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An answer on sci-fi, "What passages were removed or changed from the North American version of His Dark Materials?" lists the changes that were made to The Amber Spyglass for its initial publication in America. A further example is the change from "philosopher's stone" to "Sorcerer's stone. It's apparent that changes to books, perhaps especially children's books, are not rare when a UK author is published in America, and these edits go beyond mere details of spelling and vocabulary.

I'm not aware of any American books that were edited in this way, and I've noted that Adult books that I've read, such some by Scott Adams, preserve American spelling and vocabulary; my collection of Poe stories preserves old-fashioned American usage. On the other hand, I know of many films that have had significant edits before release in the UK, for example, to comply with UK animal protection laws.

Are there examples of books, first published in the USA, which have had significant edits before being published in the UK?

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    When you are the world's dominant culture, other people adapt to you, both as producers and consumers. The downside of this, of course, is that you end up being far less cosmopolitan than everyone else, which means you have less exposure to new ideas and alternatives. Which means eventually you cease to be the world's dominant culture. – Mark Baker Nov 1 '17 at 12:27
  • How often are we told as writers to understand our audience? There is so much revenue potential in the U.S. that it's little wonder books are modified to remove, among other things, culturally-centered phrases, concepts, and ideas that would be difficult for U.S. readership to comprehend without footnotes. What I expect (in relation to your question) is that the markets everywhere else in the world (with the exception of Russia, China, and India) are so much smaller that the cost-to-benefit ratio doesn't favor taking the time to make the changes. – JBH Nov 2 '17 at 23:41
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I've watched this question for a while without answering because I have no expertise in this field; however, based on the research I've done and the lack of adequate response I'll throw this out there:

Typically, it appears, they are not. Based on the same sorts of edits that are made to publish in the US; it is likely there's a grammar/spelling edit to put it into local language from time to time; and it also would be possible that revisions might be made to make it "local" where the book is stronger with that tone. (IE, sometimes when publishing in the U.S. a town is "re-cast" as a small american town to make the story familiar; it could be done in the opposite direction as well for some section of stories). But there are no obvious examples of much of this happening.

That obviously doesn't mean it doesn't happen, ever; but Occam's razor says we'd find more evidence and discussion of the topic if it did occur with any frequency. So, with the lack of a response from an expert, I think this is the safe thing to assume after weeks of you searching and the rest of us having nothing of import to say.

This is likely not a satisfactory answer, so I would advise you query experts in the publishing world if you'd like to know more. Write a few letters to some agents, publishers and or authors who have a presence in both markets and see what they say. I'm curious as to why you want to know more and it might change the value of this or any other answer.

If you want to know because you're thinking about writing a book

It likely does not matter what the publisher wants to do for foreign sales. Write the best book you can. Foreign sales, translations and edits are usually only a problem for published people. There are many directions you can go with foreign rights, but where translations are involved you often cede creative control. That much is known. So, if your counterparts in the UK want changes, they can likely get them within reason; but that's not likely to be on the author unless legal agreements are in place which would make it so.

If you want to know because you're thinking about publishing books in the UK

Shrug; publishing is about moving product into the hands of a readership. If audiences in the UK have particular wants or sensibilities that make an edit desirable because it leads to sales, then you make it. But, people in the UK are likely exposed to enough "Americana" that they can understand a book written in the U.S. and so I would think the argument would be to have the lightest touch possible. If it's a good story with worldly appeal that makes sense to a reader from the U.K., it will likely sell without much work. And that means more profit. Again Occam's razor brings us to a familiar answer; reinforced by a lack of information. Publishers want to make money; spending less money means making more; if the book can stand on its own, don't change anything.

And that brings us to the last point I think is worth considering. If a book doesn't read well in the U.K. market, there are probably enough books out there that already do read well enough. English is one of the most commonly spoken languages out there. If you're a publisher looking to maximize profits, you probably don't want a fixer-upper unless it's a really, really good book. So, you are more likely to take on the foreign work that's publishable as it is, than the one you need to invest in.

This reasoning suggests that for further research: if you're going to find books that have been edited, I think you want to focus on the extremely niche markets that would clamor and invest in desirable, but scarce foreign works; or in the mass market area where there's enough of a margin to support the edits.


TL;DR: I don't know, but I reason it's unlikely; do some research. I've offered some of my reasoning for where I would look for the answer. Apologies for not having the answer you're looking for, but this will hopefully help you move forward toward one.

  • I see now, looking at your profile, that you are from the UK; feel free to read this as if I'm writing to an author in the US as that's my frame of reference. Again, I find I have to apologize, but you may be able to answer a question of mine which would help answer this question: Would you expect the average UK reader to understand and accept a book published in the USA with only light revision? If the answer is yes, it's unlikely they do anything because they don't need to. – Kirk May 8 '18 at 13:49
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From about an hour on the web, it seems to me that there are consistently more changes made to British books when they are published in the US, than vice versa.

