Simson L. Garfinkel and Rachel H. Grunspan, The Computer Book

For this column, NASW book editor Lynne Lamberg asks NASW authors to tell how they came up with the idea for their book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. She also asks what they wish they had known before they began working on their book, what they might do differently the next time, and what tips they can offer aspiring authors. She then edits the A part of that Q&A to produce the author reports you see here.

Publication of NASW members’ reports in Advance Copy does not constitute NASW’s endorsement of their books. NASW welcomes your comments, and hopes this column stimulates productive discussions.

Cover: Computer Book

Cover: Computer Book


Simson L. Garfinkel (NASW member) and Rachel H. Grunspan
Sterling Milestones, November 6, 2018, $29.95
ISBN 10: 145492621X; ISBN 13: 9781454926214

Garfinkel reports:

In June, 2016, my agent Matt Wagner told me he had been approached by an editor at Sterling, an imprint owned by Barnes & Noble, seeking someone to write The Computer Book for the company’s Milestones series.

Sterling Milestones are coffee table books that take a science theme, like physics or engineering, and place 250 significant events in chronological order, each with a 350-word essay and a full-page photo.

Simson L. Garfinkel

Simson L. Garfinkel

I’ve written about the history of computing before and, in fact, am always being told by editors that I put too much history into my articles. Now I had a chance to write nothing but!

Sterling asked for two researched and developed essays, a sample table of contents including 50 of the 250 milestones I was proposing, an author bio, market analysis, and a few pages on what I would emphasize in the chronology. Since I had a full-time job, the publisher also wanted me to have a co-author—just in case.

I reached out to my friend Rachel Grunspan, who knows a lot about how computers are used in games and entertainment, as well as the social impacts of technology. Both of us are employees of the US Government and authored the book in our personal capacities.

Rachel H. Grunspan

Rachel H. Grunspan

The biggest challenge we faced was limiting each milestone to 350 words. We had to leave a lot on the cutting room floor. Rachel and I read original research reports, contemporaneous news accounts, and first-person interviews to find what we thought were the most salient facts. to distill. This challenge is particularly evident in the milestone for the word "cyberspace," for example. Limiting the history to 250 milestones also was tough.

To make the November 2018 publication deadline, we had to deliver the text by November 2017. We sent it to Sterling in batches of 50-100 milestones each. Sterling did an amazing job of editing—it’s among the best editing I’ve ever had. Sterling also hired a photo researcher who found 5-10 images for each milestone, from which Rachel and I made our selections. There’s an illustration for every milestone.

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Tell your fellow NASW members how you came up with the idea for your book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. Include what you wish you had known before you began working on your book, or had done differently.


Thinking of writing a book? If you are a NASW member, you may access a list of more than 150 books and online resources to help you craft your book proposal, find an agent and funding sources, negotiate your contract, learn about self-publishing, publicize and market your book, and more at

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Nov. 30, 2018

Drexel University online