How I got into the writing business, part 1

Over the years, lots of people have asked me about how I got into the writing business. I got one such mail yesterday, and it dawned on me: I’d never told the whole story here on my blog! It’s long past time to remedy that oversight.

The short answer: naked greed.

Yes, it’s true. I really, really wanted to buy a debugging tool called QC. However, it was $100, which at the time was a ridiculous amount of money for me to spend. While racking my brain to think of ways to get it, I decided “hey, maybe I could write a review of it!” A few e-mails later, I’d gotten the QC folks to agree to provide a review copy, and MacTech to agree to publish it. I wrote the review, sent it in, and a few months later saw my name in Genuine Print.

At the same time, I was working with a group of folks at Intergraph on setting up what would become their first public web site (note that the really old version from late 1994 isn’t online, for which you should probably be thankful.) One of my teammates, Brady Merkel, had just gotten a gig to coauthor a book on writing Internet applications with Visual C++. After hearing me mention the article, he asked if I’d like to contribute a chapter or three, so I did.

The acquisitions editor on that book was Jenny Watson, who (miracle of miracles) still works for Wiley, the acquirer of a number of other publishers. Anyway, Jenny was kind enough to refer more chapter work to me, so I wrote chapters for several other books.

When she left Que, she went to Prima Publishing, at the time a publisher primarily of cookbooks and other “lifestyle” books. She signed me to write a book on Windows NT 4.0; I returned the favor and got Bo Williams, Jim Kanya, and a number of other friends and coworkers to contribute chapters. When the book came out, it did well enough for Prima to sign me for a couple of other books. None of them made any money, but they were fun, and they did a great job of building experience.

Thanks in large measure to the remarkable, and sadly now-dispersed, community of experts on StudioB‘s computer book publishing list (including rock stars like Sharon Crawford, Bob Thompson, Laura Lemay, and too many more to list), I learned enough to know I needed an agent, and thus began the next chapter of my writing career.

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One response to “How I got into the writing business, part 1

  1. … and, as one of the other Intergraphers working with Paul & Brady, I got a gig through Jenny Watson as well. My first effort was writing for “Special Edition: Using Windows 95″ where another StudioB co-hort, Jerry Honeycutt got his “break” as well. And with time, all of our lives have intertwined in & out of the alleys, byways, & bylines – looking forward to the next chapter, Paul! Its been an interesting ride!