Sunday, 31 July 2011


In other weekend news of achievement, I have lost my job.

Perhaps more accurately, we have considered the options (none), deliberated over the future of this particular employment (none), then scraped a few papers off the floor and handed it all back.

It is inevitable. We have reached the point of this working relationship which resembles corpses embracing. The job has lost all sparkle and become nothing more than a thankless shovelling of shit for a publisher with whom the dispute is now the number of unpaid invoices as well as the number of unset books.

So, maybe a job not strictly lost. Apart from the income. That could be a problem. But there are more important things than money. (Holds head high.) Nevermind, lookonthebrightside, somethingwillturnup, etc. etc.

I am sad in a way, because in general I support the publisher's job, together with the blind dedication, peculiar interests, and unreadable output of the scribbling academics.

But I now know there are brutal sides to this academic scribbling business. Disputes with publishers apart, there are authors who have shown me how capable they are of making the process of their own book production a long-drawn out, horrible, painful, torture.

I'm not picking on anyone (okay, yes I am, but not saying who). All I will say is that there is a brand of academic very focused on empire building, where tomes are significant, and people not so much. Indeed, the weightier the tomes, the better they can be used to bash in the faces of their colleagues and competitors.

My part in their path to glory is tiny and invisible. Copyeditor, typesetter, designer, layout artist, proofreader, document dogsbody. (You only know it when something goes wrong or you spot the spelling mistake.)

And which literate academic author thinks this is a skills set they do not already have? They have spellcheckers! They have Word on their computers! They have ideas about layout and design! What is the point of a dinosaur's job like mine, except to impede them, slow up their book, and raise unnecessary queries over their referencing?

So in my experience, even if the publisher recognises they need someone to blame (which is where typesetters can come in handy), the academic sees us as someone of no significance whatsoever, and treats us accordingly. With very little courtesy or pleasantry, and no recognition that someone needed to have an eye for the look of words on a page, or gave (unpaid) hours to make their crap fit perfectly to the exact number of pages the publisher can afford to print without making a crushing loss. In five years I have been thanked by an author just once.

But I am kind! I bear in mind that these academics might have dug themselves into a shrunken mental wormhole from which they cannot now escape. Over 25 years they have invested more than they can lose. They must remain where they are, protecting their corner, eating away at their own tails, chewing away at their increasingly remote ideas.

Then I can be happy if they stay there. No longer will I have to put up with the arrogance, bleating, blame games and streams of muddled corrections.

Now, this may be my final entry on work-related matters, unless I am taken to court, or come up with a fantastic money-making scheme. So I depart the work label with as much dignity as I can scrape, and not name the publisher, the worst offending authors, and you can never say I mentioned the sodding linguists.