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GWI Kurtz-Fernhout Software
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The Garden with Insight garden simulator - Book Proposal

We have placed this book proposal on our web site so anyone possibly interested in working with us can read our arguments for publishing a book based on our printed manual. The questions in this book proposal are taken largely from a book proposal guideline page on the SAMS publishing web site.

A Book Proposal for:
"The Garden with Insight Garden Simulator, Volume 1: User Manual"

by Kurtz-Fernhout Software.

We are a two-person husband-wife software company (Paul Fernhout and Cynthia Kurtz). Over the past four years we have invested about six person-years developing an educational simulation about gardening. Version 1.0 of Garden with Insight was released in July 1997 and is freely available from our web site at The entire manual (as a hypertext help system) is available for viewing on the web site and with the download package.

We would like to find a publisher for our user�s manual (with a copy of the software on CD) as a book. We have already written a 420-page book, which now exists as a 28MB Word file. We hope that this book will be the first in a Garden with Insight series based around the software.


Chapter One: Introduction (7 pages)
(Program Section)
Chapter Two: Tutorial (20 pages)
Chapter Three: How to (57 pages)
Chapter Four: Tools and Tool Actions (10 pages)
Chapter Five: Menus (3 pages)
Chapter Six: Windows (54 pages)
(Model Section)
Chapter Seven: Model explanation (48 pages)
Chapter Eight: EPIC Model explanation (94 pages)

(our model is based on a USDA model called EPIC)
Chapter Nine: Aspects (44 pages)
(aspects are simulation variables)
Glossary (35 pages)
Appendices (12 pages)
Index (15 pages)


1. What is the proposed title of your book?

The Garden with Insight Garden Simulator, Volume 1: User Manual

Other volumes in the Garden with Insight series (which are not yet written) might include:

  • Teacher�s Guide (with half-hour exercises, worksheets, and more background material)
  • Programmer�s Manual (documenting the Delphi source code in depth, explaining how it was written, and how to modify it; possibly including Delphi 1.0 if Borland will license it)
  • Inside the Models (a more complete textbook-like explanation of the models and of simulation in general)
  • Learning Through Simulation (an extended tutorial explaining many soil science concepts, with perhaps an accompanying video tape or CD-ROM video)
  • additional books involving using parts of the code ported to new software environments, like Squeak Smalltalk or Java
2. What is the topic of your book, and why have you chosen to write about this topic?

About half the book describes how to use the Garden with Insight garden simulator available from our web site (or on CD with the book), and half describes the simulation�s models for users who want to learn more about agricultural modeling.

We started the project for reasons of idealism (to help people learn how to garden more sustainably in their own back yards) and for reasons of greed (gardening is the most popular recreational activity in the US). The development project got out of hand (it was originally to last four months), but we persisted anyway. We are way beyond any hopes of a reasonable return on our investment (easily at least $300,000 in opportunity cost so far). Still, now that the simulator is done we are looking for ways to make it available to people.

The scientific models in the simulation were derived from poorly written but scientifically accurate public-domain USDA FORTRAN models. Much of agricultural research has been stymied by the difficulty of using such obscure models. The translated code in Delphi Pascal is much easier to read (with variable names changing from "ip" to "percolatedWater_mm", for example).

We have made the program, help system, and Pascal source code (including our GUI framework) available to the public under a GNU General Public License. Since January (when we released a beta version) we have had about 350 downloads of the program, with very little advertisement of the web site.

The reasons we want to sell a printed book are:

  • We hope to make this software a standard for agricultural modeling and secondary/post-secondary agricultural education, like TK/TCL and LINUX have done for their respective areas. A large part of the software�s value will come from its wide distribution. We hope this wide and free distribution will generate a user community that will help the source code base evolve and improve over time. We plan to set up a web board with the source code release to help users discuss the program. Having a book and CD in bookstores, especially in both the gardening and computer sections, will help us reach the greatest number of people to create the standard.
  • The simulation is feature-rich and has a learning curve. Although all help information is available on-line, a printed book describing how to use the software and explaining how the models work is very helpful (almost essential) for a beginner. We have had a few requests for printed documentation already.
  • Producing the 420-page book ourselves in small quantities is very expensive and drives the price up, reducing our possible return. We would like to provide economies of scale (at least 5000 copies) to bring down the book and CD to an affordable price (around $45-60 list).
  • Our backgrounds are in science and programming, and while we could certainly sell the book ourselves we would rather spend our time improving the product, creating other books about this product, and creating other related software products.
3a. Explain the book�s purpose.

