Interview with Brian James Freeman about It: The 25th Anniversary Special Edition

Cemetery Dance Publications is a small press publisher of some of the biggest names in horror. They've delivered books by authors like Jack Ketchum, Joe R. Lansdale, Peter Straub, Justin Cronin, and of course, Stephen King. Their latest project with King has proved to be their biggest to date, not only in popularity but in sheer, physical size. The staff of Cemetery Dance has been busy the last couple of weeks shipping the first copies of It: The 25th Anniversary Special Edition, the publisher's own Brian James Freeman was kind enough to take a few minutes to answer some questions about the beautiful and highly anticipated book.

FEARnet: To start off, give us a description of the different versions of the anniversary edition of Stephen King's It.

There is a Slipcased Oversized Hardcover Gift Edition of only 2,750 illustrated copies.  These were printed in two colors with two color hot foil stamping, a fine binding, and embossed endpapers. This edition is still available as of right now.

There is also a Traycased Oversized Hardcover Signed Limited Edition of only 750 illustrated copies printed in two colors and bound in leather with two color hot foil stamping, a satin ribbon page marker and different embossed endpapers, signed by Stephen King and all of the artists.  This one sold out about 24 hours after it was announced.

And finally, there is an Oversized Signed Hardcover Lettered Edition of only 52 illustrated copies printed in two colors and bound in two different fine materials with gilded page edges, imported endpapers, a satin ribbon page marker, and protected in a custom deluxe box, signed by Stephen King and all of the artists.  This one will easily be the nicest edition of any book we've ever published and it sold out within minutes of being announced.

If you're curious what makes a Stephen King Gift Edition and Limited Edition different from the normal, mass produced "bookstore" edition you're accustomed to seeing, I recommend collectors visit these two galleries on our website:

Photos of Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Photos of The Secretary of Dreams (Volume Two) by Stephen King 

If you've ever wondered what a Deluxe Lettered Edition of a Stephen King book looks like, you can visit this gallery:

Photos of our Deluxe Lettered Edition of The Secretary of Dreams (Volume One)

I've posted some photos of the Gift Edition and the Limited Edition of It on my blog, but be forewarned that I'm not a very good photographer and these don't do the books justice. 

How close is the Gift Edition to selling out?

It's about 80% sold out.

How did the 25th anniversary edition come about?

The same way many of our favorite projects have happened: a casual conversation that resulted in a terrific idea that everyone was happy with.  A lot of projects are proposed to King every year, so we're always thrilled when he responds to one of our ideas.

How did you settle on Glen Orbik for the cover art and Alan M. Clark and Erin Wells for the interior illustrations?

Glen felt like a natural fit after he painted the Blockade Billy cover for us last year.  He has an amazing gift for depth and details.  We love working with Alan, so when we decided to add six color plates to the book, he was our first pick.  Erin is relatively new to the Cemetery Dance family, but she really impressed me with the way she handled a difficult project for me at Lonely Road Books.  I was thrilled to give her the chance to work on this book and she turned in some amazing artwork.

How involved in the process has Stephen King been? Did he have a hand in selecting the artists or approving artwork?

King generally lets you run with your ideas for these special editions, but he does approve the artists and we send a lot of the artwork his way for feedback.

How does the size of this edition compare to other big books you've published? I'm thinking specifically of the Secretary of Dreams books.

The trim-size is 7 X 10 like our editions of From a Buick 8 and Full Dark, No Stars (or The Passage by Justin Cronin or The Exorcist/Legion by William Peter Blatty for some non-King examples), but it has a higher page count than anything else we've ever published, coming in at 1,052.  In fact, it's easily the largest book we've ever published.

So, did your printer have a nervous breakdown when you proposed this book? What have been some of the production challenges you've faced?

The biggest production challenge was keeping the spine width to three inches, which is the maximum our printer can bind.

It is often listed as a favorite among long-time King readers. In your opinion, what is it about the book that's helped it endure?

The way King deftly paints the very real lives and fears of children seems to resonate with readers of all ages.  Plus, of course, most people are rightfully afraid of clowns.

King has been a big supporter of Cemetery Dance over the years. How instrumental has he been in the company's success, particularly early on?

Publishing an original short story by him in Cemetery Dance #14 ("Chattery Teeth") was obviously a big moment for the company, along with publishing a special edition of From a Buick 8 in 2002.  We've published close to 250 books by many of our favorite authors, but working on the King titles is always exciting.

Any future plans for anniversary or special editions of King books?

Nothing concrete, but we're always open to the possibilities. 

What are some other King books – or genre books in general – that people have asked Cemetery Dance to do similar editions of? (Personally, I'd love to see you take on Pet Semetary or Bag of Bones.)

Both of those are frequent requests.  Bag of Bones is one of my personal favorites.  The Shining gets requested a lot, too.  That would be a fun book to work on.  The artwork could be incredible.

Tell us about the art portfolio that's in the works in conjunction with the book. Was that something planned all along, or was it a response to fan requests?

We received a lot of requests from collectors to purchase prints of the artwork, so the portfolio idea grew from those requests.  The It Artwork Portfolio is now more than 90% sold out and I expect the rest to be sold by the time they start shipping in March 2012.

By the way, I produced a small artwork portfolio for my Lonely Road Books Deluxe Lettered Edition of Blockade Billy by Stephen King, so I put that experience to work when we sat down and started planning the It Artwork Portfolio.  It's going to be very cool looking. 

Now that the project is shipping, were there any unexpected issues or obstacles that you had to overcome to get something of this size (literally and figuratively) completed?

Just the sheer size of the book.  Everything about It is huge and there were no electronic files available, so the original hardcover had to be scanned and then copyedited very carefully to fix all of the stutters!

Does something like this bring a lot of first-time customers to Cemetery Dance?

There are a lot of fans of It who may not normally collect books but who saw our cover artwork and some of the interior artwork and decided to take the plunge.  The feedback from them is very positive and I hope they'll check out some of our other books.