word craft


When I get the first copy of a new book …

Sophia's WarFrom the time I first con­tem­plat­ed the sto­ry that would become Sophia’s War, and the moment when the pub­lished vol­ume came into my hands, it has been more than three years. By con­tract, I get some copies of the book, which usu­al­ly arrive about one month pri­or to the offi­cial pub­li­ca­tion date. 

What do I do when I get the first copy in my hands? I look at it. This is to say I get a sense of the phys­i­cal book, the bind­ing, the paper, the cov­er, the print­ing. (There is good print­ing and bad print­ing.) Does the book open flat enough? Is the gut­ter wide enough? How is the font? What does the book look like under the dust jack­et? In this case I looked at the maps, because I had not seen them in place before.

(Once I dis­cov­ered a huge print­ing mis­take in my first copies of The Man Who was Poe, so bad the whole print run had to be called back, and redone!)

Then, what I always do is take that first copy of the book, sign the title page, add the date I received it. It then it goes on shelves of sim­i­lar­ly signed books—and it just sits there.

Charlotte Doyle signed 90In all probability—unless there is a par­tic­u­lar rea­son to do so—I won’t read the whole book again. I have, after all, read it a few thou­sands of times. Yes, I may be called upon to read excerpts at var­i­ous occasions—as I just did in NYC—and I enjoy that. But now, the book belongs to readers.

Besides, I’m work­ing on some­thing new.

1 thought on “When I get the first copy of a new book …”

  1. If I become a writer some­day, get­ting the first copy of my book would be total­ly sat­is­fac­to­ry expe­ri­ence for me, because I love hav­ing some­thing of a his­to­ry of my achievements.


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