Changes from UK to US encompass not only spelling, punctuation, and word choice, but a deletion of violence and gore (author Charlie Higson reports this for the Young Bond novels, as does Diana Gabaldon for her novel Outlander (UK) / Cross Stitch (US)) as well as graphic sex (Gabaldon again). What is also often edited from UK to US is the depiction of people of color (as in the American editions of Ian Fleming's the James Bond novels).

I have stopped looking after going through the first couple of pages of differently phrased Google search results – mostly restricted to the .co.uk domain to get at the experience of Brits reading US books –, and that is about all I could find.

The internet is vast and perhaps somewhere there is an agent or editor or publisher talking about these matters, but I couldn't (quickly) find it.

So in essence, apart from spelling (an edition of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar was mentioned as a "britishized" example) it seems that

there are no (systematic) editorial changes

done on US books published in the UK.

If you look at the kind of changes that UK books sometimes undergo in US editions, this lack of changes from US to UK makes perfect sense: the US editions of UK books, if they are edited at all, delete (graphic) violence and sex. Since sex and violence seem to be less of a problem in the UK, what would UK editors want to delete from US books? All they might be inclined to do was add some sex and gore. But changes are all (as far as I found) of the censorship kind. None were additions to make books more brutal and erotic.

The only thing that almost always changes between the UK and the US, in either direction, is the cover. Copyright for the cover is separate from the copyright for the text, and publishers rather create a new cover for their market than buy the original. There appear to be systematic differences between the covers, as many blog posts and one (doctoral?) dissertation show. I won't go into that, as it wasn't your question, but I'd thought to mention it.

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There’s a fan site called Bridge to the Stars, which highlights two passages which are significantly different in The Amber Spyglass:

Are there any differences between different editions of the books?

Some later editions of the trilogy, such as the Lantern Slides editions and the Tenth Anniversary editions, include special extras created by Philip Pullman – where we can, we’ve uploaded these in our Extras galleries.

There are also some differences between the UK and US editions of the books. The most significant change is perhaps the omission/amendment of a couple of passages in the US edition of the books. We’ve detailed these below.

The Amber Spyglass: Chapter 33, Marzipan – UK EDITION

As Mary said that, Lyra felt something strange happen to her body. She felt a stirring at the roots of her hair: she found herself breathing faster. She had never been on a roller-coaster, or anything like one, but if she had, she would have recognized the sensations in her breast: they were exciting and frightening at the same time, and she had not the slightest idea why. The sensation continued, and deepened, and changed, as more parts of her body found themselves affected too. She felt as if she had been handed the key to a great house she hadn't known was there, a house that was somehow inside her, and as she turned the key, deep in the darkness of the building she felt other doors opening too, and lights coming on. She sat trembling, hugging her knees, hardly daring to breathe...

The Amber Spyglass: Chapter 33, Marzipan – US EDITION

As Mary said that, Lyra felt something strange happen to her body. She felt as if she had been handed the key to a great house she hadn’t known was there. A house that was somehow inside her, and as she turned the key, she felt other doors opening deep in the darkness, and lights coming on. She sat trembling as Mary went on...

The Amber Spyglass: Chapter 35, Over The Hills and Far Away – UK EDITION

...Father Gomez found himself praising God for his mission, because it was clearer than ever that the boy and the girl were walking into mortal sin.

And there it was: the dark-blonde movement that was the girl's hair. He moved a little closer, and took out the rifle. There was a telescopic sight: low-powered, but beautifully made, so that looking through it was to feel your vision clarified as well as enlarged. Yes, there she was, and she paused and looked back so that he saw the expression on her face, and he could not understand how anyone so steeped in evil could look so radiant with hope and happiness.

His bewilderment at that made him hesitate, and then the moment was gone, and both children had walked in among the trees and out of sight. Well, they wouldn't go far. He followed them down the stream, moving at a crouch, holding the rifle in one hand, balancing with the other.

He was so close to success...

The Amber Spyglass: Chapter 35, Over The Hills and Far Away – US EDITION

...Father Gomez found himself praising God for his mission, because it was clearer than ever that the boy and the girl were walking into mortal sin.

He watched them go in among the trees. They hadn't looked back once since coming over the top of the ridge, but he still kept low, moving down the stream at a crouch, holding the rifle in one hand, balancing with the other.

He was so close to success...

The reason for these changes is unclear, but it is thought that the first is due to the passage being interpreted as of a sexual nature.

There’s a forum thread on the site where fans have been discussing the differences between the UK and US editions.

It’s clear that there are changes in all three books, but nobody has identified anything as notable as the above. The other differences sound fairly minor: changes in vocabulary (e.g. “trainers” vs “sneakers”).

Note: anecdotal evidence from that forum thread is that North America all got the same editions – although the text above distinguishes UK/US, these changes were also present in Canadian editions.

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    No. You haven't read my question, which is about changes in books first published in the USA. (-1) – James K Apr 16 '18 at 6:00

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