I got to talking to Kirsten one day. Before a meeting. Or after. Or maybe it was during the meeting. I don’t have the steadiest of attention spans. I do remember that we didn’t reserve the conference room just so I could unload some personal issues, but that’s what ended up happening. I was complaining that I had been spending too much money on limited edition books. I thought maybe overspending on unnecessary extravagance was something she had experience with (knowing that she went to an upper-crust, east coast, liberal arts college, graduating with a degree in art history). I thought she could relate.
I was wrong.
“Do you need these books?”
“Can you find them cheaper?”
“That’s kinda not-“
“Don’t you have a library card?”
“Look, simply reading limited edition books is not the point of having limited editions.”
“Well, sorry, but reading books is the entire point of books.”
“No. These are collectibles. Small print runs. Limited print runs. Signed. With artwork. Special.”
“OK, fine. Can you afford them?”
So with that discovery session complete, we got back to my original complaint: my fretting about spending too much on limited edition books. Though “spending too much money” on something isn’t exactly the same as “can’t afford.”
“Yeah I can afford them, but it’s hard to justify dropping five hundred dollars on a book when the kids need new fidget spinners.”
“FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS? AMERICAN?!”
“Well, actually, it was four hundred and ninety.”
“You need to stop that.”
And here, my friends, is where we move beyond household budgets and venture into a deeper conversation about mental health.
“Well if you can’t stop buying these books, then we need to determine if you have an addiction or a compulsion.”
“What’s the difference?”
“An addiction is something you can’t stop doing that still gives you pleasure. A compulsion is something you can’t stop doing even though it’s no longer enjoyable.”
I told you she went to an upper-crust school.
“Well, it must be an addiction because I do rather enjoy these fine limited editions! In fact, I’m getting this limited edition of-”
The door to the conference room banged open. She was gone, taking the laptop she threw in a rage with her. But the laptop-throwing incident is a story for another time. This post is about me. Like all the posts.
This addiction diagnosis shook me down to my tiny, bird-like bones. I’ve lived my life guided by the motto “If you can’t put it down, don’t pick it up.” It’s why I’ve avoided cocaine, heroin, and The Wire. But despite my cautious ways, according to a not-quite-ivy-league educated lady, it seems I have acquired an addiction. I mean, Kirsten couldn’t possibly be wrong, so that’s a line of thinking I’m not even going to consider. I’m actually shocked that I’m including it here.
Besides, I know it’s true. Every way I flip it, my limited edition purchases add up to a really unmanly addiction. Men are supposed to be addicted to gambling or alcohol or sex or racing. Not getting a set of books with matching numbers. Unmanly is my brand.
I gave you all a peak at this addiction in this post. Though I didn’t realize it was an addiction when I wrote it. I thought I could stop buying these books anytime I wanted. I thought wrong.
Just to give you a little background on how my addiction works: a publisher will announce they’re doing a limited edition. They’ll announce the book and offer it at different levels of limited:
- Gift editions have the largest print runs, usually 1,500-5,000. They’re the cheapest.
- Numbered Editions (also Artist Editions or Signed Editions) have a smaller print run, about 500-850. They cost more.
- Then there’s the Lettered Editions. They are super limited with only 26-52 copies made and they almost always come in protective boxes called traycases. These editions are made with the finest materials and have all the extras. I have yet to see one bound in human skin and written in human blood, but I won’t be shocked when I do. The Lettered Edition for Stephen & Owen King’s upcoming book Sleeping Beauties cost $2500 and sold out immediately during the advance notice pre-sale. It wasn’t even offered to the general public and it was gone. 52 people paid twenty-five hundred dollars to buy a version of a book that will eventually be available on Amazon for about $30. And they were happy to do it. And I am jealous of each one of them.
I almost never buy the lettered editions because I don’t like being smothered to death with a pillow by Jill.
However, like all dedicated junkies, I have upped my usual dosage. Gift Editions were my gateway fix. I am now on to Numbered Editions. I’m chasing that dragon—that illustrated, signed, beautiful dragon—with top edge stain and head and tail bands and high-quality end papers.
I’m getting high just thinking about it. And don’t even get me started on remarques!!!
When I wrote that e-reader post I was only aware of Cemetery Dance and Grant Books. Grant Books was the publisher that got this flame in me lit. They were the ones who originally published Stephen King’s Dark Tower series and those were the editions I bought. Then Cemetery Dance did a 25th Anniversary Edition of IT in 2011 and I needed it. To live. Since then, Cemetery Dance has been on my radar and a whole world of collecting was opened to me.
Slowly, over the course of years, more editions came out that I couldn’t pass up.
If you pass because “money’s a little tight right now” the books will sell out and then you’ll be left scrambling to find a copy on eBay. You ever try to find the coffin box edition of The Stand on the secondary market? Well have you? I hope you got $4000 to spend, my friend! That’s why you bet your ass I jumped on the Cemetery Dance Artist Edition of The Shining when I was given advance notice. You. Bet. Your. Candy. Ass.
Another consequence of passing on a limited is being kept out of the loop. Say you take a pass on a book because it’s just not one you really want. That’s fine. You can do that. This is America. But don’t expect advance notice on the next book that publisher puts out. If the next book is something you need to live and all the insiders want it too, you might not get the chance to buy it.
I wanted the limited edition of Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar. But since it was an extremely low print run and I didn’t buy the previous book from the publisher (Lonely Road Books), I didn’t get the option to buy it. I had to enter a lottery and hope I was randomly selected for the chance to buy this $450 book. I wasn’t selected and I was crestfallen. My crest fell right the fuck off. It was at my feet. I was like “Holy shit, that’s my crest.”
