August 29th, 2010

Proofs of The Heroes have arrived:

Have some of that.  Aren’t they beautiful?  Chunky, though.  Don’t know if it’s the paper, or the way they’ve been set, but it’s way the heaviest proof I’ve produced even though the book is actually one of my shortest (well, 202,000 words, it’s not short by any estimation, but it’s about 12% shorter than the last couple).

For those of you unfamiliar with the workings of the industry, bound proofs, ARCs or galleys (basically different words for the same thing) are the rough versions sent out to booksellers, publishers, and reviewers prior to release in order to build excitement, stimulate orders, and ensure review coverage at the time of release.  The text is the vast majority of the way there, though it hasn’t yet been proof-read or, in this case, copy edited.  Sometimes proofs will be bound in anonymous brown paper, sometimes will have rough versions of the covers though usually without any specials (things like embossing, texture, and foil that will be found on the final edition).  Typically they will have various persuasive stretchings of the truth on the back cover to entice would-be buyers.  Things like, in the case of this proof: “Abercrombie has a unique, smart, wry voice and an ability to make fantasy cliches his own.” or “The Heroes is his best novel to date: a stunning war novel, impeccably written, with superb characterisation.” “One for fans of George RR Martin and Bernard Cornwell alike!”  Actually those are all true.  Understatements, really.

Now, oftentimes proofs will be sent out to reviewers straight away, but I suspect in this case we might hold off for a month or two to prevent a spate of reviews sweeping the interpipes in early september followed by three months of stony silence prior to release.  Still, folks at my publisher, at other publishers, and key booksellers around the place may well already be reading it.  Not to mention my wife.  That gives me a bit of a shiver, I must confess (people reading the book, not mention of my wife).  I mean, obviously, the book is objectively ace, I have never doubted that for an instant.  My publisher’s carefully wordered marketing spiel on the back of the proof prooves it and my mum agrees, or at least says she does.  But will the fickle readers realise its aceness?  Or will, as has occasionally happened with my other books, the sheer onslaught of aceness, the crackling electricity of quality, overload the aceness recognition centres of the brains of some readers (possibly rendered over-sensitive by years of reading dross), causing them to come away with the badly mistaken, if not to say sadly deceived, impression that the book is actually quite poor.  Only time will tell…

Naturally, I will be scouring the internet for any early opinions, and will report back as and when they should appear in all their gory glory.  Unless they’re negative opinions, clearly caused by neurochemical imbalance.  In which case I will treat them with the contempt they deserve.

Posted in news, process by Joe Abercrombie on August 29th, 2010.

50 comments so far

  • Kate says:

    Looks excellent (and you didn’t lie when you said that the cover needed some more blood). I want one!!!

  • ChrisW says:

    So the books title is Joe Abercrombie by some guy called the heroes? Do they keep inflating your name font to keep up with your head?:)

  • ErikNL says:

    Awesome 😀 Grats on another milestone

    Are you going to send some ARCs to fans? Maybe do a lottery like with BSC? #competitions

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    If they kept pace with my head we’d need a fold out to fit the name across it. Relative size of name to title is in fact a sales decision rather than a design one, however. Once you reach a certain level of sales they tend to insist on it on the rationale that the name becomes the recognisable brand, the title increasingly irrelevant…

  • Matt says:

    Thats a woodcutting axe not a battle axe. It would get caught too easily on everything.

  • Bryce says:

    Looks great Joe.

    I’ve always wondered what volume of your various books have your sold?

  • Sean says:

    Awesome! Also, i suspect i will tend to use “Ace!” in my conversations more. It’s such a cool Britishism that I think the States need more of.

    @Matt: woodcutters can kill people too…

  • Sean says:

    Awesome! Also, i suspect i will tend to use “Ace!” in my conversations more. It’s such a cool Britishism that I think the States need more of.

    @Matt: woodcutters can kill people too…

  • Dav says:

    Another staunch display of your badassitude, Mr Abercrombie. Us Brits are all so terribly proud, even if you are a Lancastrian.

  • Dan says:

    Awesome, Joe! Great job. Thank you for not making us wait 5+ years between books! But I want one of those ARC’s! Maybe you should give a couple away in a contest, or pick a few of us regular posters here on your blog, who always give you our unquestioned support…hint hint!

  • I wonder if it’s a goof or an intentional piece of irony, that in the sentence about your publisher’s carefully worded marketing spiel, you mistyped the words “worded” AND “proves”…

    Clever… or a little bit stupid?