The purposes of the book are to help readers use the software; to introduce readers to the terminology and methods of agriculture, general science, and simulation modeling; and to encourage readers to explore the science of gardening as a way to gain a deeper understanding of soil science and plant growth.

3b. Explain the concept underlying the work.

The main concept underlying the work we have done for the past years (and this book in particular) is stated on our web site: "... to help people garden more effectively and with greater enjoyment by gaining a greater insight into what is going on in their garden by using an open-ended simulation, and: to help people learn to garden with less environmental impact by helping them explore the long-term implications of their gardening decisions."

Seymour Papert�s concept of a microworld has informed much of our work. We use the computer to allow people to learn about gardening and agricultural modeling by exploring.

3c. Explain the major topics you plan to cover.

Part I covers how to use the program in the industry standard manner. Part II explains how the simulation works internally and introduces the reader to important concepts in the modeling of soil, weather, and plants.

3d. What will readers gain from your book?

Readers will gain from the book a greater understanding of some of the important processes and connections going on in their garden, a greater understanding of the techniques and challenges of scientific modeling, and a greater understanding of agricultural terminology.

We intend the Garden with Insight garden simulator to reach tens of thousands of people around the globe. We expect that many of the people who download the software, the source, and its accompanying on-line documentation will not buy the book. However, among those people who do want the software, we envision several different reasons to buy the book.

  • The software comes with it. The first obvious reason for anyone to buy the book is that they don�t have an on-line connection, or they have a slow connection (it takes about 25 minutes to download the program with a 28.8 bps modem). Also, anyone wanting to give the software to a child or friend would find the book option easiest. Having the product in bookstores greatly expands the reach of the software, which makes the book even more valuable as the software becomes a standard in the topic.
  • The book is easier to understand. On-line documentation works well as a reference and for learning one new concept at a time. But many users of this program will be encountering a whole range of new material. For this type of learning, a book is a superior learning tool. Soil science, botany and agricultural simulation are very technical subjects. They are often hard to grasp and are often presented in textbooks in a dry manner. Our simulation provides motivation to master the science embodied in the models in a new way. At the point users are motivated to learn the material, they will prefer to have a book they can carry around and read away from the computer. And two users can share a computer more easily if one is reading the book and one is using the software.
  • Teachers may want it for their students. High-school teachers may want the book for their students to use in the classroom or to take home. College-level teachers might require students to buy the book as a supplement to their textbook for an agriculture course.
  • It�s convenient. To some extent, the most reliable product is convenience -- people tend to pay for the most convenient option. For example, those who buy Linux books do so because of the convenience, because they don�t have to download the software. The same is true with people who buy Java books for the compiler available from Sun. So too with books on Python or Perl or TK/TCL. Over the next year or two we anticipate the software to be extended by working with a user community in many ways. Future versions of the book may have updated CD-ROMS with improvements to the software, such as ports to other languages (C++, Java, Smalltalk, Lisp, etc.) and ports to other operating systems (Linux, Mac-OS, Newton). At some point, the variety of available related goodies will make having everything on one convenient CD-ROM even more compelling.
  • It�s one of a series. We envision this book as the first of a series of Garden with Insight books. Unlike this first book, which is also available with the software as a help file, the other books would be available as printed material only. The additional books would supply content to an existing audience. The books in the series will reinforce each other, ideally encouraging any interested reader to purchase most of the set.
4. Describe why you arranged your book as you did (as shown in your outline). Why is this arrangement better than any other?

The first part of the book was written first as a user�s guide. The second section was added after some feedback from users wanting to know more and being unfamiliar with terms. Within each large part, chapters evolved as the work was being written. This arrangement isn�t necessarily better than any other, but the program/model distinction is natural. A book distributed to bookstores might work better with the model section first.

