Today is the seven-year anniversary of my signing my (“first”) book contract – with New Riders for Building Accessible Websites. What exactly else have I been doing in that time, and how many more seven-year periods do I realistically have available?
I have been discouraged from publishing the full range of offences New Riders carried out against me. Such discouragement, while troubling, is hereby acknowledged. The offences are similar to those visited upon other New Riders authors. I am not the only author to have been called up immediately after the book went to press in order to be told I was the most difficult author they’d ever worked with. I suspect I am the only author whose refusal to appear at a conference was held against him, despite the complete absence of an invitation to such a conference or its having ever been mentioned. Other authors were probably not also accused of incurring a $12,000 cost overrun, or of acting as though in-house editors and copy-editors weren’t any good. A fair cop both ways – but ask other authors how many errors I found in their finished books and corrected for free.
Other authors did not have existing English words crossed out and replaced with nonsensical soundalikes (akin to renaming Star Trek as Star Track because you knew the word “track,” hence obviously “trek” didn’t exist). Nor did other authors, at zero incremental cost to the publisher, arrange for professional typesetting and copy-editing, only to be presented with a book index set in the wrong font and on the wrong grid. It was specifically stated that an index did not have to be designed or typeset and did not have to match the rest of the book.
Here’s what didn’t happen to me: The publisher didn’t refuse to buy a font for a pittance and did not fail to imprint its logo on the corner of the cover reserved for that purpose, leaving a triangular black void.
The editor who levied these various charges against me and another author later told me to my face there was no recollection of having levied those charges against me. Perhaps the episode occurred during a blackout. (I don’t have blackouts.)
The book, a critical success but commercial failure (a common conjunction), sold 2,493 copies in the U.S., 1,042 overseas, 102 electronically (as by the O’Reilly Safari service), and, very disturbingly, 219 in Canada. That’s 3,856 – actually an excellent sales figure for a Canadian book, if you want to look at it that way. New Riders could still attempt to recoup $2,239.10.
I granted certain rights to the publisher. As of 2008.02.04, I regained those rights. I own the book free and clear. I intend to remove outdated components (e.g., tables for layout), add nothing substantive, zip the remaining files into an archive, and distribute it via Bittorrent.
Full copyright protection will remain in effect and will be very prominently indicated, enforced, and defended. Just as you would not expect me to dine out on a prime rib and a shrimp cocktail, so should you not expect me to engage in anything resembling Creative Commons licensing. I’m interested in copyright reform, but not interested in Creative Commons. (Scratch a copyleftist and you find a Creative Commons zealot.) I am interested in demonstrating that a distribution method like Bittorrent is copyright-agnostic and that copyrighted works can be disseminated that way with full consent of the owner. You may have other interests.
I do not know when I will get around to this task. It won’t be very long. I could use some help with editing and Bittorrenting.
I will never write another computer book, but I have seven years’ backlog of other books to catch up on. (In some ways I still wish I were Ben Hammersley.) I don’t have an agent, any money in the bank, a salutary reputation, legitimate prospects, or anything else that could build upon basic writing talent and 20 years’ journalism. So don’t worry, this whole enterprise will probably fail completely, as my significant coterie of longstanding detractors might hope.
Nonetheless, it can now exclusively be revealed that the title of my next book is Organizing Our Marvellous Neighbours: How to Feel Good About Canadian English.