So to circle back, had I passed on the Cemetery Dance Artist Edition of The Shining then I wouldn’t have a first crack at their edition of Night Shift. And if I pass on Night Shift, then I won’t have the chance to get The Stand and I will get murderous if I can’t get The Stand. I need it to live.
Of course Grant and Cemetery Dance were just the tip of this seemingly limitless limited edition berg of ice. I learned about other publishers. There’s Subterranean Press and Dark Regions Press and Earthling Publications and PS Publishing out of the UK and the top of the heap, in my opinion, the sweet blue meth of the Limited Edition world, Centipede Press. I subscribe to all of their newsletters. It’s like biblioporn. Pics of hot fresh editions with sexy satin ribbon markers wearing steamy dust jackets, ready to slip tightly into slipcases. It takes an enormous amount of will power to pass. And the point of this post is that I can’t pass. I’m addicted. These publishers are my dealers.
Sometimes these publishers will sell grab bags—“bags” of random books that they need to move out of their warehouses to make room for their new publications. People pay fifty to two hundred dollars for these grab bags without knowing which books will be in the bags. And there aren’t even bags! The books come shipped in boxes. Though that’s probably for the best.
It’s like going to the drug dealer and buying a mystery bag of narcotics.
“Hey man, whatchoo got?”
“I got this ‘Happy Sack’ for two hundred.”
“What’s in it?”
“I dunno. Could be weed. Maybe some smack. Or just a few diet cokes. Who knows?? You want it or not?”
“I’ll take five. My legs so itchy!!”
Hunting down limited editions can take you to some wonderful and dark places. I learned about The Nocturnal Reader’s Box when someone on a message board mentioned that they were offering a variant cover for Gwendy’s Button Box. The NRB is a subscription service that focuses on horror books. Every month they send out a box with two books and a ton of goodies. I’ve seen past unboxings on YouTube and I’m always impressed with what they send. To make it even better, they’re completely likable people. They’re just a husband and wife team, who are obviously fans of horror, giving other fans exactly what we want. Those are the kind of people I root for.
Then I also learned about Thunderstorm Books. Like Cemetery Dance and Subterranean Press, Thunderstorm specializes in producing top quality horror books. Where they take a dark turn is the type of horror they publish. According to a host of reviews I’ve read, they publish stuff that most consider to be torture porn. Really brutal and detailed descriptions of murder and dismemberment and serious trauma. The kind of violence that is only tangentially tied to a plot. Thus the “porn” label. No thanks, not my thing. Just reading the plot details of The Unhinged or The Summer I Died was enough to get the brain poison circulating.
On their site, Thunderstorm has a link to a place called The Clubhouse, described as:
a password-protected part of the website dedicated to those who frequently purchase lines, imprints, and titles directly from the publisher. Inside, there is a self-checkout function for ordering books, posts of early announcements, access to special books only available to clubhousers, a chat box for communicating with other Thunderstorm collectors and a weekly column.
It’s password protected. Think about that. It’s a place for people who like their horror served up raw, screaming, and deeply disturbing to communicate in private. Away from prying eyes. I don’t know. Maybe it’s nothing. But the idea of people who share a taste for the hard stuff getting together in secret to chat about descriptions of human mutilation, that’s chilling on a whole other level.
And with their regular books already pushing the needle beyond maximum violence, I can’t imagine what is contained in these “special books” that only “clubhousers” can buy.
Though I have been assured by other collectors that Thunderstorm produces a very fine limited edition. So there’s that.
I’m fighting this addiction. There are times I’ll get that email telling me about the new Josh Malerman or Joe Lansdale limited and I’ll look. I’ll drool a little bit. But I’ll suck that drool right back up and close the email. But then I’ll open it again. And I’ll look again. And I’ll write down the price of the book on a sticky note and tell myself that I’m going to save that much by not buying it. Then I’ll go home and tell Jill, “I saved a hundred and seventy-five dollars today!”
“How?” she’ll ask.
“By not buying the limited edition of Bird Box.”
“Oh, well then in that case I saved half your income today by not hiring a divorce attorney!”
But it’s a struggle. Because as that list of books grows, some of them get crossed off because I just couldn’t resist anymore. I’ll go back and buy them. Sometimes within the hour, knowing that they’re going to sell out if I don’t act quickly. Limited edition = limited time.
And after the purchase is made, it’s still not over. Sometimes the publisher will email, asking if you’d like to add a remarque to your limited edition. A remarque is a hand-drawn illustration by the artist who did the other works in the book. But this illustration will be something totally new. And just for you. And make your special edition so much more than special. It will make it irreplaceable. But the artist has only agreed to do 100 remarques and they are being offered first come, first served. So you have to act quickly.
Once the dust has settled, I’ll go back and continue to check until the edition I bought sells out. Then I will finally find completion. I own something rare. I’m among a select group.
Until the next book is announced.
Hi, I’m Jeff T. And I have an addiction.
I guess in a way, telling Kirsten about my book purchases was my attempt to break their hold on me. Kirsten is my go-to ruiner. If anyone can make me feel bad and force me to rethink my preferences, it’s her. And it’s true she shamed me, as I expected, but as I’m writing this I’m also checking to see if the Gift Edition of Sleeping Beauties is sold out yet. And wondering when they’re going to offer to remarque my edition for an additional cost. Kirsten didn’t cure me. This September, when PSLs are back in season, I’ll toast all my bad decisions, while being sure not to spill any on my Sleeping Beauties.