Textbook textbook writing
March 4, 2007 4:33 PM   Subscribe

So you want to write a textbook? Take advice from N. Gregory Mankiw who got a $1.4m advance for his book on economics. Try some advice from Garrett Bauman who says no to originality or David A Rees who says the opposite. Maybe you just need a dose of reality from the bitter guy.
posted by meech (16 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Top post. I never realised how the text book market worked: four out of five academics abandon thier works; while a fifth go on for multiple editions. That got to be a better return than that given to most fiction writers, no?
posted by MrMerlot at 4:42 PM on March 4, 2007

Man, here at ISU a math professor wrote a calculus book that absolutely sucked, everyone hated it but the whole math department used it for some reason. It was used for a couple of years before it was gotten rid of.

It was soft cover, few graphics and no color. The problems tried to be "real world" and ended up very boring. (I've always enjoyed abstract problems more). And as I said, everyone hated it.

After they stopped using the book I heard that he'd said it was "the worst mistake of his life" Ironically after his book was trashed, the same book I used in high school replaced it.
posted by delmoi at 4:57 PM on March 4, 2007

Wait, is this the same Mankiw skewered in this post?
posted by delmoi at 4:59 PM on March 4, 2007

posted by Aloysius Bear at 5:02 PM on March 4, 2007

Yes, it's that very same Mankiw.

On a somewhat-related note, James Surowiecki's take on the economics of textbook sales shows that no matter what happens to the author, the textbook market is a publisher's dream.
posted by goingonit at 5:02 PM on March 4, 2007

My Econ 101 text was actually written by someone from the Clinton administration and actually used the war on drugs as an example of bad government regulation in commerce.
posted by delmoi at 5:08 PM on March 4, 2007

I've always thought Shaw got it right:
With the world's bookshelves loaded with fascinating and inspired books, the very manna sent down from Heaven to feed your souls, you are forced to read a hideous imposture called a school book, written by a man who cannot write: A book from which no human can learn anything: a book which, though you may decipher it, you cannot in any fruitful sense read, though the enforced attempt will make you loathe the sight of a book all the rest of your life.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 5:39 PM on March 4, 2007 [2 favorites]

Wait, is this the same Mankiw skewered in this post?

Ha, that's some coincidence - I somehow missed that in my search. Who would have thought an economics lecturer would be the subject of two posts in a week.
posted by meech at 5:47 PM on March 4, 2007

A bio prof at my school wrote a mega hit biology intro text. I remember he drove a $60k Acura NSX and always left it parked next to his research greenhouse, next to all the old rusty trucks used for field work.
posted by mathowie at 6:12 PM on March 4, 2007

Wait - David Rees is optimistic?
This is a really dumb first comment, isn't it?
posted by Pronoiac at 6:40 PM on March 4, 2007

Delmoi, out of curiousity, what book and what administration member?
posted by Maias at 7:59 PM on March 4, 2007

Great post. I have had an idea of writing a U.S. history textbook for years, but now I see what a terrible idea it is.
posted by LarryC at 8:07 PM on March 4, 2007

More on textbooks from Yoram Bauman - alas, not as funny as his Mankiw lecture.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:35 PM on March 4, 2007

My New Textbook-Writing Technique Is Unstoppable
posted by staggernation at 12:13 AM on March 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Damn. And here I am writing silly ol' knitting books, when the big bucks = econ texts. Who knew?
posted by bitter-girl.com at 12:09 PM on March 5, 2007

I had a Mankiw textbook for econ...not a bad book, but I still don't understand the damn subject.
posted by radioamy at 10:56 AM on March 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

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