With the rise of Indie publishing, authors are able to re-issue their back list of books that have the rights reverted to them from the original publisher. I’m one of them. Some of those older books of mine had great editors. Others didn’t. I refuse to disclose which ones required more editing. But I will say a book published by a major New York publishing house does not mean it can be formatted and uploaded to Amazon without a second look. Or third.
So the rewrites begin. Historical novels don’t have the same issues as contemporary novels that will be outdated. Not may be. Will be. I have heard arguments for and against updating a book for re-issue. There are readers who couldn’t care less when the story takes place as long as it is a great read. Others refuse to read an older book. Believe it or not, most literary agents reject manuscripts set in the 1980s and 1990s, claiming “publishers aren’t interested because readers won’t buy them.” (No need to raise a hand to dispute this claim. This was my experience querying over 100 agents for LOSING LISA:Intuitive Investigator Series, Book One.)
The questions to ask are: Do you have a legion of fans who would object to changing a favorite book on their Keeper shelf? If so, you might leave well enough alone. However, I recall a much-loved, award-winning author whose early works were reissued by her NY publisher. Her fans were thrilled. Newer members of my writers’ organization had not read the author when they bought the re-issues. One book, in particular, was met with criticism because the hot good-old-boy hero was a chain-smoking, beer-drinking reckless driver with a volatile temper. Of course, this character evolved by the end of the book but he didn’t turn into a saint. The Bad Boy image was not only politically incorrect (driving while drinking!) but the “It” factor had become an “Ick” factor. If the author would have been willing to update the story—I do not know whether or not she had the option—would editing have wrecked the book? I think so, but that’s just my opinion. I wasn’t offended by the chain-smoking, beer-drinker when I read the first edition. Re-reading it years later, I am aware the story takes place during the time when that behavior was acceptable.
Another question an author needs to ask: Is this older book representative of my current style and quality of writing? If not, do I rewrite it? When I read my earlier books, sometimes I cringe at the head-hopping points of view or awkward transitions of scenes. Other times I am pleasantly surprised that I could still hold my head up with pride of authorship. If you aren’t sure, if you feel you are still too close to your book to know if it needs work, hire a freelance editor to check it. Then, if it requires extensive rewrites, have it professionally edited afterward. This should go without saying but, hey, I’m saying it.
Last but not least, a big pet peeve with readers is buying a book, assuming it is new, only realize they had already bought and read the earlier edition! Don’t make my mistake. I did not intentionally try to fool the public by omitting the word “re-issue” in the book description. I assumed I had covered that point with the two publication dates and two copyright dates in the book details. Wrong.
Whether you are a reader or a writer, do you want an older book rewritten to be politically correct or let it reflect the era in which it was originally written?
I am happy to announce THAT WILDER MAN (reissue) is in the new HEARTS AND HEROES box set with the award-winning contemporary romance authors, Patricia Thayer, Mindy Neff, Sandra Paul and Lyn O’Farrell.