    Either way, love it. Joe can do no wrong.

  • Madman42 says:

    A beautiful sight to behold…

  • SwindonNick says:

    Well, I get a few ARCs and I’m on the Amazon Vine thing, so I am hoping rather desperately that I get offered this. And yes, I would still buy a proper one when they come out….

  • Matt says:

    I sound so pedantic.perhaps its old age. No army in history has ever given its soldiers that as a weapon. A sword beats an axe every day because it can stab as well as slash. An axe is a pickup weapon when youre home is attacked. Sorry to be so dour and pragmatic.

  • Dav says:

    An axe is heavier, easier to produce(MASSIVELY), and far more durable than a sword (Think about it- if a sword isn’t made right, it can bend or shatter. If an axe isn’t made right, not as much hacky, but that’s it). Add onto this the fact you can use a hatchet for a million and one things without risking that valuable edged, and you’ll find axes + spears in pretty much every army in colossal quantities. Swords? Not so much. Not since the Roman Imperial Legions has a sword been the mainstay of any army. Knights, you say? Agincourt was primarily won by axes, mauls, billhooks and halberds. Even in the English Civil War, there was 5 Pikes ATLEAST for every Sword. This continued until the introduction of the Bayonet.

    Either way, Joe has always been one to talk of narrative license. An axe, I think, symbolises the North abit more than a sword: as you said, it’s something you’d pick up and use. Considering most of the Northmen were builders and hunters aswell as warriors, it makes sense.

    Mr.Abercrombie, correct any of my mistakes.

  • Dav says:

    As for your statement it is a woodcutting axe, I direct you to the Bearded Axes used by Huscarls at Hastings: sometimes, you need to do as much damage as possible with a single blow. If you can drag out a few bones with one strike, that combatant is a casualty, if not outright dead.

  • Dan says:

    Matt, how do we know the axe pictured is used in any battles in the book? Maybe it represents, as you say, a woodcutting axe. Maybe black Dow was chopping up a cord for the winter and chopped his fruits off. We don’t. It doesn’t matter. It’s fantasy. There are dudes with blue tattoo’s that can’t be injured. There magic and shit. It looks cool on the cover. Just enjoy it;)

  • Nick Sharps says:

    Absolutely beautiful, can’t wait.

  • Hadean says:

    Matt – northmen are somewhat resembling vikings and I’m sure everyone would agree on that.
    Bearded axes weren’t unusal weapon for vikings and as people before me mentioned, they have been used by more recent armies as well.

    The beard (lower part of the head) itself is used to hook and draw off enemy shields too.

  • Matt,
    It is bold of you to face me on the battlefield of historical arms and armour. Very bold… Pedantry is always welcome here, of course, but I have to disagree with you across the board. Dav makes good points about the expense and rarity of swords. Few armies in history have actually “given” their soldiers much of anything. Most, especially in the early medieval period, expected them to turn up with their own arms and armour, and few indeed of those “soldiers” could have afforded anything as specialised and expensive as a sword. Axes were far, far more versatile and cheaper and easier to produce, swords tended to be the preserve of the very small and usually semi-aristocratic hardcore of professional fighters.

    Few indeed are the armies across history I can think of who would have used a sword as the primary weapon of war. Roman legionaries, maybe, but their gladius was hardly the multi-purpose weapon you describe, but was used almost exclusively for stabbing. Swords in general are very rarely equally useful for stabbing or slashing, in fact. Viking swords often didn’t even have points. Late medieval knights carried swords but rarely used them on the battlefield. Not very effective against heavy armour. They usually fought dismounted if given the choice, and tended to use crushing and punching weapons like the two-handed pole-axe (or pollaxe) or warhammer, with a mace or, indeed, axe as a hand-weapon. The vast majority of soldiers fighting alongside them would have used polearms like the bill-hook or halberd, or bows. The axe, in a variety of different shapes and profiles, was used by Greek Hoplites, Roman Auxiliaries, Saxon Huscarls, Gothic Knights, Confederate irregulars, you name it. It was particularly popular with relatively primitive warriors of the early middle ages, like the Saxons, Celts and Vikings that the Northmen are largely based on.

