If you're writing a book...

It's not as bad as you'd judge from some of the prefatory remarks you read. Two things I would recommend you argue about before you sign the contract. First, try and get the publisher to secure the permissions for reproduction of photographs and figures. It's not actually that time consuming, but it is just an extra bureaucratic hassle you don't need, and there seems to be no reason the publisher (who is getting the copyright to your text) shouldn't do it.

The other thing is to work out what you want on the front cover. Like the preface, this is done last, but is obviously important, and if you have a strong opinion, there is little you can effectively do after you have signed the contract.

I suppose the other thing is to stipulate where the book is produced. Mine was done in the U.S., which meant that the text was translated into American, which can be irksome. For example, on page 4 in the middle, the line `consider the exasperating effect on the motorist of traffic jams on motorways' originally had `tailbacks' instead of `traffic jams'; this was copy edited away on the basis that a tailback is something in American football but not on interstate freeways (motorways was left, though). Not in Webster's, but try Collins, not to mention the O.E.D.


On page 296, there is a picture of a just-poured glass of guinness. Waves are visible in the bubbly mixture below the head. Although the bubbles are moving upwards, the waves move down. The day after St. Patrick's day, 1997, an expedition of 5 of us (2 with cameras, the rest to drink the experiment) spent a morning at Rosie O'Grady's pub in Oxford, trying to get similar shots, but they all turned out underexposed; it's not easy. Originally I'd hoped that this figure would get on the front cover, but in the end the Amazon got there instead. Partly this is because the series format (pale blue figure on the front with red background) didn't really make it a viable design, but also partly because having an image of alcohol on the front was not considered to be politically correct. Again, American production values: it's hard to imagine a similar ethos in England, though I might be wrong.

Originally, I'd had some plan of hauling Guinness themselves into the action, but despite some correspondence, I never persevered.