5. Will you use figures, illustrations, graphs, charts and drawings?

The book contains about 225 figures, about 80% of which are screen shots and the rest drawings and graphs to illustrate particular points. The charts and figures are in color, but they also look fine printed in grayscale.

6. Will you provide instructions, summaries, exercises, hints, and examples?

The tutorial chapter is a long set of instructions, and the how-to chapter contains about 100 sets of instructions for particular tasks. Each section has a short summary at its head, though these could be made longer and more complete. There are no specific exercises or examples set apart from other text, though we make liberal use of examples and analogies in the text.


1. For what audience is this book intended? Are they beginners? Experts? Experienced, yet new to your topic?

Our audience is primarily individuals with at least a 7th or 8th grade science education, enough knowledge of computers to use the software, and an interest in gardening or agriculture. We think the software has a stronger-than-average appeal to a female audience.

Also, people learning to use Delphi Pascal can use the source code to learn more about programming in Delphi, and having a book which explains the models helps greatly to understand the source code. Borland has sold over one million copies of Delphi. Our simulation runs in Delphi 1.0 (which is available at reduced cost) and in Delphi 2.0 (32-bit).

2. What, specifically, are the needs of this audience, and how will your book meet those needs?

We see the needs of our audience as follows.

  • Our audience needs help in understanding and using the software, which has a substantial learning curve. The book explains all aspects of using the program in detail.
  • Our audience needs explanation of many terms the simulation uses. The book�s glossary defines about 200 agricultural and scientific terms.
  • Our audience needs explanation of concepts used in modeling and understanding soil science and plant growth. The model sections of the book explain these topics in the context of how the simulation works.
  • Our audience needs encouragement to learn more about agriculture and science. The book has an enthusiastic tone that emphasizes the excitement of learning.
  • Our audience needs to understand how real scientific modeling is done. In explaining the model, the book discusses decisions made during modeling and alternative approaches by other researchers.

3. What experience or information supports your audience analysis?

We have both taken courses in educational technologies at SUNY Stony Brook. We have talked with many people about the program. We have given two public presentations of the software -- one at the Whole Earth health food store in Princeton, New Jersey and one at a Soil & Water Conservation Society annual conference. We have also shown the program to several teachers, children, and government researchers.


1. What do you perceive as your book�s sales potential in the marketplace? How did you arrive at this determination?

Gardening is the most popular recreational activity in the United States. Almost half of all US households have a garden. Because of this large potential audience (tens of millions), we feel the book could sell tens of thousands if one out of 1000 households who gardened purchased it. Gardening is even more popular in Britain, so this is a natural follow-on overseas market.

Or you could look at market analysis from our recent experience. We have had about 350 downloads of our software over the last eight months with practically no advertising of our web site. We estimate the number of people visiting the site at about six times this (about 2000 people). We think that with limited advertising (some usenet postings and getting links from other sites) we could increase our traffic tenfold to about 40,000 visitors a year. These people are all potential customers; if one in ten buys the book, that would be 4000 copies a year.

These figures are based on a 1994 survey by the National Gardening Association as well as other information such as readership surveys by gardening magazines. We can provide our web log statistics.

2. Is timing critical to the publication of your book? When should your book appear on bookstore shelves?

Of course, the sooner, the better, but in general, the time of year this book appears on bookstore shelves is not critical. People think about gardening both in the winter when they are planning their garden, and in summer when they are growing it. Universities that use the book as a supplemental textbook for a course would value the book most before the beginning of a semester. We believe that because the software and source code will be freely available on our web site, as more people use the software it will become a standard for the topic. Thus demand for the book will grow or at least remain steady for some time.

