Re: Peter Kent's Contractor's Guide

Subject: Re: Peter Kent's Contractor's Guide
From: Peter Kent <76711 -dot- 2557 -at- COMPUSERVE -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 28 Feb 1996 10:34:17 EST

>>Stephan Andraksen said:
In that post Sandra Kinion (wn878 -at- freenet -dot- victoria -dot- bc -dot- ca) really
comes down HARD on Peter Kent's "Contractor's Guide to Technical Writing".

Coming to Mr. Kent's defence, I must say that most of what Ms. Kinion
wrote is unfounded...<<

Stephan, thanks very much for coming to my defence. I haven't seen Sandra
Kinion's posting, but I know of her. I doubt that she mentions that this is part
of a personal vendetta against me. Months before she ever bought the book (if
indeed she ever did...more of which in a moment), she made quite clear to me
privately that she didn't like me. I received mail from her telling me not to
mention my books in the techwr-l list--I had just mentioned the PGP Companion
for Windows in a response to someone's questions about e-mail security and
encryption. I responded to her saying that I only mentioned my books if relevant
to the posting. (As those of you know who've been reading the techwr-l list,
I've answered a lot of questions of various kinds--I go through phases, spending
a lot of time in newsgroups and mailing lists, then getting swamped and backing
out for a while. In very few of those msgs have I pushed my books, excepting my
signature which mentions my tech. writing guide, about which I've received no
complaints.) Anyway, Kinion responded with a rather obnoxious "sure, when it's
relevant to your income," or something like that.

Clearly Kinion doesn't like me, and didn't like me as early of November of last

Then, just a few days ago, I received what I have to characterize as "hate" mail
from Sandra Kinion. Here's exactly what she wrote:

Picked up your big orange book on contract technical writing. What a bunch of
feel good fluff. Info does not pertain to the 90s job market!

Contacted some of the people you "interviewed" for material and several of them
indicated, after reading your book, that you had been "a bit optomistic"
regarding prospects for contract tech writers. Well now, I guess that's the
UNDERSTATEMENT of the month.

GOOD NEWS: I was able to return the book for a full refund.

BTW, the title should have read..."HOW TO MAKE BUCKS AS A TECH WRITER: SELL
GET US ALL A BREAK PETE, and just go count your gold quietly!

I regard this as a continuation of her anger at me--she's simply using my book
as another way to get at me. Incidentally, it turns out that Sandra Kinion is
more qualified to talk about the 90s job market than me, as she's unemployed.
(Now, who's advice should one take, that of an unemployed technical writer, or
that of a permanently busy freelancer?)

Now, has she really read the book? She says that she contacted some of the
people I interviewed. She won't say who, though, and there is only one possible
contact in that book--I named very few people--and all he said in the book was
how much technical writers made in a certain area of the country...I can't see
what input he could have had if she called him.

This wasn't the last of her msgs. She's happy to insult my book, but unwilling
to give specifics. When I asked what she meant by "does not pertain to the 90s
job market" she wouldn't respond. As other members of this group know (including
some who know me personally, not just in cyberspace), I've done my best to be
balanced--the original book even contains a list of reasons for _not_ getting
into freelancing, explaining why some people may not be able to make it work
(constant marketing is probably the major problem). I was willing to listen to
her complaints. But she had none, she had only insults. By the way, I suspect
that she didn't post her vitriol on this list because she knew I was here and
would defend myself!

>>but would agree with one part of her assesment:
some of the content of Peter's book is not in tune with the realities of the
current job market -- contract or captive! In fact quite a bit of
it is written idealistically, and reflects what MIGHT have been
available to prospective contractors 10 or 15 years back.<<

Stephan, could you please elaborate? What do you mean that the book is not in
tune? 10 years ago I was still working as a geologist in the oil business...I
had not yet been laid off and made the decision to become a freelance tech
writer. 15 years ago I was living in Mexico, working on rigs in the Gulf of
Mexico--I'd never written a thing at that point. I based this book on my
experiences (as one of the best-paid technical writers I know) from 1988 to the
present day.

I've used the methods outlined in my book, and know many others who have, some
of whom read about the methods in my book and then put them into practice
successfully. In fact there are several members of this list who have written
very complimentary things about this book, thanking me for my help. (If anyone
wants to see it, I'll mail my list of testimonials so you can see how other
people have responded to the book...I've had so many fantastic testimonials that
my next book will have two pages of them up front.)

I know that I could never write something that _everyone_ can use. But the
methods themselves _do_ work, as other list members can attest. One of the
testimonials I received (and of course plan to put in the book) said "I took
your advice and doubled my income overnight." This guy later told me that he
grossed almost $200,000 last year. I don't know why he would contact me out of
the blue and tell me this if the advice in the book was "not in tune with the
realities of the current job market."

So, Stephan, please let me know what you mean so I can respond!

>>I highly recommend Mr. Kent's manual to anyone<<

thanks very much...

>>but I do reserve this one CAVEAT: Unless you have several (many?) years of
contracting experience or you possess very specific technical skills that are in
great demand, you will probably find little of value in the publication. For the
inexperienced or those with fresh degrees, much of the content reflects what
should be, NOT what is!<<

Well, again, other people have disagreed, Stephan. I've received mail from
people fresh out of college who have read the book and found it useful. Again,
could you tell me what you mean? Why does it require several or many years of
contracting? It's quite the opposite, really, because much of the book explains
how to get started working with technical-service agencies, something that even
newcomers can do. As for specialized skills, I have a friend who just does
regular old technical writing, nothing special. He goes into work each day, does
a few hours of overtime a week, and has been on the same contract for five or
six years. He takes home $80,000 for very little effort, using the techniques
outlined in my book.

Thanks for your input Stephan.

Peter Kent

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