeXwelt.de and goLaTeX.de, for French speakers the forum TeXnique.fr.
I have several gallery websites that give a good view on LaTeX’s graphics capabilities, such as TeXample.net, TikZ.net, and pgfplots.net.
I also run the blog TeX-talk.net with news, community contributions, and interviews of LaTeX expert users, and the German community blog TeX.co.
For my books, I made dedicated web sites with showcase gallery and code to try out, that’s LaTeX-Cookbook.net and LaTeXguide.org.
How would you describe your author journey with Packt? Would you recommend Packt to aspiring authors?
I work with Packt since 10 years, and the experience improved. The print quality significantly improved since they now could work with scalable PDF images, not only bitmap images. The templates improved, and the workflow, and with communication and overall it was the best experience with the third book. That’s why I would recommend Packt to authors.
Do you belong to any tech community groups?
I’m a member of the TeX Users Group and of the German language users group DANTE. I’m a moderator at TeX Stack Exchange since 2011.
What are your favorite tech journals? How do you keep yourself up to date on tech?
While I’m reading the TeX Users Group and DANTE journals, I’m keeping myself up to date by visiting forums every day and chatting and emailing with TeX developers.
What is that one writing tip that you found most crucial and would like to share with aspiring authors?
I would recommend to plan enough time. Writing can take much longer time than expected. Also be aware that, in the current Packt workflow, once you are half through with the book, you get the chapters back one by one for revisions based on recommendation by content editor and reviewers, that takes additional time while you are still writing the remaining chapters.