3. What is the known competition for your proposed book?

There are many books on soil science and even some on agricultural simulation, but none contain an easy-to-use simulator. These are some books on related topics, though their audience is mostly technical:

  • The Algorithmic Beauty of Plants (Prusinkiewicz P. and A. Lindenmayer, Springer-Verlag, 1990)
  • Knowledge-Based Systems in Agriculture (Plant, R.E. and N.D. Stone, McGraw-Hill, 1991)
  • Computer Simulation in Biology: A BASIC Introduction (Keen, R.E. and J.D. Spain, Wiley-Liss, 1992, includes program examples)
  • CERES-Maize: A Simulation Model of Maize Growth and Development (Jones, C.A. and J.R. Kiniry, Texas A&M University Press, 1986, comes with software)
  • The EPIC model documentation, 1990, publicly available from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
  • Modeling Plant and Soil Systems (Hanks, J. and J.T. Ritchie (eds),
SimFarm by Maxis and Forever Growing Garden by Media Vision are the closest examples of competing software products, although they are not intended to teach the science of agriculture. There are several other gardening software products on the market; however, they are planners, encyclopedias, or databases, not simulations. To our knowledge, few if any books in the gardening section of a typical bookstore come with a CD. This would be a real advantage if our book was positioned there as well as in the computer section.

4. How does your proposed book differ from competing titles already on the market?

See above. The main difference is: freely available, easy-to-understand source code in Delphi Pascal and the inclusion of a complete software product.


1. Why do your academic, personal, or business experiences qualify you to write this book?

Here�s our blurb from the book:

Both authors received their M.A. degrees from the Ecology program at SUNY Stony Brook. Paul's B.A. in Psychology is from Princeton University, and he has done some Ph.D. graduate work there in Operations Research and Statistics. Cynthia's B.S. in Biology is from Clarion University of Pennsylvania where she also studied art and writing. Paul has been programming for over seventeen years, Cynthia for seven. Paul has developed three nationally marketed software products. Cynthia has written several technical manuals for software products. Both authors have enjoyed gardening for years.
Our curricula vitae are available on request.

2. Have you published books with other publishers? What other writing of yours has been published -- magazine articles, documentation, etc.?

We have published no complete books. Some other publications are:

Cynthia Kurtz (who wrote nearly the whole manual)

  • Kurtz, C.F. and S. Ferson. 1993. Assessing global warming by monitoring ecotones: a first step. in Remote Sensing of the Environment.
  • Downer, R., C. Kurtz and S. Ferson. (written by C. Kurtz) 1992. Integration of environmental models in a geographical spreadsheet. In Computer Techniques in Environmental Studies IV, ed P. Zannetti. Elsevier Publishers.
  • Kurtz, C.F. 1991. The evolution of information gathering: operational constraints. In From Animals to Animats, eds. Meyer, J.A. and S.W. Wilson. Proc. 1st Int. Conf. on Simulation of Adaptive Behavior, Paris, MIT Press. (also M.A. thesis of same title available from SUNY Stony Brook)
  • User manuals for bibliographic database (1992), geographic information system (1992), payroll system (1991), and ethno-historical database (1990).
Paul Fernhout
  • Simulating Intelligent Interacting Objects in C, AI Expert, January 1989.
  • Some jointly produced academic conference and poster papers on robotics, circa 1987 through the Princeton University Robotics and Expert Systems Laboratory
  • Editing the RAMAS/age user manual for a new Macintosh version in 1992
  • Entering, editing and formatting much of the content (from farmer surveys) of the NOFA-NJ organic produce market directories in 1990-91 and 1992-93
3. Are you committed and available to complete your book on an aggressive schedule?

The book has already been written. We are available to work with editors to make suggested changes though we do not envision that any large changes in content will be necessary. As to additional books, we feel are in a good position to write any add-on books, possibly in collaboration with others (teachers and soil scientists). We realize that other authors could write similar books about this software (given its open distribution); but we feel we are in the best position to take advantage of the opportunities because we know the program, its implementation, and its limitations very well.

We had four reviewers read an earlier version of the program part of the book and have incorporated their suggestions. The model section of the book has been read only by us (and visitors to our web site) so far. The book would undoubtedly benefit from some editing and independent review.


In summary, we can offer:

  • An audience already starting to grow from attendance at our web site
  • Several audiences (gardeners, students, programmers) with different motivations to buy the book
  • A completed manuscript at contract signing
  • Our obvious commitment to the project
  • A potential for strong and possibly improving sales over a long period
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Updated: December 1, 1998. Questions/comments on site to
Copyright © 1998 Paul D. Fernhout & Cynthia F. Kurtz.