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he writes books

Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Sat 13
Jul
2013

Secrets of the Printer’s Key

Syrup That row of numbers on a book’s copyright page is called the printer’s key and tells you whether you’re holding a first edition or fourth or what. First editions look like this:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

… and each time the publisher goes back to the presses for a reprinting, they delete a number. So this:

5 6 7 8 9 10

… is a fifth printing of that edition.

This isn’t really a secret. I just thought that was a funny blog title. But reprintings are great, because they mean the book sold more than the publisher’s worst fears. It’s a constant source of joy to me that while the Syrup hardcover was such a commercial disaster that you can more easily find remaindered copies than real ones, the paperback keeps getting reprinted, fourteen years on. Last month, I flipped to a Syrup copyright page and saw this:

20 19 18 17 16 15

I don’t care if they are running off eight books at a time; that’s awesome. It’s so sad when a book goes out of print. It’s like a little death. I hope e-books will save authors from those.

Syrup movie tie-in edition, showing Amber Heard, Kellan Lutz, Brittany Snow,
and Shiloh Fernandez Also, Syrup just got itself a movie tie-in edition! As a reader, I’ve always disdained movie tie-in editions. I’m all, “If I wanted to see the movie, I would, like, see it.” But as an author, it makes me stupidly happy. I mean, movie tie-in edition. Who wouldn’t want one of those. And I’ve never really loved the existing Syrup covers. I don’t hate them. But I don’t love them. The US paperback in particular looks to me like an ironic comment on marketing, only without the ironic part.

Plus, these will make excellent gifts for people who have no intention of reading the book but will be impressed by the fact that it’s a movie.

Comments

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Machine Man subscriber fredzfrog (#2368)

Location: Moe
Quote: "Fredzfrog"
Posted: 1893 days ago

Damn it, iI*need* a syrup hardcover... Where can i obtain one of these "remaindered" copies?

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 1893 days ago

They turn up in weird places. You can't order one from a regular bookstore, but it's not too hard to find one second-hand, e.g. on ebay or Amazon.

Joanna (#5296)

Location: Seattle, WA
Quote: ""The wise man despises no one. Instead, he watches him closely and tries to discover the roots of what he sees." (Gogol, Dead Souls)"
Posted: 1893 days ago

There are hardcovers of Syrup?!?! I must find one. What is the ISBN?? (FYI, the link for the us cover is broken-- maxbarry.eve instead of .com)

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 1893 days ago

Fixed broken link, thank you for letting me know!

ISBN of Syrup hardcover (1999) is 0670886408. It looks like this:

www.maxbarry.com/cover.html?usa_hb_big

Nial Wheate (#5873)

Location: Sydney
Posted: 1893 days ago

Is that always true? Just looking at Lexicon right now and the number sequence is 1,3,5,7,9,10,8,6,4,2?????? Which i guess is still 1 through 10 just out of order.

Machine Man subscriber fredzfrog (#2368)

Location: Moe
Quote: "Fredzfrog"
Posted: 1893 days ago

Thanks max. :)

Any reason why they'd do it that way instead of a simple "3rd printing"? Seems you could fake 1st ed's easyer by getting a (very) skilled forger to replace the missing numbers.

Machine Man subscriber Chemical Rascal (#3964)

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "Don't read this. It's not relevant to anything. Go away."
Posted: 1893 days ago

Nial: Some publishers are just... special.

That said, my copy of "The Art of War" by Penguin (which is to say that Penguin published it - Sun-Tzu was not (a) penguin) has the same thing. Perhaps some printer, at some point, got bored and thought "Haha, fuck simplicity, segregating odd and even numbers is cool and is also a subtle commentary of pre-civil-rights-America!".

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 1893 days ago

According to the Wikipedia article, the reason sometimes publishers do it like this:

2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1

... is because the line remains centered as you remove numbers. Probably less useful in modern days, when layouts are not managed by oil-soaked press men but rather by intelligent murderous robots (I assume).

And the reason they delete numbers rather than write "THIRD PRINTING" is apparently because they think printers are too incompetent to handle that level of sophistication.

I don't know why they often go backward from 10.

Machine Man subscriber Stygian Emperor (#2947)

Location: the Stygian Empire
Quote: "Flesh is a design flaw."
Posted: 1893 days ago

The only Syrup cover in the US I liked was the audiobook one with the straw. Sadly on Audible the little thumbnail I got in the app is the troll glasses guy peeking over the soda.

Machine Man subscriber Todd (#3429)

Location: New York
Quote: "It's fun to have fun but you have to know how."
Posted: 1892 days ago

Wow, 15!

Machine Man subscriber Graham (#4998)

Location: Adelaide, Australia
Quote: "You know, my kids think you're the greatest. And thanks to your gloomy music, they've finally stopped dreaming of a future I can't possibly provide."
Posted: 1892 days ago

Just picked up my trade paperback copy of Lexicon, it just has a '1' on the copyright page by itself, which seems to contradict everything above. WTF?

Anyway Max, not sure how much of my $25 you get, but please ignore your family responsibilities and spend it on beer.

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 1892 days ago

Well, it's not like a law. It's just what they usually do. The US first editions of LEXICON have "1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2" and the UK & Commonwealth ones have "1".

towr (#1914)

Location: Netherlands
Posted: 1892 days ago

I've looked around a bit, and if anyone's interested, apparently there's even an unused signed hardcover of Syrup still available: www.abebooks.co.uk/servlet/SearchResults?an=barry&bi=h&ds=30&n=100121501&sortby=3&tn=syrup (second result)

Anyway, the new movie tie-in paperback, I assume that has the movie version of the story? Or is it still the original story?

Stijn (#5223)

Location: Belgium
Quote: "Seek nothing and you will find everything."
Posted: 1892 days ago

Can you say "movie tie-in edition" fast?

Brittany O. (#1688)

Location: Montana
Quote: "people are kind of overrated "
Posted: 1891 days ago

Seriously. I had to go check all my books for which edition I have. Firsts on all of yours except my "Syrup" paperback (8th) but my hardcover is a first so I am okay with that. Could they please make Machine Man a hardback. I have the whole collection in hardback and that one is lonely...

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 1890 days ago

@towr:
> Anyway, the new movie tie-in paperback, I assume that has the movie version of the story?

That would be pretty freaky. I wonder who would write that. No, it's the exact same book only with a different cover.

@Stijn:
> Can you say "movie tie-in edition" fast?
I sure can! Movietieineditionmovietieineditionmootinoovieteetoo.

@Brittany:
> Could they please make Machine Man a hardback.
Someone on Twitter pointed me at a Machine Man hardcover that was a special edition for some reason... book club? Not sure. I don't think you can find one unless you stumble across it at a second-hand bookstore though.

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 1890 days ago

MACHINE MAN hardcover proof of existence:

twitter.com/chownlife/status/349333193029201920

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 1890 days ago

Also: link to MACHINE MAN hardcover at 2nd-hand bookstores via Amazon:

www.amazon.com/gp/product/1617931888/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Tor Lumiere Marie (#6526)

Location: Liverpool, UK
Posted: 1739 days ago

I watched the Syrup movie last night and thought it was brilliant, I can't believe it only got 18% on Rotten Tomatoes. Anyway, I was wondering if you know about the UK brand of energy drinks, Pussy? They say the brand was inspired by Virgin Media but I can't help but notice a hell of a lot of parallels with Syrup.

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