by Sean Chercover
Trigger City just came out in paperback, and today I got a box of 'em in the mail from HarperCollins. Always exciting to open the inaugural "box o' books" from your publisher. You cut the tape and pull back the flaps and - at least for me - the first thing that hits is the smell. There's nothing like that "new book" smell.
I plucked one from the box, riffled the pages, reflexively checking to make sure that the changes from the hardcover edition had been made...
...and thought: Now it's real.
Don't get me wrong - I love the fact that my work first comes out in hardcover and, as a reader, I love reading (and collecting) hardcovers. I love the larger type and the substantial feel of a hardcover. But on some level, a book isn't real to me until it is available as a paperback.
I think this goes back to my teenage years (and earlier). Back then, books were mostly paperbacks, in my universe. All the classics we read for school assignments - and the equally influential stuff we read between assignments - we read in paperback. Poe and Faulkner and Twain and Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Orwell and Camus and Shakespeare, and ... well, everything. To Kill A Mockingbird, Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, Slaughterhouse Five, Native Son, The Little Sister, Brighton Rock, Notes From Underground, The Postman Always Rings Twice ...
Paperbacks (often used paperbacks) were what kids can afford. And this continued into college. As a college student, I splurged on a hardcover now and then, but most of my reading - most of the books that made me who I am - came to me by way of that most convenient (and economical) format.
Praise be, the mighty paperback!
As I said, I love that my stuff comes out in hardcover, but when it makes the leap to paperback, it becomes accessible to a huge number of people who simply do not drop 25 bones for a book.
It becomes ... democratized. And in that instant, it becomes real to me.
And it also becomes final.
I don't know who said it, but some big-shot writer once said that a piece is never finished, it is simply due. I'm an unrepentant tweaker, and given the opportunity, I could tweak forever. As you might imagine, I came up with a few changes between the hardcover and paperback editions of Trigger City. A few very small corrections and tweaks.
And one thing that was a little more significant: I added a new scene, in the final chapter.
Now, it's just a little scene (less than a page in length) and not at the very end, so the book finishes the same - but I felt that the added scene deepened the resonance of the final chapter. And, to my great joy, my editor agreed.
So I now hold the paperback version...
...final, because there are no more opportunities to tweak...
and real, because it is available for the price of a couple of beers.
And it makes me happy.