Historic and Pared Down
January 1, 2014 by Nicholas
I have read altogether too many guides and handbooks in the past six months or so. Not necessarily finished them, as many have shortcomings. There have been books that have been almost convincing, where they have provided a singular point of view and a coherent argument. And then an utterly stupid typo or misused phrase or the wrong incidence of a homonym appears.
It’s horribly jarring and amateurish. It takes me out of the reading experience and makes me question everything the author has written and is trying to achieve. Worse still have been the books that seem short on what I would consider vital information: books that skirt around or straight across fundamental steps as if they are sufficiently explained or obvious. What you tend to find is that all books of their ilk will do the same thing, leading you to believe that the people writing them are bluffing and rewriting everything they have found in another tome.
Cheap volumes by multi title authors are incomplete and filled with entreaties to buy their other works to get the missing information. Their other works, of course, merely repeat what you have already read in a reworded or re emphasised manner. You never feel like you are getting to the heart of the matter.
Among the most disappointing book was a manual on Drupal from Sams, a company I previously associated with inherent quality and accuracy. I genuinely believe it had been written for whom English was a distant second language and had not had an editor at any stage. It was terrible.
Write. Publish. Repeat. Kind of explains how those terrible books came into existence. It’s also the anti thesis of them. I’d argue there is a word used incorrectly once. It’s consistently very well written and pretty much free from errors. I know it sounds like that this should be the most basic achievement that a book aims for but I have first hand proof that it is a bar that a lot fail to meet. Even books I would consider reputable.
It’s a large book but engagingly written. At no point does it skirt a subject or cause you to suspect that the authors don’t actually know what they are talking about. It’s deflating and inspiring, it will make you realise that some other books are perpetuating myths and making blanket assertions with precious little to back them up.
The authors apparently have a veritable cottage industry of novels on Amazon (and other online book sellers) and explain how they go about presenting and selling the content in order to make money from it. They also go into quite a lot of depth on how they create the content in the first place, but that is arguably a secondary consideration (if, as a writer, being told to actually write comes as a surprise then you are in for a rude awakening generally) over the mechanical nuts and bolts of business. They’re candid and the work is full of citations and the evidence of their own experience.
The book is full to overflowing with examples from their own catalogue and their conclusions drawn from their experiences and how to apply this practically. It never really feels like an effort to sell you on this work though, and there is no sense that the book is incomplete in any way. Nor do you actually think that there is lip service paid to any of the topics covered. They’ve done the work and the research, some of which are tomes I have read and would heartily agree with.
The book is rounded out with some interviews with other authors. It’s great and comprehensive and actually feels well worth the money. I won’t be tracking down any of the writers’ fiction work, but I will be looking at some of the sources that they cite and be keeping an eye out for anything factual that they write in future. And I will give even less shrift to badly created or presented work from now on. This book proves that it is possible to know your stuff, communicate it and do so in a professional and engaging manner.