Software Isn’t Always the Answer

I explain to a fellow computer geek that software isn’t a substitute for good writing.

The other day, I got an e-mail message from a computer consultant who writes for one of the magazines I write for. (Or used to write for; I haven’t written anything for them for so long I’m surprised they remember me at all.) He’d written a book about databases and he wanted to know what book proposal software he should buy to write a perfect book proposal.

Software to write a book proposal? Is this a trick question? Isn’t the answer Microsoft Word or some other word processing software? Is there such a thing as book proposal software?

I explained patiently that a writer didn’t need special software to write a book proposal. All he needed was (1) to know the components of a book proposal and (2) to be able to put those components into an acceptable format. If he could write a book, he could write a book proposal. With the same software.

I told him that there were literally dozens of books and articles about how to write a book proposal — including the eBook I’d written for David Lawrence’s 10 Quick Steps series last year. Don’t waste money on special software. Don’t waste time looking for special software that probably didn’t even exist. Just pick up a book proposal guide, read it, and follow its advice.

He e-mailed me back a day or two later to thank me and tell me he’d bought my book. How nice!

I wonder what he’ll say to himself when he gets to the part that urges nonfiction authors to propose and sell a book before writing it.

What do you think?