    As far as this particular example goes, the “bearded” profile was common in horsemen’s axes, where the downward-angle of the blade was suited to the downward trajectory a mounted man would tend to employ against an unfortunate standing one. As Hadean points out, Viking axes were typically of this shape, where they were often used for a short, downward hacking action over the top of the shield wall as much as a full-blooded swing. Vikings also sometimes used a skeg axe, which had a pronounced hook on the bottom specifically designed to snag opponent’s shields and equipment and drag them down to create openings. The example on the cover of the Heroes clearly has a very pronounced “beard” but it’s also, with the decoration on the blade and haft, clearly an expensive weapon, probably of a respected warrior, and weapons that exaggerated features for prestige are far from uncommon. This one still looks pretty functional to me. It certainly looks uncommonly heavy, but given that the Northmen have been fighting the Union for some time, and the Union use heavy plate armour, it doesn’t seem at all unlikely that Northern smiths would have experimented with weightier versions of traditional weapons suited to crush plate armour. Such a weapon would be just as well suited to fighting a heavily armoured opponent as a sword, probably not more so.

    So I find your arguments rather unconvincing, and this a reasonably realistic depiction, hugely so when compared to many of the battle-axes one sees in fantasy artwork. But let us not forget that this is fantasy. Convincing, yes, authentic, where possible, but absolute realism is not the aim. Nor is dour pragmatism. If you can’t exaggerate somewhat for effect in fantasy, what’s the point of it?

  • Sedulo says:

    Yes, the axe does look functional. In fact it appears to have recently ahmmm, functioned. I like it. Bloody, but not so much that it is campy.

    Why are Abercrombie covers so controversial? Pent up enthusiasm/anticipation?

  • Elfy says:

    I’m just amazed that ace is still used as a way of describing something totally awesome. If ace can come back into vogue, then I’m going to try and make grouse popular down here in Australia again.

  • Yulwei says:

    Seeing that the book exists in a readable form merely makes waiting for them all that much harder.

  • Jon says:

    Congratulations. That must be such a great moment.

  • Dav says:

    We expect the best of our Lancastrian Lancer. His books are known for being very gritty, and subverting the most fantastical (pun-intended) of fantasy cliches due to their unlikelihood. In a similar fashion, we expect his covers to be accurate and, if not dourly pragmatic, atleast possible and explainable. As he has put above (HE MENTIONED ME! HE MENTIONED ME!), that is the case.

    One question about the Union Armies: how large is a regiment? Is it similar to the regiments of Cumberland (Up to 800 men, but far more likely to be less than that) or staunch, numerically identica units, such as the Roman Cohorts?

  • neth says:

    Those look nice. And I sure hope one finds its way into my hands soon.

  • David says:

    I just finished the First Law trilogy based on a friends recommendation. I live in the states. Any chance of a movie deal? Also, what of Logen, are you done with this character?

  • David says:

    Will there be maps in this book? I read somewhere that you said future releases of The First Law may include maps. Why are you against maps?

  • ogbebaba says:

    Joe your publishers are right. Because of the immense joy i got from reading and rereading then listening to your books now I am at the point that if I was in a book store and saw a book with a plane brown cardboard cover that just said a new book BY JOE ABERCROMBIE and nothing else I would buy 3 copies and send messages to all the people I have converted to JOE ABERCROMBIE fans

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    All covers seem to be controversial these days.

    Somewhere in the 1-2,000 range.

    Yes it does indeed have maps of the developing battlefield, and unit positions on the morning of each day. I’m not “against maps”, but I didn’t honestly feel the first law needed one, and I felt there were drawbacks to including one as well as advantages. Ultimately it was the publisher’s decision not to put maps in the First Law, but it’s one that I broadly support. Click on the “On Maps” tab in the frequently asked bar on the left and you may find some further answers.

  • Troy says:

    You can go find a really nice map of the first law trilogy by going to google and searching.Infact its so nice its my ps3 wallpaper. Dont know if its Abercrombie approved but it gets the job done in my mind anyways 🙂

  • Nick Sharps says:

    I fully support the “no maps” thing. With fantasy books I usually open the cover, see the map, flip past it, and never look back. With the First Law trilogy I found myself trying to plot everything in my head, a very rare occurrence.

  • bta says:

    Lovely cover.
    We all enjoy a good axe murder.

    As to the perennial map discussion thing – maps of fantasy countries don’t seem necessary to me, despite the tongue-in-cheek Rule as expounded in Diana Wynne Jones’s ‘The Rough Guide to Fantasy Land’. (Another favourite author of mine doesn’t use them either – K. J. Parker.)

    However, maps showing battlefield deployment and the movement of forces in a complicated military action are something else again (see: Jac Weller, ‘Wellington in the Peninsular’). Damn useful in these circumstances. Good on yer Joe for throwing some of those in.

