Mike Davis’ recount of his publishing career that he says has ended with a twist tells enough of his walk on both the PR and Journalism side of automotive communications to qualify as the Auto writers Spotlight for January.
“The Gas Miser’s Guide is truly among the Undead. I’ll let readers decide whether it should be put back in the casket and returned to the graveyard from which it came–even though it’s just as timely today as it was 39 years ago when first created. GMG is both my first and latest book of 15.
“To recap my checkered career first, I was a reporter for The Miami Daily News and Business Week, as well a correspondent for Time, Life, Kiplinger and Business Week before joining Ford Motor Company’s Public Relations Staff. After 25 years at Ford, I returned to the newspaper business as an executive at the Evening News Association (later, Gannett), as the corporate communications director. Then I was executive director of the Detroit Historical Society for five years. After that, nearly 23 years ago, I began producing books and free-lancing magazine articles, mostly about automotive history.
“Anyway, in January 1974 when the first gasoline panic in America since World War II came about, I was Technical and Product Information Manager for Ford, busily fielding inquiries all day long every day from media across the continent about fuel economy. An old friend of mine, Chuck Mackey, who then was partner of a Philadelphia advertising agency, called me and asked, “Do you know anything about fuel economy?” I admitted that my day was filled answering questions on the subject. “Can you write me a book on the subject in the next two weeks?”Now, that’s a challenge and one I couldn’t resist if for no other reason than my wife Mary Kay was just in the process of having her first book published, Needlepoint from America’s Great Quilt Designs (co-authored with Helen Giammattei, it went on to become a Book of the Month selection).
“With most of a fuel economy book in my head, at home every night I banged out the commissioned book on my Royal Portable (remember those?) by the due date sometime in February. Chuck massaged my nerdy PR copy the way only a crack advertising copywriter can, and his artist partner drew up a series of cartoons of a “gas miser” character for the book’s cover and inside art. Their plan was to sell it to one of their clients as a premium (“Open an account at our bank, and we’ll send you a book on fuel economy); GMG was subtitled “Everything you wanted to know about saving gasoline but didn’t know who to ask.”
“Unfortunately, Gas Miser’s Guide died on the vine in March 1974 when the fuel crisis–driven then and now by panicky news media–disappeared almost overnight and the book was never published.
“Fast forward some 30 years. In an automotive commentary I wrote for Paul Eisenstein’s eZine, thecarconnection.com, I alluded to this book I’d written many years before. Much to my surprise, I received a flurry–maybe half a dozen–emails from readers asking where they could buy this book, or “bring it back.” So I called Chuck and asked if he could find the copy and artwork. He told me he was long retired, the business had closed and he had no idea where those materials were. Then two years later (about a year ago), he called me back and said he’d just found the copy and most of the artwork, and had already Fed-Exed it to me.
“I looked over the then 38-year-old manuscript and decided that, while the essential fuel-saving tips were still valid, it would take a lot of research and re-writing to bring it up to date with new regulations, electric cars and exotic fuels–and I’d just been asked by Arcadia Publishing to produce a photographic history of Chevrolet, so my agenda was full.
“Then last summer, during a brief respite from Chevy (finally released in two volumes, in August and December), I attended a writers’ conference where another attendee was praising a no-cost service to publish ebooks. I told Chuck, why don’t we put GMG out there as a no-risk ebook and see what happens. With the help of our two in-house computer experts, his son and my daughter, The Gas Miser’s Guide, my first and yet 15th book, was posted on November 29. On that day, I was about to enter the hospital for back surgery and Chuck was recovering from a broken hip sustained by tripping over an open dishwasher door in a darkened kitchen. Some pair of octogenarian authors we turned out to be!”
The Gas Miser’s Guide can be found on-line at www.smashwords.com.