07-21-18 Patricia Sargeant

Friday, January 25, 2013

Can ‘Old’ Books Be ‘New’ Again?

Can Old Books Be New Again?

How successful are new releases of old books? Do they sell? Does dated technology put off readers? Might new covers tempt folks to buy books theyve already read? Can novels that failed to command big sales on the first go-round win new fans when theyre re-released in a new format or at a lower price?

These questions puzzle authors as they re-gain control over previously-published books and, in some cases, over substantial backlists. Some books may have been published 35 years ago by large traditional publishing houses. (A 1976 Copyright Act gives authors and/or their heirs the option to terminate a book contract after 35 years. As a result, many authors are expected to seize this provision in 2013 to recapture titles published in 1978.) Or the novels may have been released more recently by smaller publishing houses with contracts that typically tie up ebook and/or trade paperback rights for a shorter timeframeoften two or three years.

Many authors now view independent/self-publishing of their backlists as a lucrative source of revenue. Other authors, disappointed by sales with former publishers, believe they can boost sales by self-publishing titles and offering them at lower prices or taking advantage of marketing programs offered by ebook distributors like Amazon.

Most re-released novels require new artwork unless the publisher allowed the author to create and own her own cover or the author purchased the cover rights from the artist/publisher. The need for new covers is probably a boon for illustrators. It also raises the possibility that readers may inadvertently buy the same book a second time. To keep from annoying readers, some authors new to the self-publishing game wonder if they should alert buyers that their book is a new edition rather than a new book. If so, where and how prominently should such notice be madeinside front cover, back cover, author note?

Then theres the question of updates. If a book was written, say, ten years ago, should it be updated to reflect changes in technology such as cell phone advances? And, if the book changes are substantial, do copyright issues arise? Historical authors dont face any out-of-date problems. Nor do authors like Sue Grafton who neatly sidesteps the issue of rapid technology advances by placing her characters in a set time period that doesnt change from book to book.

My debut novel, DEAR KILLER, originally published as a trade paperback in 2011, has just been issued by Harlequin Worldwide Mystery in mass market format. This version has a different cover and is offered at a much lower price. The only text changes (with my blessing) replaced a handful of expletives. I have my fingers crossed this new release finds additional readers, who will want to purchase all my books. Harlequins Worldwide Mystery program, which only accepts previously published books, is another option for making an old novel new again. Heres a link to the site: http://tinyurl.com/HarlDK

So, authors, what are your plans for previously contracted books? Do you plan to self-publish? How will you handle cover art? Will you edit/update? Will you wait until you have multiple titles available to self-publish so you can gain more market traction? Lets hear from you.


Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Linda,

You and I are in the same situation. Harlequin Worldwide Mystery also reprinted THE TRUTH SLEUTH this month as a paperback. The previous 2011 edition was printed in hardcover and large print by Five Star/Gale and sold mainly to libraries. I hope we reach a much larger number of readers since we are now in an inexpensive edition.

Linda Lovely said...

Yes, let's keep our fingers crossed, Jacqueline. I don't know how large the audience is but it certainly can't hurt.

Sarah Raplee said...

What an interesting post! Congratulations on your re-release of Dear Killer, a book I loved!!! I didn't know anything about Harlequin's World Wide Mystery. What a great opportunity for authors!

Anonymous said...

I think the question of how to handle re-releases is an important one. As a big Nora Roberts fan, I was relieved when she started using a kind of "logo" on the cover that indicated it was a new original or a re-release.

The copyright page requires you to indicate previous versions that are incorporated in the work, including short stories or novellas that have now been incorporated into the novel. Savvy readers check out the copyright page to see what might be familiar to them already.

I think the way a re-release is handled is all about marketing. In the case where nothing has changed, then the marketing is something like "I am happy to report that the well-received book, MY LOVE NEVER ENDS, is now available to a wider audience." Then gush about the new cover or how excited you are that a whole new generation of readers will get to meet your characters or visit your locations. Of course whatever adjectives that can be added are helpful (award-winning; well-loved; timely).

If the book has been updated substantially, I would choose to release it with a new title and a new copyright and ISBN. But the copyright page would still have to list previous inclusions: short stories, novellas, and the previous novel.

Do readers care if it is an "old" book or not. I don't think so. All they care about is if it is a GOOD book or not. Certainly, if you have fans who have read everything you've ever written, they deserve some type of heads up as to how much of the story remains the same. Otherwise it is really up to you, the copyright holder.

Linda Lovely said...

Excellent points, Maggie. I didn't know about the logo, but that's an interesting option.

Robin Weaver said...

Interesting blog, Linda. I only wish I had that dilemma. :-)

Judith Ashley said...

I think the ability to create a new cover is a boon. Matt Buchman's December 8th Guest Post included the changes in sales for a book when he changed the cover.

However, I also agree (having bought the same book more than once) that something to warn the reader is good.

I really like Nora Roberts "logo" on her books (spine and front cover) that tells me this is a new, original book and not a 'new book' with two or three old stories.

Hope those sales soar for you and Jacqueline.

Linda Lovely said...

Thanks, Judith. Appreciate all the support from Romancing the Genres!