Thursday, 31 October 2013

An amusing anecdote about home education

As regular readers might know, I am the author of many books and have a good deal to do with various publishers. From time to time, I am invited, for a fee, to give my expert opinion about some manuscript or proposal that is being offered to a publisher. Expert, you ask? Expert in what, precisely? Well, archeo-mythology for one subject, social history in general and of course home education. And thereby hangs a tail…

A few days ago, I was approached by one of the largest international publishers of academic work and asked to prepare a report on a proposal which they had received. This was to be a book about home education. This is not the first time that I have been asked to do this; I am regarded by many as one of the leading experts in this country on home education. This time, the manuscript that was being offered was by somebody whose name would be instantly recognised by most home educators, an academic who has conducted some research into home edcuation. The funny thing was of course that I would have been the very last person in the entire universe that this particular person would have wanted to be offering an expert view about the proposed work.  The person in question had only his or herself to blame for this.

When you are touting round a non-fiction book to publishers, it is done by means of a proposal which you must prepare. You describe the book, say who might buy it and also compare your proposed book with other similar works on the market. This is where both the person who is trying to sell the book on which I reported this week and also the author of a previous book on home education, upon which I was also asked to comment some months ago fell down.  You see, both hopeful authors could not help being very unpleasant and uncomplimentary about my book on the subject. Both were flattering about Mike Fortune-Wood and Alan Thomas, and both were scathing about what I had written. Big mistake! This virtually guaranteed me the job of reviewing their proposals. The reason is simple.

If you  are a publisher and want somebody to point out potential shortcomings and errors in a manuscript, then there is no point at all asking chums of the author about it. In the present case, this author had mentioned various people by their Christian names; Jan, Mike, Alan and so on. When it came to my book, it was a case of Mr Webb, followed by a swift hatchet job. Obviously, the publisher came to me and asked me what I thought about the work of this academic. I am ideally placed to tell them the things that his or her friends would not.

I have to say that there was something so exquisitely funny about the idea of my writing a report on this person’s proposal, that I felt that I simply had to share it.

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