First of all, Anthony, thank you for agreeing to answer a few questions. The fine small presses have been exploding within the genre fiction world over the last few years and as the newest on the block, it’s exciting to gain some insight.Your first project, personal copies of Steven Erikson’s Gardens of the Moon, was a passion project to add a beautiful copy of one of your favorite books to your book collection; when did you start collecting books and did you have any particular focus?
Anthony: I 've been a big reader for a while, but didn't get into collecting books until fairly recently actually. I think I consciously started collecting late 2018 - I wanted a full hardback set of the Malazan Books of the fallen. This is how I came across Subterranean Press and their work - that kicked my collecting off really. Since then I have discovered numerous amazing small presses and built up a very modest collection.
When you started down the road of custom binding Gardens of the Moon, did you have in mind the idea of expanding it into a business of selling rebound books?
Anthony: Not at all. Originally I just wanted to create my own set of Malazan books, and thought I'd start the process. It wasn't until half way through that I thought maybe I could have a go at doing this properly. Even so, I still needed to see hthink beingtransparentiskey.YoucanfindYouTube tutorials on literally everything, how to write a song, how to build a car etc but nothing on how to produce a book. I hope my breakdown might help at least one person in their quest to produce a book.
You were incredibly transparent about the entire Gardens of the Moon custom bind process on your website, http://curiousking.co.uk/. Did the positive reaction and enthusiasm become a driving force in starting the Ready Player One project?Anthony:I think being transparent is key.You can find YouTube tutorials on literally everything, how to write a song, how to build a car etc but nothing on how to produce a book. I hope my breakdown might help at least one person in their quest to produce a book.I had already thought about publishing before finishing GotM, so I was hoping posting it would get a few peoples attention, which thankfully it did. So that really spurred me on.
What made you pick Ready Player One as your first, consumer rebinding project?Anthony:I loved the book. I'm a massive geek and gamer, and a friend of mine introduced me to the book about 5 years ago and I finished it in about 2 days - the concept, story and pacing of the book had me hooked. When thinking about a rebinding project I wasn't constrained by getting rights to it, so I had a chance to go for something ambitious - the only issue is the price of first editions. When thinking of books, RPO popped into my head and I thought it had a wealth of detail I could take advantage of with a book project. I thought I had a really good idea for the traycase, and when I saw the first editions were just about within reason (and they fit inside the Atari), it had to be RPO.
Pivoting from making a book solely for yourself to primarily creating a product to sell, did the fan popularity and beloved nature of the property play into your decision? Also, did you feel that you were designing Ready Player One Rebind as much for the fans as for yourself?Anthony: Yeah 100%. Doing a rebind allowed me to pick a book that had a good following, as I wouldn’t have a cat in hell’s chance of getting rights.Ultimately my aim is to publish, and I hoped by picking a book with a following (that I also loved) would get some interest. My biggest worry is publishing a book and not selling them.I think I design books for myself. That’s what I did with GotM, and people seemed to like it. RPO was the same. What’s the coolest way to do this? What would I love to see? I appreciate some people will hate it, but I like it and hope some other fans do too.I won’t produce a book I don’t love, that’s for sure.
This first consumer project is very different from your first one. You custom designed and printed Gardens of the Moon and with Ready Player One, you’re rebinding first editions. How different were these two projects for you?Anthony: Very different. With GotM I wanted to do something more classical and fitting of an epic fantasy - also it was my first project, and I was able to do the layouts myself (which I really enjoyed). With Ready Player One I had an opportunity to go a step further due to the nature of the book, and the Atari Traycase just felt right. I don't want people to think that i'm going to be doing stuff quite as quirky as this for every book, as I am very keen to do more "traditional" work going forward.
I love to see art work take such an important stage in your two projects. The artists you’ve lined up for Ready Player One is especially exciting. Can you talk a little bit about deciding on these artists and the process of working with them for Ready Player One?Anthony: The art for this book is kind of an extension of the Atari concept. The book is littered with references to prominent Atari Games, and as I decided to put the book in an original Atari I thought it sensible to have some of the original atari artists contribute to it. They took some tracking down, but I think I have 4 or 5 original Atari artists doing work on it, and another artist working on the endpapers. Art is really important to me with limited run books - it's one of the reasons I fell in love with the Sub Press Malazan works, the quality of the art.
All collectors will be excited that you’re working with Ludlow Bookbinders and Rich Tong from Lyra’s Books. How much of this, and the last project, were collaborations with them versus your own clear vision?Anthony: Rich, Paul and the guys from Ludlow's are absolutely amazing - just incredible. I had a pretty strong vision for what I needed, and had a prototype case made before going to see Ludlow's, but they were really enthusiastic about the idea and have been great in helping make it what it is now. I've also been able to bounce some ideas off Rich since he started work on it which has been really useful as I don't really know many people in the industry as I'm pretty new to it. It's difficult to know what is and isn't possible when you aren't one of the best bookbinders around!
Anything else you’ve learned from working with Rich and Ludlow Bookbinders?
Anthony: To believe in my ideas a bit more. I wasn't sure if this project was awful or awesome, and having Paul and Rich get behind it and has helped build my confidence. I think the main thing is they are so pleasant and love what they do, and it's really infectious.
You’ve mentioned if Ready Player One is successful, you’d like to start publishing fine limited editions. Was that always an end goal for you, even just in the back of your mind?Anthony: I actually made a few enquiries into gaining rights towards the back end of GotM, with a few titles I was interested in. It wasn't until I spoke to Arnold Cha that he suggested a rebind may be less cash intensive and a good way to gain some followers before embarking on a bigger publishing project. So it's always been at the back of my mind.Any hopes and dreams for future projects or any hints you’d like to share?Anthony: I would absolutely love to be able to actually publish some books. Honestly it would be a dream. Seeing what Rich has achieved with Stardust is so inspiring, though I doubt I could produce anything of that quality! I hope people like what i've done with RPO. Even if they don't like the design or concept, I hope it at least shows the time and energy I have put into creating something I believe some people will enjoy.
Anthony, another huge round of thanks for taking the time out during this very hectic time of announcing and producing your first commercially available book. We’re all excited for the result!