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Monday, May 19, 2008



I've put my blog back in the Absolute Write Blog Chain, where I follow posts from fellow bloggers, each link picking up something of the topic of the previous blog post. I'm following Elrena Evans's post about Ten Things to Do While You Wait for Your Book to Come Out. She concluded it with the note that what a writer really should be doing is writing the next book.

Well, I haven't reached the "waiting for my book to come out" stage. I have a book under contract, but my co-author Jerry Hoffman and I still need to complete the book. But hey, it's not too late to think about what I might do for a sequel. I have a couple other books in various stages of completion on my hard drive, including a fantasy novel and a sort of introductory text about car mods for the absolute beginner. But what if I wrote the next book on one of the topics that I blog about? After all, the book I have under contract is about electronic fuel injection, and I blog about that pretty often.

I could write about how to build a turbocharged slant six powered Dodge Dart, but that's a bit of a narrow subject, don't you think? And there's plenty of good books on turbos. I suppose I could see if Doug Dutra would be interested in a colaborative project for a book on slant sixes, but that still probably wouldn't have the appeal of a book on Chevy V8s.

One of my favorite things to write about has been gas mileage scams. But a book on gas mileage scams has its own problems. Who would buy it? Somebody looking to avoid getting scammed? Usually, the Internet is a pretty good tool for checking if an alleged gas saver is a scam, as you can often find people criticizing questionable gadgets. (Unless, of course, the scammers just haven't fleeced enough people for debunkers to notice them.) Unfortunately, I wouldn't be able to write very much about real ways to improve your gas mileage that a normal do-it-yourselfer could do at home to a modern car, as it's hard to out-engineer the factory designers without spending more than you could save on gas. The number of bad gas mileage devices out there vastly outnumbers the ones that work, and curiously, the things out there that could save a tiny amount of gas usually aren't marketed as such. (For example, you don't usually see carbon fiber body panels advertised as fuel economy aids.) For some reason, it's harder to sell debunking than flim-flam.

I guess some topics are better suited to blogs and the Internet, when you get down to it. Odd niche material can reach a wider audience. I can expose scams without having to worry about a magazine's ad dollars or bookstore sales. But really big topics still belong in books.

Next up is L. M. Ashton.

Also, check out the other blogs in the chain:

Auria Cortes

Life in Scribbletown

Polyamory From the Inside Out

For the First Time

Family On Bikes

Writes in the City

Elf Killing and Other Hobbies

Rotating Bear

Fantastical Imagination

Asian Business

Spittin' (Out Words) Like a Llama

As Yet Untitled




I would love to see a book on basic car mechanics for the novice...I don't know if one already exists, but if not, you should write one!

It would be nice to be able to do more than nod and smile and hope I'm not getting fleeced when I take my car in....
How about a book on building a weather-proof bicycle for a family of four. When I can no longer afford gas, we may have to resort to this.
I too would be greatly interested in this, especially if the book involved typical starter cars like, oh say, an '07 Hyundai Accent, and other models that are likely to belong to people who would benefit significantly from shavings-off of fuel costs.
Elrena's got the right idea! I would buy that--and give it to my husband so that I can stop being the one to change the oil in the car.

*rolls eyes*

Nice post. :)
Hi Matt,

This post made me think about something important at work.

Two questions:
1. How do you find good tech writers?
2. How do you evaluate whether a tech writer is any good?

I have two open positions in my department, and we have had poor luck finding talented, experienced tech writers. We have talked to a few newspaper refugees, and I hadn't realized how different that is from tech writing.

My car is a hybrid that gets only ok gas mileage (although much better than my SUV did), so yes, I'd be interested.

Although I do have a nifty feature that allows you to see exactly how many MPG you are getting in real time and overall. Tip: easy on the acceleration!
I second the vote for a bicycle built for four... Oh wait - we had a bicycle built for three and a single bike but sold the triple in favor of a tandem and two singles. I guess that will have to do...
"But really big topics still belong in books."
I agree with you but at the same time, I can see that most books in future will be published in Internet may be not in the form of website or blogs but in the form of e-books
I'd probably be the one to watch the news report on gas mileage and scamming since the jargon just confuses me. I know what my car ('97 Honda Civic) gets and it's loads better than any car the same size built within the last year. The next car is going to be a hybrid, though.
Ok, now that book at least would be original!!
I agree with Elrena! Not only basic car mechanics, but basic troubleshooting would be helpful. That way, when I go in and they tell me something major is wrong, I don't take their word for it and then face my husband and brothers' dumbfounded looks when I tell them what I authorized someone to do.

And the way gas prices are going, there could be more and more of a market for information that is easy to comprehend on increasing mileage, the best cars out there, etc.
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