Sunday, April 07, 2019

Problems with a point- NOT a plug, just some thoughts on books and book writing

Problems with a Point: Exploring Math and Computer Science by Gasarch and Kruskal, available on amazon here, came out a while back  and I plugged it in my  blog post here. Regan-Lipton reviewed it here.

This post is NOT a plug, its random points about the book and book writing

1) On Feb 28 I checked my Amazon ranking twice. At noon it was at 400,000 and at 4:00PM it was at  roughly 80,000.  Either (a) someone bought a copy, or (b) the number of sales of such books is so small that amazon does rankings arbitrarily. A counter argument to that: Bounded Queries in Recursion Theory, which I wrote in 1998 and, despite an awesome review on amazon that I wrote,  sold literally 0 copies last year, is ranked 5,000,000. So even within the low numbers there is SOME logic to the rankings. (Update- Today, April 7, PWAP is at 800,000 and BQIRT is at 12,000,000. I suspect that nothing has changed with BQIRT and the 5,000,000 or 12,000,000 is arbitrary. As for PWAP--- since its still a new book the ranking might mean something. Oh well- fame is fleeting!)

1.5) At one time my book was 29th in the category Teen and Young Adult Computer Programming. Really? While teens and young adults might read it, I don't think of it as geared towards them (only one use of  OMG and two uses of awesome  in the entire book). And as for Computer Programming... uh... no.

2) I emailed many people about it and many people are buying it. Some tell me that the cover looks great so YES, they are judging a book by its cover. My mom asked how it was selling. I told her that (a) about 20 people told me they bought it, and (b) I doubt that's how JK Rowling responds when she's asked how her Harry Potter books are selling.

3) Many people could actually read this book and would care about its content. When I wrote Bounded Queries in Recursion Theory (with Georgia Martin) I didn't email a lot of people about it since it was rather specialized.

4) Some people said `Gee bill, we didn't know you were working on a book'. That's true- I didn't talk about it much. Clyde knew (my co-author, so he had  to know), Lance knew. Darling knew. Mom Knew. That might be about it. Why so few? see next point.

5) I had heard there are two kinds of people:

Those that talk about writing a book but don't do it

Those that write a book instead of talking about it.

I chose to be the second type.

6) When I got an advanced copy I couldn't stop reading it. Ego? Disbelieve? Some of each?

7) ADVICE for book writers: just get it done. You can polish it later but first get it done so you have something to polish.

8) More advice: You can never have too many proofreaders. Even though its been gone over a lot I still read it and find minor things to fix OR think `gee why didn't I include BLAH in the book'

9) Title: `Problems with a Point' I came up with very early and I liked it a lot. World Scientific (our publisher) pointed out, correctly, that we need a subtitle since  PWAP didn't really tell the reader whats in it. I wanted to make it alliterative but it was hard. Here were some possibilities

PWAP: Mathematical Musing Made Magnificent (can replace Musings with Morsels)

PWAP: Mathematical Meditations  and Computer Science Cogitations

PWAP: Mathematical Musings and the Math that Makes those Musings Matter

All in all I am happy with the non-alliterative, but informative

PWAP: Exploring Math and Computer Science.

10) Odd thing I learned- if I quote someone who made a comment on my blog or emailed me I needed permission. Actually I doubt I NEEDED it but the laws here are murky so I got it just to make sure. That explains this blog from a while back: here

11) ADVICE for book writers: Write the preface last since then you have a better idea of why you wrote the book.


  1. Agreed to point 7.
    The interesting question here is are there people out there or is there a class of writers who can just write a book without the need to edit ? Isaac Asimov is the answer to that. I am told he wrote books but never felt there was a need to edit them.
    A book was considered finished when the last sentence was written. What a character!

    1. Bertrand Russell was similar with essays.
      Both Russell and Asimov lived in a time of manual typewriters
      which may have developed their skill.