This has enabled me to observe first hand the efforts that publishers do, or do not go to, to create American editions of British books, and vice versa. Here are a few examples:
- The publishers that make no changes whatsoever, other than publisher details. As we shall see, this is a surprisingly sensible approach.
- The publishers that change everything. Now, this might seem a sensible approach, but unless you are very careful, this can go horribly wrong and result in an unnatural hybrid. Changing spelling isn't necessarily a big deal, but when you get to vocab and grammar, you are on dangerous ground. Let's assume that our book is set in the UK - as, let's face it, many British novels are. It may be fair enough in narrative to say: 'The child sat on the stoop eating candy'. Not in dialogue. A British child would not say: 'I'm sitting on the stoop eating candy'. A British child would say: 'I'm sitting on the step eating sweets.' There's a huge distinction there between adding an American perspective and creating a monster that doesn't work in either country.
- The publishers that change a few things here and there to add 'a flavour'. Again, an example and this is my absolute favourite. A book set in Wales, featuring a Welsh family who'd been there for generations and throughout the novel a little boy called his mother 'Mom'. No, no, no. I've seen this a couple of times in US editions of UK novels, but interestingly I've never seen it the other way. Perhaps publishers have the sensitivity to realise that if a novel is set in the US they can keep 'mom', because British readers will understand that this is 'American' for 'mum'. But do they really have the insensitivity to believe that this is not true in the opposite direction? That an American adult would not realise that a British kid using the word 'mum' is not merely making a repeated mistake?
And if anybody has noticed anything similar in their reading, I'd love to hear about it.