December 18, 2000, 3:24 PM —
After a day whenthe phone rang every thirty minutes with some new calamity demanding your attention, you might have gazed out the window and thought: Sheesh, I could write a book!
Well, could you? Do you have the time, the skills, the expertise, the connections? If you've ever thought of hanging out a shingle and being your own boss as a consultant, nothing beats a book to establish credibility with clients. Ahhh, sweet dreams of independence! What does it take to become the next Tom Peters or Peter Drucker?
Robert J. Thierauf knows. The professor emeritus of information systems at Xavier University in Cincinnati is the author of 31 books about business and IT. We're not sure how he finds any, but in his spare time Thierauf is a regional director of the 7,000-member Rolls Royce Owners Club. We spoke to him about his work just before his departure for a Rolls Royce rally in Cleveland.
CIO: Where do ideas for an IT book come from?
Thierauf: Ideas come from the current literature and from talking to experts in the field. I go to different conventions, meetings and so forth. But my real push for new ideas comes from the literature. I go through 200 computer-related magazines every month. I try to get a feel for what is going on in the field, the trends in terms of new ideas, new types of systems. Then I create research files and break them down into different categories. But I won't write about a topic area that I have no interest in. I write about things that really excite me, get me going.
How long does it typically take for one of your ideas to get into print?
In late August 1999 I sent my publisher my 32nd book proposal -- a detailed preface indicating the need for the book plus a 15-page outline. They gave me the contract. The book's due at the publisher June 1, 2000. It takes me about one year to put everything together and then about half a year for it to get into print. That's my particular time frame for a typical book in the fast-changing computer field.
Do you write daily?
I normally write in the morning for two and a half to three hours and then do errands, work out at the YMCA and stop by at the university. Sometimes I write in the evening if I'm running behind. I have no research staff because I know exactly what I want, and therefore I can do it faster than if I try to tell somebody else how to do it for me. I research mostly by telephone and write everything on yellow pads. I type it myself because my handwriting has gotten so bad even I can't read it sometimes. Also, typing allows me to do an extra revision. I'll say, "Gee, that wasn't too clear, let me go back and do this and that."
How do you manage the time to write all those books?
I don't use e-mail.
When writing, do you have a specific audience in mind?