Friday, July 17, 2009

Book Here, Book Gone

Last Tuesday I tweeted that I had turned in the manuscript on the latest book I was writing. (Didn’t get that tweet? Follow me at

Alexis Grant (you can follow her at tweeted me back and asked if I’d blogged about it.

Since I hadn’t, I thought I would post about it today.

I’ve been working on the TechCareers series of books for TSTC Publishing. I started last year by doing interviews for the book Biomedical Equipment Technicians. After that, the publisher decided he wanted to have one author per book. Since then, I’ve written Automotive Technology, Avionics and, as of Tuesday, Game Programmers and Artists.

The series is aimed at anyone interested in going into one of these fields. The plans are to give copies to high school guidance counselors around the state and also to sell the book on TSTC Publishing’s website. Each covers things you would want to know if you were interested in one of these careers: an overview of the career, job outlook, salary ranges, career paths, job titles and duties, work schedules, skill sets required, educational requirements, degrees, schools in the U.S. that teach the career and other back-of-the-book resources. I also interview lots of people for the book: experts, instructors, students, people working in the field. From those interviews, I create a profile for each person, along with one or two quotes that I weave into the text. Some interviews I can do by email. Some are done in person. For the Automotive book, I spent two days interviewing at San Jacinto College in Pasadena and another day down in Harlingen. For the Avionics book, I flew to Dallas.

To do this kind of book, you have to be organized. You have to do a ton of research online. You need to be finding experts and people to interview as you’re doing that research. You have to keep track of who you’ve asked to do interviews, who has agreed, who has been sent their profiles and quotes for approval, who has approved and who has sent edits. As you’re researching, you have to gather back-of-the-book resources. You begin a list of schools across the U.S., making sure you have addresses and website information on each and visiting each website to make sure it’s correct. You have to decide which schools you’re going to highlight in the book - usually two for the section on Associate degrees, and one each for Bachelor’s and Master’s. For each highlighted school, you include the required curriculum courses.

For each full book, I’m given a three month turn-around from assignment to submission.

The first one I wrote, Automotive Technology is now available. I don’t have a copy yet, but it’s up on TSTC Publishing’s website. It’s here! And Game Programmers and Artists (or whatever the final title will be) has flown from my computer to theirs. It’s gone!

So it’s been two full days. And I still haven’t cleaned the house. Bleh.
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  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Aw, the house isn't that important...

    Be eager to see how the gaming one turned out! (For selfish reasons, I admit.)

    Three month turnaround is mighty fast for books that require so much research. My non-fiction book had that kind of deadline and I hope I don't have to do it again.

    L. Diane Wolfe

  3. That's the beauty of writing, there are so many different types of opportunities, from fiction, to memoir, to poetry, to journalism, to this type of researched nonfiction. Seems like there's a fit for everyone. Congrats to you on completing and sending off another :)

  4. Thanks Joanne and Diane.

    In case anyone's wondering about Diane's "selfish" reason - I interviewed her fabulous husband for this latest book.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. You have to be organized indeed. I am impressed. I've been following you through the months of all the research and interviews, etc., you've posted about here in the process - LOTS of work and preparation!

    The Old Silly

  7. Congratulations, Helen.

    By the way . . . what does a clean house look like?

  8. Carol, I have no idea. And don't ask my husband. He doesn't remember. But he also doesn't complain,

  9. Congratulations, Helen! Writing these books in a 3-month time period has got to be a challenge.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  10. Sounds like an interesting gig, Helen, and a way to learn a lot about a bunch of stuff. Can't wait to read that one on Automotive Technology. LOL

    A member of my critique group writes textbooks on an amazing range of topics, but he doesn't need to do interviews or travel. Your projects sound like more fun.

  11. Impressive to say the least. Weaving tech stuff into a fictional story is a lot of fun. I'm not able to write a purely tech book. So congrats to you for staying organized and on top of things. Must have been a lot of work.

    Stephen Tremp

  12. Three month turn around? Wow, being organized doesn't begin to tell the story. Multitasking Queen is more like it.

    When I was a Voc Rehab Counselor, I had to do in depth Labor Market Surveys, and I had to interview 25-50 people in the field. Outline education requirements, track hiring trends, job duties, entry level salaries and upward mobility trend. Job Analysis were the phyical aspects of those jobs. So I know there is a lot of research involved, not just picking up the DOT and 3 or 4 phone calls.

    Congratulations! That is an impressive accomplishment Helen. Damn straight you should blog about it.

  13. I need a nap after reading what you had to do in a three-month period. Congratulations. Kudos well deserved. I have a confession, my house is clean - but it's because I have someone else do it. It's one of the treats I allow myself at my ripe old age.
    Just a thought...

  14. Karen, if I wasn't such a penny-pincher, I would do the same. I say, go for it, girl!

    Sia, wow, how often did you have to do all that?

    The books are a challenge, but I do get to learn a lot of stuff and meet some mighty interesting folks!

  15. Depended upon my patient or the insurance company. I typically did 25 plus a year, sometimes more, rarely less. Of course the depth of the survey depended upon the client.

    It was something I did well so I would get assignments from various insurance companies--the workers comp division and sometimes from the State.

    I was called in to take difficult placement cases too. But I did labor market surveys for most of my clients (I usually had 30ish active clients at any given time and my typical load for active and on hold was about 125 cases) It helped in making decisions on training funds and how best to use them and also to support my proposed plan submitted to both the insurance company and the State. Gotta love those plethora of forms.

    The most difficult was the feasibility of self employment, both physically and market support for and justifying the funds needed to do so.

    Job analysis were different. Very comprehensive and had to be review by a panel of doctors and approved by the insurance company and the state. Usually had to do with the phyical requirments of a proposed or returning to the exisiting job--how much lifting and documenting the weights, squatting, bending, stooping, hand, arm, shoulder movements to do the job, walking, sitting. Had to do with feasibility. A word picture of a day's work, I guess you could call it.

    What you've done would be a great resource to use. :-)

  16. Helen, what you have to do for your nonfiction books makes the research I did for mine pale in comparison. And I had six months to complete some of them.

    Just curious, how many words in these books?

  17. Following you on Twitter. I must say--your book sounds hard!

  18. Sia, good gracious. I hope you loved what you did 'cause that sounds like mind-numbing work to me!

    Helloooo Terri. Tweet. The more I do of these books, the "easier" they become, in that I know what has to be done, what information I'll need, and how to do it.

    Maryann, the contract calls for 18 to 20 thousand words. I just did a word count and this last one, including back of the book resources, came in at 22 and a half.

  19. I did. But, yes, it had it's mind numbing aspects to it. It was only part of my job as a counselor and I gave it shortly after my son was born. Mega workweeks.

    That's why I can appreciate what you did. 22K is a lot of words to organize, but like I said, I think your books would be a resource. Be sure to offer it to Department of Vacational Rehab and your local One Stop State employment office and the library. I'm going to mention it to the area supervisor at the Missouri State Employment Office too.

  20. Good ideas, Sia. Thank you!

  21. Wow - very impressive schedule to keep. I'm working on a non-fiction book now; far stretch from the fantasy I typically write, but it has been really interesting.

    Nancy, from Realms of Thought…

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