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By Robert Rapier on Nov 15, 2008 with no responses

Seeking Reader Input for a Book Project

It should be clear that I enjoy writing. Over the past three years, I have written 665 essays for this blog, a book chapter on renewable diesel in Biofuels, Solar and Wind as Renewable Energy Systems, 130 essays for The Oil Drum, and essays for numerous other web sites. I write for different reasons, but primarily because I enjoy it and I like to share knowledge. I also enjoy the occasional sparring that goes along with the writing. (As someone once said to me, it seems that I like wearing a black hat).

I have been approached semi-seriously on a couple of occasions about writing a book, and on other occasions about giving up the blog to write exclusively for various media outlets. While I have given both options serious thought, I don’t like writing to deadlines. I also don’t like writing to assigned topics. While I may be able to whip out an essay on Miscanthus as an energy source in 20 minutes, if you asked me to write up an essay on Miscanthus it might take me two weeks to do it. The difference is writing something that struck me as interesting or important, or writing something because it is a job.

I now have in front of me a serious proposal from a major publisher. Right now, all I have said is “maybe”, citing the time commitment. After all, the renewable diesel chapter took me a good month’s worth of work to complete. How long would it take me to write an entire book? Would it consume my Saturdays and Sundays for the next 3 years? Would I need to stop writing my blog? Could I perform my current job without having my attention constantly wandering? The fact is, I don’t know the answers to these questions. That’s one reason I haven’t said yes.

The second sticking point for me is the matter of original content. I would only write a book that could add something original, or explain a topic in a different way (potentially reaching a broader audience). Yet is is very hard to find a niche that someone hasn’t already filled. The proposal is pretty broad: “any aspect of environmental science, including (but not limited to) alternative energy sources.” My first thought was to just run down the list of all energy options available to us, presenting the pros and cons. A quick search of Amazon, and I find a book very near what I had in mind: Powering Our Future: An Energy Sourcebook for Sustainable Living. If I look through the contents, this book really covers the energy spectrum. Whether it does it well, I can’t say since I haven’t read it.

This issue almost kept me from ever starting my blog. I thought “there are a million blogs out there, and I will just be one more person writing things that only friends and family read.” Yet I think I finally found my niche. I could see that there were certain topics that either weren’t covered, or were explained in highly technical language. Eventually, I carved out my niche. There are still lots of blogs out there with a lot of overlap. Any story I write has been, or will be covered by others as well. All I can do is inject my own style into the story, and hope that my contribution is original enough to make reading it worthwhile.

So, with that very long-winded introduction (I guess I should ask to be paid by the word), I am seeking reader input. What sort of book on energy or the environment would you read? What topics haven’t been well-covered by previous books? If you have written a book, how did you find the experience?

If I do happen to write a book, certainly the contributions/ideas from readers of this blog will be acknowledged. While I can’t offer money (I hear the money for doing a book in this field is quite modest), if you suggest a specific idea that ends up being a part of a book, your specific contribution would be acknowledged by name. Once I am established, maybe I can sell out and write a steamy romance novel with more sales potential. :-)

Thanks in advance for your suggestions.