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Alan Bates 12-19-2008 12:00 PM

Writing a book
There has been a lot of loose talk about writing books on this board lately. Before you do this thing consider:
There is virtually NO market for river books. Carefully consider your motivation. Do you want to preserve minor history? Do you want to lose money? Are you ready to PAY for publishing it? Are you prepared to write it, then re-write it, then make corrections? Can you obey an editor? Can you spell? Do you know the difference between an adverb and an adjective? Do you understand advertising and promotion? Are you ready and willing to spend at least a year on the project?
If your answer is "No," to any of these, then drop it like a red-hot horseshoe.
Your fellow optimist.

mel hartsough 12-19-2008 12:08 PM

Those are all very good points Alan and I know they come from experience but you still did it and you wrote a very good book as I read it quite a few years ago. But with so many people having the same idea I still think its possible. Where theres a will.......

Mary Sward Charlton 12-19-2008 01:52 PM

Captain, you are so right about your points. I do plan to write a book--well, more than anything else, at least get it down for posterity! No, I know I won't make money, and it may never get published--my aim is really so that we don't forget. What would I have done without your books, when I was reading like mad, and studying, and writing my talks overnight that first half-season as riverlorian? Like, I suspect, you--I NEED to research and write, just as I must dig in the dirt come spring--what are you going to do? If it is a labor of love, and you go into it knowing the score--it's all about history, isn't it? It is so clear from your own books that, despite having to put up with some difficulties, you HAD to write, too. So, I may join your club some day--if only to get it down for the future.

Tom Schiffer 12-19-2008 02:00 PM

Mel: Alan's written and co-written more than one book, and I'd urge you to see the rest of them. You won't be disappointed. While I agree with what Alan sez in a general way, the most important, time-consuming and expensive part is research. Since some of you guys LIVED, it, you only hafta tell it. That is an oversimplification in that you will be verifying dates, places and people etc all the way through. That's one reason I like to write book reviews...simply read the book and tell folks what you think about it! It is hard to dispute what you think about something. Alan is correct about their being no market though methinks a bit pessimistic. I once wrote a book and was told the same thing...the market is very limited. But, somehow we've sold nearly 5000 copies. Once you reach and saturate folks on this board you hafta have something with wide appeal. With a wide approach the subject can have near universal appeal (see the thread on Dolly Parton...she has a very wide, uh, er, um, appeal to at least 50% of the viewers and mebbe 50% of the remaining out of curiosity...she understands packaging!). But if your text is full of monkey rudders, hog chains, face wires, ship-up gear, wheel buckets, mud drums, blow-down valves and such like as that there, you've done drifted into shallow water! Books about war have a wide appeal because war brings out the best and worst in people. Readers are not so much interested in war as they are in the PEOPLE. The river is similar in that regard...not an easy life that brings out the best and worst. And, if the river has anything more numerous than snags, it's characters! Just about any talk I have heard on the subject of steamboats would appeal to a very wide audience if they knew up-front that it was about people...not just the jig saw and blacksmithing work that is a steamboat. Bruno put his finger on is the people (crew) that he misses about the DQ...not the deck chair, bunk or bar stool (not too sure about the latter). As far as adjectives and adverbs and other snags and shoal water...that's what editors are for. It sure helps keep you from losing money if you have a publisher up-front. Dummy up a chapter and shop it around and don't take your first NO for an'll get plenty of them. Other than getting married and buying and running my own little steamboat, putting a book before the public has been my most memorable accomplishment. I din't get rich, met a lot of nice people and had no end of fun before and after publication. And, no, my book was not about steamboats. Cap'n Walnut

Bob Reynolds 12-19-2008 02:02 PM

And Alan, we have all devoured your books. Sorry you didn't make any money (and yeah, I paid for most of my A. Lawrence Bates books), but you sure have given us hours of pleasure and increased our knowledge.

While not books, I for one especially enjoy your "Old Boat" columns in the WJ.

Judy Patsch 12-19-2008 03:04 PM

Judicious choice of words
In his above posting, Capn Walnut exhibited a great trait needed in writing - the correct choice of words. While there are often many synonyms, there are also various shades of meaning for each supposedly 'equal' word. The good Capn wisely used the term 'wide' instead of 'broad' when referring to one of our thread topics!
I too am an optimist of Capt. Bates' ilk, one reason why there is no book authored by me. I can spell. I know adjectives and adverbs, and also the other 6 parts of speech. Throw in the two modes of subjunctive and indicative too, parallel construction, 23 or so tenses, and whatever else grammatically and stylistically editors deal with. I've used it and taught it over the years, so obeying an editor, who probably would have no clue about the content, is not a very likely proposition, were I to attempt to pen a literary work. Thus, the self-publishing route would be my theoretical best way, and that proposition Alan also has covered: money.
So, for the time being, .org is my vehicle ( let's hope it's in better shape than a Chevy, Ford, or Chrysler!) Anne O. Nymous

Lexie Palmore 12-19-2008 05:37 PM

Jack Simpson, who was an editor for the WWJ, has been in the publishing business many years. He has helped several people do a river book. He has also written a book on self publishing. He doesn't mince any words and the book is a must for anyone who is going to attempt such a feat. His web site is Through the years I have contributed illustrations to some of his projects.

Shipyard Sam 12-19-2008 07:39 PM

The Book
John Hartford was one who urged me to "write a book", but I protested that I, and everyone else associated with the river, had the great misfortune to follow in the shadow of one, if not the greatest, master(s) of the English language, and I cringed at the prospect of being called the "[I]New[/I] Mark Twain". There was only one.

Hartford replied, [I]"Write about your own time on the river."[/I] I never have and may never do so, but like Judy, this board helps to satisfy the craving.

I often wonder what will eventually happen to this great collection of steamboat stuff someday after the last posting is made and this site goes dark. It's good to have a communial gathering place for our shared memories. This board may [I]be[/I] the book.

Mary Sward Charlton 12-19-2008 07:53 PM

I've thought about that before, the board being the pen-ultimate steamboat book. How often have I printed off a particular thread to put in my files? I am sure that Franz and Carmen are busily backing up the posts--there is a tremendous amount of knowledge and lore just in the discussions you have all shared. It does take someone very special to be able to edit the gems written here into a book--but Oh, how much fun it would be!
BTW, Jack Simpson at Little River Books is very helpful in helping acquire books--low key and very interested in making sure you get what you want.
Captain SBW? I'm planning on getting your stories down. Don't you worry.

Alan Bates 12-20-2008 04:33 AM

Mercy, MERCY!
I did not expect such a response to my "look before you leap" submittal.

Mary, you are right in stating that could make a pretty fine steamboat book. Even there, though, a compiler/editor would still face all of my warnings. Simply sorting the wheat from the chaff is a daunting chore.

I am quire certain that several contributors could write a book. That is the easy part: what does one do after it is written? Think about that, and think hard.

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