Prev NEXT  


How the HowStuffWorks Book Works 2001

In the Beginning

The Book Engineers
How many people does it take to produce one book? Here's a list of those who contributed to the HowStuffWorks book. This list does not include people who were consulted for opinions of the cover or internal design, or those involved with physically printing the book -- that would add about 50 people to the list.
  • Marshall Brain

  • Brian Adkins
  • Cynthia Anderson
  • Rick Barnes
  • Sheilah Barrett
  • Kevin Bonsor
  • Gary Brown
  • Charles Floyd
  • Craig Freudenrich, Ph.D.
  • Sally Guaspari
  • Gerald Gurevich
  • Tom Harris
  • S. Kristi Hart
  • Lucas Hoffman, M.D.
  • Kitty Jarrett
  • Cindy Kitchel
  • Michael Kroll
  • Michele Laseau
  • Julia Layton
  • Scott Loftin
  • Kathy Nebenhaus
  • Katherine Neer
  • Karim Nice
  • Roxanne Reid
  • Beth Richards
  • Natasha Richards
  • Melissa Russell-Ausley
  • Barbara Suszynski
  • Anita Thomas
  • Jeff Tyson
  • Julie Warren
  • Kevin Watt
There are dozens of other people who have contributed to the book. We'd like to extend our appreciation to everyone for their efforts.
To create a book you need:
  • The idea
  • The words
  • The art
  • The cover
  • The layout
  • Several rounds of copy-editing and proofreading
Most book projects start with an idea. Usually the idea turns into a proposal that gets pitched to a publisher. A proposal normally contains:
  • a description of the book
  • a table of contents
  • a sample chapter or two that lets the publisher get a feeling for how the book will "sound."
In our case, we've been extremely fortunate to be able to work with Kathy Nebenhaus of Hungry Minds. She approved the proposals for both of our books and we got started.

Once the proposal is accepted, a book goes down one of two tracks:

  • If the book is largely words, then the author starts writing.
  • If the book has lots of illustrations, especially color illustrations, then things are somewhat more involved. Many book projects start with the writing and others start with the illustrations or photos and add the complementary text later. Sometimes both happen simultaneously -- a lot of children's books are done this way.

For "Marshall Brain's HowStuffWorks," our goal was to collect together more than 100 of the most popular articles from the thousands of topics on the Web site. We wanted to completely re-illustrate these articles with hand-drawn illustrations and photographs.

For our second book -- "How Much Does the Earth Weigh?" -- we wanted to collect about 100 or so of the most popular questions from our Web site's Question of the Day feature.

Article Ideas
As you may know, HowStuffWorks publishes two or three topics every day on our Web site. Picking new topics is something we think about all the time. Between what we've already written about and what we plan to cover, we have thousands of topics. Here at HowStuffWorks, we have a conference room filled with Post-It notes that chronicle all of the articles scheduled for the next four or five weeks and all of the partial articles that are currently in motion.

Not only do we have ideas on lists in the conference room, but there are suggestion lists in the breakroom by the Foosball table and above the printer in the content area. We also get concepts for articles from:

  • Company brainstorming sessions
  • E-mail from our readers
  • Suggestions from the Forums
  • Statistics on what's popular on our site
  • Current news events
  • Personal interests of our writers

Article ideas posted inside the conference room

Article suggestions e-mailed from our readers

There are ideas everywhere!