Monday, December 19, 2005

Things I Thought Only I Noticed

The Agony Column takes a close, piercing look at the horrors of inadequate leading in SF books today. (If you don't know what I mean, click the link.)

{shrug} Tor is a business. More specifically, they're a long-established SF business, so I'm sure they have a lot of norms, business rules, expectations, rules of thumb and historical data; all of which push books into particular niches (whether market or physical). Once they decided to publish Counting Heads (which is a wonderful novel, by the way; it may just be the best SF novel of 2005), it had to fit into specific parameters for them. It looks like that meant a 6" x 9" hardcover at 336 pages. (I suspect because they wanted to promote it as a major title, which meant 6" x 9" rather than 5 1/2" x 8 1/4".) And to fit into that package, it had to either have a lot of words on a page, or be cut down.

In the Good Old Days, a book in a situation like that would be routinely edited down to fit; if the author was really lucky, he'd have a chance to see, and swear at, the changes before they went into type. That doesn't happen anymore.

I've also seen fan anger (particularly on rec.arts.sf.written) over Tor's habit of cutting long books into several volumes, which seems to have been driven by the chain stores' diktat of about three years ago that they will not take a) SF hardcover books b) which are not "lead" titles and are c) priced above $25 retail. (And that is probably also somewhere behind the leading issue on Counting Heads as well.) Again, once any particular structure is in place, there are certain options available, but the other ones are even less palatable to the fans than book-fragments would be.

If Pyr is successful and long-lived (and I certainly hope and expect they will be), there will come a year when they decide to somewhat reduce leading on all of their titles to save some ungodly amount of money on a printing bill. And there will probably come another year when they decide to switch paper stock to save another huge piece of change. Right now, they're new and fresh and they get to start by doing things just the way they want to. I hope that lasts, but, after almost fifteen years in the belly of one particular beast, I don't really expect it.

1 comment:

RobB said...

I ranted about Tor's splitting on my blog back in March, right around when Rick Kleffel put up his article on that subject.

It is Very frustrating that Tor follows this practice that the bookstores seem to enforce. However, I've even said this on the forums I moderate at SFFWorld.com, I love when the SFBC repackages them as they were meant to be, al a Jacqueline Carey's Sundering.

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