We used to have a morning meeting once a week with the head of the department at which the new manuscripts going into production would be allocated among the production controllers. Noticing that we’d be having a meeting on 1 April, we put together a fake manuscript. We typed up new front matter, making it a book with no doubt a slightly suggestive title, a convincing looking author, a table of contents, list of figures, Preface etc. and stuck this on top of an impressive pile of foul manuscript from a recently completed book. We had to create documentation: a form sending the book into production created by an editor, who of course had to be the editor responsible for books in the subject area we created, and who also had to be away on vacation at the time. Forging signatures (or initials which is what we used in this college ambiance) was pretty easy. The job had to have been through the copyediting department and the designers for preliminary assessment before it reached us. Making that look like it had happened wasn’t too hard. The necessary comments could have been written by any one of a dozen people.

So there we were, drinking our coffee in front of half a dozen new projects, keeping stoutly straight faces. Our mistake turned out to be making the manuscript too large. The boss, unable easily to lift it, riffled through it to get a smaller pile of paper to manage. It probably wasn’t the different font used in the two parts: it those days one often received manuscripts which had been typed on different typewriters — he must actually have read a word or two while riffling — ah, the skills we publishing folks develop! He leapt up, without a word, and raced out of the room with a portion of the job under his arm. No doubt he went to see the head of design, who’s initials proclaimed he had looked at the manuscript. Of course we knew the gig was up as soon as he left. He returned saying something like “There’s some sort of problem with this manuscript. We’ll put it aside for a later meeting”, and that rather boringly was that.

Moral: next time, provide a complete fake manuscript to preserve internal coherence. Yeah, sure!

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