In a little over a month, the real, ISBN-laden Far Arden will hit the shelves. In the meantime I've received the dummy copy from our printer in China. Chris and Brett at Top Shelf shipped it to me after signing off on it, and since I'm the end of the line, I get to keep it!
I'm really excited about having this dummy, probably because one of my favorite books as a kid was Aliki's How a Book Is Made (which may have been the first graphic novel I ever read).
Anyway, the part where Aliki's furry main character gets a dummy copy of her book from the printer stuck out to me as the highlight of the entire publishing process. Sure, having the final book is great. But the dummy stands on its own: there's only one in the world (compared to the thousands of printed copies), its role is of critical importance (the last chance to check for mistakes before the plates get burned), and it's a novelty (the first time you get to see your book in one printed unit).
The Far Arden dummy is especially interesting because it's tagged all over with Chinese stamps and handwriting. But don't take my word for it:
[ click for larger images ]
A digital print out of the cover. The book will be hardcover, and so there needs to be a lot of bleed where it wraps over the cover board and tucks behind the endpapers.
The endpapers will have the arctic map that was on the the interior pages of the self-published version.
The 384 page book is divided into 24 signatures. Printers print books on large sheets of paper -- in this case 8 pages per side -- and then cut and fold these large sheets down into 16 page booklets. Crack open most hardcover books and you can see the signatures. Because books are printed on such large sheets, the interior pages (usually) have to be multiples of 8 or 16. This is why you might see blank pages at the beginning or end of a book -- they are parts of a signature that have no content.
Here are some samples of the Chinese markings from the publisher. They probably read, "This American book looks nutty, but it's ready to go to press."
Finally, here's the whole book wrapped up. She's a beast!