Episode 401

JSJ 396: Publishing Your Book with Jonathan Lee Martin


October 1st, 2019

58 mins 14 secs

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Special Guest

About this Episode

Jonathan Lee Martin is an instructor and developer. He got his start in teaching at Big Nerd Ranch doing 1-2 week trainings for mid to senior developers, and then transitioned to 16 week courses for career switchers. He also worked for Digital Crafts for a year, and then wanted to focus on building out his own personal teaching brand. One of his first steps toward building his own brand was to publish his book, Functional Design Patterns for Express.js.The inspiration for Jonathan’s book came from his experience teaching career switchers. He wanted to experiment in the classroom with teaching functional programming in a way that would be very approachable and applicable and dispel some of the magic around backend programming, and that became the template for the book. 

Jonathan loves the minimalist nature of Express.js and talks about its many uses. He believes that it knowing design patterns can take you pretty far in programming, and this view is related to his background in Rails. When he was working in Rails taming huge middleware stacks, he discovered that applying design patterns made builds take less time. He talks about other situations where knowing design patterns has helped. Express.js leans towards object oriented style over functional programming, and so it takes to these patterns well. Express.js has its shortcomings, and that’s where Jonathan’s favorite library Koa comes into play. 

The conversation switches back to Jonathan’s book, which is a good way to start learning these higher level concepts. He purposely made it appealing to mid and senior level programmers, but at the same time it does not require a lot of background knowledge. Jonathan talks about his teaching methods that give people a proper appreciation for the tool. Jonathan talks more about why he likes to use Express.js and chose to use it for his book. He cautions that his book is not a book of monads, but rather about being influenced by the idea of composition over inheritance. He talks about the role of middleware in programming. 

The panel asks about Jonathan’s toolchain and approach to writing books, and he explains how his books are set up to show code. They discuss the different forms required when publishing a book such as epub, MOBI, and PDF. Jonathan found it difficult to distribute his book through Amazon, so he talks about how he built his own server. Charles notes that your method of distributing your book will depend on your goal. If you want to make the most money possible, make your own site. If you want to get it into as many hands as possible, get it on Amazon.

Many of the JavaScript Jabber panelists have had experience publishing books, and Jonathan shares that you can reach out to a publisher after you’ve self-published a book and they can get it distributed. Jonathan believes that If he had gone straight to a publisher, he would have gotten overwhelmed and given up on the book, but the step by step process of self-publishing kept things manageable. The panelists discuss difficulties encountered when publishing and editing books, especially with Markdown. Jonathan compares the perks of self-editing to traditional editing. Though he does not plan to opensource his entire editing pipeline, he may make some parts available. The show concludes with the panelists discussing the clout that comes with being a published author. 


  • Charles Max Wood

  • Christopher Buecheler 

  • J.C. Hyatt

With special guest: Jonathan Lee Martin



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Christopher Buecheler:

J.C. Hyatt:

Charles Max Wood:

Jonathan Lee Martin: