The Authority of Print

January 16th, 2014

So, this past couple of weeks I’ve been going through two sets of Page Proofs for Half a King, one for Del Rey’s US edition, one for HarperCollins’ UK edition.  This is when the book, in its (almost) final typeset form, is sent to you for final approval on loose leaves of A4, and you hunt through for errors, typos, details you suddenly realise are rubbish (amazing how, during a dozen other read-throughs, you can sometimes miss the same word used twice in consecutive sentences, or even the same sentence) and issues of formatting.  This, is, of course, a time-honoured phase of the process and, indeed, I’ve discussed it before at some length in – wait for it – 2007.

The interesting thing with this particular set is the somewhat different approaches the US and UK publishers have taken:


The UK (left) have gone for a bigger point size and narrower setting, which has produced a much bigger page count (370ish).  The US (right) have gone for smaller type, turning the book in a full 100 pages shorter.  The UK have also gone for a much simpler, more classic layout, while the US have done some quite interesting stuff with grey scales and arrangement, especially on the part title pages:


Which you prefer is going to be very much a matter of taste, of course.  Be interesting to see how they look when the books are printed and bound.  Why the difference, some will ask?  Really just a matter of house style and a judgement by the designer on a look that suits the book and the intended audience.

It’s been really interesting reading the book over again, actually (twice).  There’s quite a profound difference between reading a roughly formatted typescript and the properly typeset pages.  A gain in authority, you might say.  A sense that, bloody hell, I actually wrote a proper, honest-to-goodness book here.  Not that I’m by any means a champion of paper over screen but that’s perhaps something that’s slightly lost with an e-book, where text has to wrap to new screens and point-sizes.  When I read off a screen I tend to get a faint sense of work-in-progress.  Properly set paper has that unarguable finality about it…


Posted in process by Joe Abercrombie on January 16th, 2014.

20 comments so far

  • John says:

    This post rocks my balls. I cannot wait.

  • JKJ says:

    Interesting. Never thought much about why a book has the typeset that it does. Realllllly liked First Law’s US version. Matched up perfectly with the overall tone/mood of the series I thought.

    But I’ve moved a lot the past few years, so with lugging my books from house to house, I’ve become an e-book fan, though I never would have thought that’d be the case. No scent in the world can match that of a freshly printed book. Page sniffers ftw.

  • Dave says:

    Interesting. It almost sounds like I would prefer the US version.
    I can get ranty (not a word I know) about the size of typeface used these days. ie “Oooh , look how big my new book is!”
    No. It’s a book. I can read. Ta.

  • Frank Fitz says:

    Dammit, I prefer the American version. Guess I’ll just have to buy both…

    Anyway, having just read through your linked post, I was wondering, what part of the writing process (in its entirety) do you dislike the most?

  • Phil Norris says:

    These page proofs are on A4 paper, as a matter of interest when you’re editing do you prefer to do it on the screen or with a solid copy?

    Personally I find I see more errors & omissions if I print it out than I do looking at it on the screen.

  • American version hands down.

  • One of the things I *love* about e-books is setting my own font size. In a physical book I prefer a slightly smaller font, so although I like the cleaner lines of the UK version I reckon the US one suits my preference better.

  • Chad says:

    I want to like the American version better, because, you know, ‘Merica, but I’m struggling–the UK version is so clean, it feels right. I don’t know what this says about me. I’m going to go salute the flag and pledge allegiance to it for awhile and report back with a decision.

  • Jeremy says:

    I’m from America and I want this book with the UK Style. Minimalist art just fits your novels so so well any extra clutter hurts my head! Plus that larger print ain’t too shabby!

  • Graham says:

    I’ll take one with the US title and the UK body please.

  • John Dunlop says:

    Font and style aside . I am curious about the book itself. Logen Ninefingers is the true king of the north by right of conquest, does this mean the old man has one last return?

  • J.C. Drake says:

    As an aspiring author myself, I find these small glimpses into the publishing industry fascinating. Especially the difference between US and UK tastes. Can’t wait to read Half a King.

  • Ryan says:

    Gimme the UK style with the US size. I hate books that are fluffed up by large fonts. It’s even worse when E-books do it.

  • Michael says:

    I was curious as to whether there was another aspect to the size of the book and its intended audience. As a piece of work aimed at 12-16 year olds, does the tome’s page count potentially influence sales?

  • Phil.I.P. says:

    Thanks for this insight, Joe. It’s interesting to see that, in a world seemingly dominated by PDFs, you are still working from real paper page proofs.

    Surely, it is only a matter of time before all proofs are produced in digital format?

    Whatever, this old Young Adult is looking forward very much to reading the results of your hard work.

  • Jacob says:

    American is more stylized.
    UK is simpler.

    Looking forward to it either way.

  • Temped says:

    I’m always compelled to hear news about new Abercrombie books finding their way to the Light of Life but I can’t help to think about the Tau form WH40K when I read “THE GREATER GOOD” =P

  • red snow says:

    I’m surprised how the font affects the page number that much for what’s a medium word count.
    I think this may be lost on me though as I’ll probably go for the digital copy. Trying to do it for all new series but I’ll keep buying the First law books to keep my inner collector happy.

  • manegarm says:

    a question to an other topic: when will blind ferret ship the preorders for first law graphic novel, i ordered in september and thought this should be out by december…

    will first law graphic novel be continued in printing and making?
    best regards to all

  • You say the US and UK versions use different point sizes – what font and font-size did each go for in the end?

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