Re: Education required?

Subject: Re: Education required?
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 17 Mar 2004 09:56:03 -0800

Quoting Johan Hiemstra <webmaster -at- techexams -dot- net>:

> Hi all,
> I've been writing for the web, successfully, for several years now. I'm
> going to be introduced to some people (large agency) increasing my
> chances to get my first book published. I never had any specific
> education or training for writing, and English is not my mother's tongue
> (though the book is in English).
> Do I need any diplomas/degrees/certificates to be taken seriously by
> publishers? If so, what do you recommend? Are there any certifications
> for tech writing? (CTW? ;))


I've been writing for the web and for print magazines off and on for nine years
now. I'm currently midway through my first book, and negotiating for my second.
So, with this background, I have some experience that can help me answer your

In my experience, publishers are practical people. Unless your subject is an
academic one, and your primary audience is academic, most of them are not
likely to be concerned about formal qualifications. What they want is some
proof that you know your subject area, usually in the form of past, ideally
professional publications; they'll also probably want a detailed outline. Just
as importantly, they want to know whether you can write, and will probably ask
for a sample section or chapter before signing a contract. Then, if you show
that you can actually meet deadlines, they'll be even happier to deal with you.

There are a number of different technical writing certificates, but they won't
be much help in convincing a publisher to work with you. That's true even if
your subject is technical writing, because, as I said, formal qualifications
aren't very important.

Moreover, book and article writing is very different from writing manuals, as
I'm sure you've discovered. For one thing, the structure is different. For
another, the tone is almost exactly opposite. In a technical manual, too much
personality is usually considered undesirable. By contrast, in an article or
book, personality encourages your audience to keep reading through the dry and
difficult bits. For example, one columnist for the Linux Journal opens and
closes his columns with a schtick written in snatches of French about his
conversations with his waiter. It's corny, and some people can't stand it, yet
he consistently rates as the most popular columnist in the magazine.

Show your professionalism, write well and deliver on time, and you should have
few problems. In fact, you'll be the publisher's dream.

Bruce Byfield bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com 604-421.7177


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Education required?: From: Johan Hiemstra

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