This Folio Life: From pitch to publication for True Grit

In our latest blog we follow the journey of True Grit – from the seed of an idea to the published edition.


How does a book become a Folio edition?

There are certain titles that will always justify a place in our library, but as we continue to diversify, and look beyond the traditional canon, publishing meetings have become livelier: this was certainly the case with True Grit. A brilliant narrative with some of the sassiest, most natural dialogue you’ll ever read, it has all the hallmarks of a contemporary classic. But there’s more: by choosing a young female protagonist in a male-dominated society, Charles Portis flipped the traditional western. For Publishing Director Tom Walker, it was a book that we simply had to publish, but the journey from idea to publication is a long one.


Getting the team on board

Although Tom was confident that everyone who read True Grit would fall in love with it, no book gets the go-ahead without being pitched across the company – from editors to the sales team, designers and production – enough Folio people need to fall in love with a book before we publish it. And, as we’re an illustrated publisher, there’s always a long discussion with our design team before a final decision is made. For True Grit, Art Director Raquel Leis Allion was keen to explore the book’s rich filmic history, and she began looking for an artist with that wonderful visual scope in mind.

No edition moves forward until the right illustrator is found, as artwork is integral to our editions. In this instance, Juan Estaban Rodríguez couldn’t have been better suited to the brief: an illustrator specialising in film and gig posters, he immediately grasped and extended the concept, and the Folio edition of True Grit began to emerge.

Illustration by Juan Estaban Rodríguez for True Grit, The Folio Society 2019

The details that make a Folio book exceptional

If you’re familiar with Folio books, you’ve probably noticed that we take our typefaces seriously. True Grit called for a font that would evoke the world of the Western, and we selected Kennerley – a bold font used on poster advertising in the early 19th century.

Kennerley typeface for True Grit, The Folio Society 2019

But the design process doesn’t end inside the book; the binding and slipcase need just as much thought. For our edition, Juan continued the epic western theme with a stunning wraparound binding design that captures the scope of Mattie’s personal and physical journey.

True Grit, The Folio Society 2019

Unveiling the finished book

It’s no secret that we’re perfectionists and we won’t sign off a book until every last detail is perfect. Our production schedule for True Grit was pushed to the limit in order to get the binding lettering just right, and it’s the same for every book – it takes as long as it takes. But when the first printed editions arrive at the office, and the book looks even better than we imagined, all the time and effort spent on the detail is worthwhile.


True Grit, The Folio Society 2019

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Comments from others

  • David Stuart says:

    Hi Folio
    I bought True Grit just before Christmas and really enjoyed it. The cover illustration sold the book to me. Illustrations are a reason I’ve been with the Society since 1979.
    The introductions are another plus and in this case Donna Tartts intro is one of the best ever – read that intro ansd you can’t wait to read the book.
    Best of all the book matches all the hype I’ve given it here.

  • Joshua Johnson says:

    After finding out Folio was publishing True Grit, I had to purchase it asap. This is one of my favorite western film titles with John Wayne. My conclusion after reading the book is that it was just as great as the film. Along with The conclusion comes an idea. I hope Folio can find another great western title to publish, also a great film, The Cowboys by William Dale Jennings.

  • Glenn Robison says:

    This is a book Folio can be justifiably proud of. I hadn’t read it previously and indeed hadn’t seen the film(s) until 2019, not being a fan of the western genre. Despite my reservations it features a first class, truly engrossing story, brilliantly and stylishly told. The Folio production values are exactly as you would expect.

    What to follow it with, I mused. According to Tom Walker this is the first western Folio has published, which would make the choice of follow-up tricky. So may I respectfully draw Tom’s (and everyone else’s) attention to The Virginian, by Owen Wister, published by Folio in 1981. I read it immediately after True Grit and enjoyed it immensely. Which one is better? Tough one to call, storywise, though True Grit wins on illustrations and production values. The Virginian is readily and cheaply available on the secondary market, as a quick search of Abebooks has just confirmed.

  • Jim Latimer says:

    A beautiful edition of the Portis classic. The presentation is, as always, remarkable. Very happy to add it to My library shelf.

    In the future, I would love to see a Folio edition of Joe David Brown’s novel, “Addie Pray.“ It would be amazing to see what your designers could come up with for this book.

  • David Graham says:

    Loved True Grit. Do you have plans to continue with any other Westerns? I recommend Shane.