    Can’t wait.
    How many days to go?
    Too many.

  • Harvey Quinn says:

    Exceptional cover as always, can’t wait to see it in the flesh.

  • Jenni says:

    Too bad in Germany we don’t get those nice covers.

  • David says:

    Unfortunately my book store only shows the bindings so this cover will go missed by many.

  • Yulwei says:

    What store do you use? Most stores tend to show the full covers of new books in order to maximise the sale of said books. If it was the paperback version then maybe they’d only show the binding since it’s not really new at that point but this is likely to be displayed in it’s full glory.

    As for maps I’d like one but if I don’t get one I’m fine. If you do provide one though then you’d better cram it with as much if not more detail than a real map

  • Sven says:

    Ahhh…. Drool! 😉 Damn! Now the waiting begins ….
    January was it, right? 🙂

    Kindest regards from Belgium 😉

  • Tim says:

    Any medieval war / strategy game bears out certain truths about the role of swords. Your base troops never have them, they consist of pikemen, spearmen, foot soldiers with polearms and the like.

    Further up the food chain of troops, sword fighters invariably appear but a thing that I notice in nearly every game… they never have a decent niche in battle. They’re inferior to archers and cavalry. They’re even inferior to spearmen most of the time. Just sayin’.

    It might simply be anomalous to how strategy games are built without an eye for realism. I’ve played a lot of them over the years and some are better than others for sure, but I’ll be damned if I can ever really find a use for swordsmen in any of them. haha

  • Susanne says:

    Very, very pretty. You must be so proud.

    Also, huzzah for maps!

    @SwindonNick: ARCs, you say. Amazon Vine thing, you say. *strokes white cat* Interesting. VERY interesting.

  • martingriffy says:

    Hi Joe,
    where would you most likely get a First Edition, first print of your new books (or anyones books) Amazon?.. or, a Bookstore? or Publishers website?

    Its nigh on impossible to find out this kind of info.
    Any advise would be most welcome.

    P.s Love your moves.

  • J.M. Martin says:


    My name’s Joe. But that’s not why I’m writing. I’m writing because I want to tell you that when David Gemmell passed away, it felt like a big hole was punched through my chest. His books were my favorite way to waste my time in a constructive manner.

    GRRM, Sanderson, Rothfuss, and Wooding have all done their part to fill that hole somewhat, but you, sir, have filled it the most. For that, I thank you.

    I’m excited and happy you’ve shared this moment with us. And even more happy you’ve shared with us your kick-ass vision. I think Gemmell would have approved, although never having met the man, I can’t say for sure. He might have thought you were a flaming tosser.

    And that’s okay.

    Keep sharing!

    A fan,

    J.M. Martin

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Non approved.

    The sword is the weapon of the individual – the duellist, the skirmisher, the officer, the leader. One reason for its prestige, I suspect. Individuals are always somehow more celebrated, more conspicuous than the tedious shoulder to shoulder masses in formation. The phalanxes and squares, the massed ranks of spearmen, pikemen, halberdiers, musketeers and riflemen. But it’s the formations that win battles.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Martin Griffy,
    Goldsborough books are good for signed firsts. If it’s just a first of the Heroes, you’re after, anything ordered now from amazon or book depository should turn up a first first. If it’s older books you’re after, that’s more difficult. The hardcover print runs for the First Law were pretty small, so they’re quite rare and expensive now…

    JM Martin,
    I’m sure Gemmell would have thought I was a flaming tosser. I understand he was an excellent judge of character.

  • martingriffy says:

    Cheers Joe,
    Never even heard of that site before.

    I got Last Argument of Kings, signed first for 60 squids(got laptop in asia, no pound sign).
    As for the first two novels, no chance, unless I want or could part with anything up to grand.
    So… er, if you got any First Law firsts lying around, ill, ahem.. be more than happy to lighten your load(of books that is).

  • pete says:

    only discovered your books 7 weeks ago by chance.i have devoured them all since,and have spread the word here in ireland,new book looks mighty roll on jan,thanks for hours of enjoyment

  • Garret says:

    Oooh, yes. It DOES look chunky. Many hours of pure joy ahead, for me, I think. Yes. Yes.

  • Brad says:

    I live in the US but am totally going to buy the UK edition because it looks way more badass and matches the theme of BSC (which, I got the UK version of as well)

  • Rosemary Punter says:

    Oooh, can’t wait to get my copy, Joe!

    Does this cover feel like parchment like your previous books?

    Rosie, The Wicked Sword Maiden

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