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Is It Vandalizing If You Wrote It?

December 2, 2013

Don’t do it! You’ll get in trouble!

What trouble can I get in? I wrote it.

I don’t care if you did write it. You cannot just write in the front of book at the Harvard University Book store!

I’m currently working on my latest book. It will be another technical book and is scheduled to be out in February. I’ll talk more about it more as we get a little closer to the publishing date. Back in the 90’s when I was working at Microsoft, I wrote a book about Microsoft Exchange. (Microsoft Exchange Connectivity Guide.)


Actually, I cowrote it with a very talented engineer named Rebecca Wynne. It was an interesting, frustrating, draining and ultimately an exhilarating experience. Writing a book, you go through four stages.

When you sign the contract, it’s very exciting. The publisher will often show you the cover. You can picture your name on the cover. You picture sending a copy to your mom. You picture the family Thanksgiving dinner.

Rodney, I just bought a new boat. What’s new with you?

I wrote a book this year.

I hate you.

Okay, maybe that’s just my family. but, the point is that you are super excited. And then the reality sets in.

Especially if you’ve never written a book before, the enormity of the process can be overwhelming. I’ve written several and I still get a little short of breath when the first deadline looms. The Science Fiction writer Ben Bova wrote a very interesting book on writing. He said there are some writers who like to write. But, the majority of writers like to have written. The difference is important. Even a small book has deadlines and a schedule. The calendar marches on. Not sure what possessed me to schedule my current book over the holidays. It was probably the fact that the publisher said, “We want you to write it over the holidays.” Yeah, I’m pretty sure that was a big part of it.

Once you get into the flow, it becomes fun, but it definitely is like eating an elephant.

If a book has a long development schedule, by the end I’m typically sick of the book. Not because it’s a bad book, just that I’m sick of looking at it. I’m sick of rereading the same pages looking for errors. I’m sick of my editor emailing me every week for the next chapter. The excitement from phase 1 is long gone. Now, I just want to be done. I don’t even care if they publish the book. I don’t even care if I get paid. I just want to be done. I feel the same way during the last mile of a 10K race. I don’t care who wins, I just don’t want to run any more. Fortunately, this phase is pretty short. And it leads to the fourth stage.

Yes, it’s the same name as phase 1, but the difference is that in phase 1 you are anticipating the results before you do the work. By the time you get to phase 4, you realize that you did it. You accomplished what few people in the world have ever done. You’ve written a book. And it’s going to be coming out. When I was writing the Connectivity Guide, everything was still hard copy. Now, the rage is ePublishing. So, your book might only exist as a downloadable PDF. Either way, it’s a book, and it has YOUR name on it. And you can give a copy to your mother. You know she’ll never read it, since she’s about as technical as a canary. But, she’ll put it on her shelf and show it to all her friends. And who cares if your cousin bought a boat. YOU WROTE A BOOK!

And if you’re lucky, there will come a day when you are browsing in the Harvard University bookstore with some of your coworkers, and you come around a corner and realize that sitting right there on a shelf where smart Harvard kids might pick it up, is a single copy of your book.

It was the first time I’d ever seen it on the shelf. And I was going to autograph it.

My friends thought it was a stupid idea. Can you be arrested for doing an unauthorized book signing? What’s the difference between vandalism and creating an “Author signed” edition?

I didn’t know and frankly, I didn’t care. So, while my friends tried to hide in the children’s book section, I pulled out a pen. After looking around to make sure the clerks were busy elsewhere I flipped open to the title page and scrawled the “autograph” signature that I’d been practicing since high school.


I slipped it back on the shelf and my friends and I beat a hasty retreat.

But, looking back, I almost wish I’d been caught.

Sir? Did you just write in that book?

Yes. Yes, I did.

Why would you write in one of our books?

Why? Because it’s actually my book. I wrote it!

Yeah, that would have been a better ending to the story. Either that, or I’d be out $24.95 and I’d end up being forced to buy an autographed copy of my own book.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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One Comment
  1. danitaz permalink

    The first book I wrote was an ordeal. We started writing a GroupWise 5.0 book, but Novell kept releasing new versions, and we had to decide if we were going to “rewrite” to make it relevant. By the end, we released it as a 5.2 book the week that 5.2 shipped. So I wrote three books for the price of one 😉

    Writing is fun – and I wish I had thought to autograph those I saw sitting in book stores!

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