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.