This will come as a shock to you, but it isn’t verse that has been paying my rent all these years, but technical writing. This is a shortened version of a previously published blog I put together for a poetry reading. (Yes, I realize that this isn’t exactly poetry, but the audience seemed to enjoy it anyway.) Any resemblance in these extracts to any real publisher, living or brain-dead, is not entirely coincidental.
The fact that this was written around the time Rob Slade and I were doing the preparatory work and negotiation on a book called Viruses Revealed does not mean that this piece in any sense refers to Osborne or McGraw-Hill. On the other hand, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t. I did think about doing something similar about my experiences with Syngress and Wiley, but got depressed just thinking about it.
I haven’t any plans to write any more books at present (and if I was, I’d be thinking seriously about self-publishing), but most of the security-related books I’ve been involved with are listed on my Wikipedia entry, which is surprisingly accurate.
Dear Mr. Harley
Thank you for choosing MacMidden McGrawful Simplex and Shyster to publish your book on Algorithmic Approaches to Bio-molecular Modelling, which we will be publishing under the title Shiny Bead Diagrams for Morons. We are pleased to offer you an advance equivalent to a trainee assistant copyeditor’s salary for two weeks.
You will agree never to publish any other book on the same subject, or indeed, using diagrams or mentioning beads, for any other publisher, until the book has been out-of-print for five years or you have been dead for fifteen years, whichever comes later.
Please supply us with a schedule detailing when each chapter will be submitted. We realize, of course, that other commitments, family illness and so on may lead to unanticipated delays. You should therefore include details of any unanticipated delays in your preliminary schedule.
You may wish to know more about the book production process. After we have argued about Americanization for a few weeks, you may submit a style sheet incorporating the spelling and formatting details negotiated over that period. This will be used during copyediting to dispose of gum tidily. Please submit a digitized photograph of yourself, so that we have something to spit at.
Copyeditors whose first language is English are only allowed to work on foreign language books. In this instance, UK English is not regarded as a foreign language. Copy editors are not allowed a sense of humour. This is to ensure that all traces of wit and irony are removed at the pre-proofing stage. Any copyeditor with an IQ over 90 is diverted to the comics division.
Next, our highly-qualified proofing team will take time out from randomly hitting typewriter keys in the hope of writing the complete works of Shakespeare. Their task is to misplace whole tables and paragraphs, sabotage the formatting, and introduce more typographical errors. Galleys are sent in the form of humungous email attachments which you will be expected to review and return within two hours even though it’s already midnight where you are.
Your advance will be sent to you in dribs and drabs as you reach arbitrary milestones in the production process, just often enough to stop you abandoning the project in a fit of rage. Regardless of the fact that you are not a US national, we will send you numerous forms relating to taxation, so as to give us an excuse for delaying dispatch of royalty cheques, proofs, and author’s copies. Just to inject a little humour into your tight-assed English life, we will also enter your address into our database with the suffix “Shetland Islands”, despite the fact that you live in Lyme Regis. This will ensure that cheques will not reach you until you have written them off and asked us to stop them and send another, and of course your author’s copies may never arrive.
We look forward to playing – errr, working – with you.
Small Blue-Green World