Twenty-five years ago this December, my grandmother – the person I hold most responsible for my love of reading – gave me Stephen King’s latest book, It, for Christmas. I was 15 years old at the time, already a voracious reader and a bonafide King fanatic. I can’t remember a single thing I got for Christmas that year except for that book.
It’s sitting on my desk right now as I type this. It was the biggest book I’d tackled at that point, even bigger than The Stand, which I had in paperback (the original version, not the restored version that would hit in hardcover years later). It’s what they called a doorstop, a big brick of pages that promised hours and hours of entertainment. The word “IT” is printed on that cover in grungy red letters, and below it there’s a sewer grate with a reptilian claw reaching through the slats. Next to it is a little sailboat made of folded paper. It had my imagination cooking before I read the first page.
I lugged that book around for two weeks, reading it every time I had five minutes to sit down and crack it open. It got to the point where my dad, normally a solid supporter of my reading habit, asked if he was ever going to see me again without that book in my hands. He did, eventually, but not until I finished it.
While the ending sort of threw me that first time around, the heart of the book – those long summer days spent down in the Barrens with The Losers Club – remains to my mind some of the finest character work King has ever pulled off. I identified with all of those kids. I felt for them, hurt for them, and found myself scared witless right along with them.
I don’t think I’m the only one that feels that way, and I think that’s why It is often mentioned when people talk about their favorite King novel. That ongoing goodwill is one reason Cemetery Dance has endeavored to put together a 25th anniversary edition of the book, something that will pay true honor to this classic novel of the wonder and terror of childhood. Recently I talked with Cemetery Dance’s Brian James Freeman about this, their latest King project, and you’ll see that they are pulling out all the stops to make this something truly special.
OC: To start off, give us a description of the different versions of the anniversary edition of Stephen King’s It.
BF: Sure thing! There is a Slipcased Oversized Hardcover Gift Edition of only 2,750 illustrated copies 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 for preorder.
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 in 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 used to seeing, I recommend collectors visit these two galleries on our website:
If you’ve ever wondered what a Deluxe Lettered Edition of a Stephen King book looks like, you can visit these galleries:
How close is the Gift Edition to selling out?
It’s about 75% sold out.
How did the 25th anniversary edition come about?
The same way some of our favorite editions have come about over the years: 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 will be 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 will have a higher page count than anything else we’ve ever published. In fact, it will easily be the largest book we’ve ever published. We had never crossed the 1,000 page mark before this.
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.
Tell us about the art portfolion 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 80% sold out and I expect the rest to be sold by the time they start shipping.
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.
Do you have a concrete release date for any of the editions in mind?
December of this year. We don’t have a “firmer” date than that because the slipcases and traycases are never quite done at the same time as the books, and then it’ll take a few weeks to assemble and ship all of the editions.