Jaleta Clegg loves to tell stories. Editing? Not so much, but she bows to necessary evils. She has twelve novels and several dozen short stories in print and ebook. She writes science fiction adventure, all flavors of fantasy, and silly horror. And sometimes she even does laundry. Find her writing at http://www.jaletac.com
I recently took back the rights to two of my books. This makes three books that I originally published with a small press, then self-pubbed when I got rights back. I have nine others, plus short story collections, that went straight to self-pub.
A lot of authors decide to just let old novels fade into obscurity. I decided to give mine a facelift and republish them. If you have a backlist that’s out of print and unavailable, it might be worth considering re-tooling and re-releasing them through self-publishing platforms. It isn’t that much work and shouldn’t require much out-of-pocket expenses, if any.
First question, Why? It’s pretty easy to answer.
For me, they were books 1-3 in my series. It doesn’t make sense to have books 4-11 available, but not books 1-3. And also because I can release them. It isn’t that hard. The publishing world has shifted tremendously over the last few years. My first book came out in 2009. Not that long ago, but publishing is a completely different business now than it was then. Keeping books in print and ebooks available doesn’t cost me anything, just a little bit of time checking the listings every few months to make sure everything is good. So why not work the backlist and keep things available? It’s another revenue stream.
Second question, How much should I change?
This gets a little more complicated.
First, check the legalities. Make sure you really do have the rights back on that book. Check your contract, read the fine print, and if all else fails, contact the publisher and get it in writing. Don’t release that book until you are certain you have the rights back. Don’t assume, either. Be safe and get a written statement from the publisher.
Second, find out who owns the rights to the cover and the promotional materials. Those usually stay with the publisher. If you want them, negotiate with the publisher. In my case, the covers just weren’t working, so I created brand-new covers. I also re-wrote the blurbs.
Fix those typos at the very least. Smooth out that dialogue that wasn’t flowing. Fix those scenes that you finally just gave up on because you were sick of editing and on a deadline. This bit of advice will probably get me nasty comments, but it’s also my opinion. Publish it as is if you want. Only the readers will judge if it was the right thing to do. But if you’re going to republish a book with a new cover, why not fix those problem areas? I’m not saying that you need to rewrite the whole thing, but if there’s a scene that just didn’t quite work before or if there’s some clunky dialogue, why not take some time and polish it up?
On the flip side, I’ve heard readers complain about this. Some are outraged that the book they bought and read and loved has been changed. If you’re going to substantially rewrite the story or change the ending or make other drastic revisions, maybe you should mention it somewhere in the blurb or release it as a “director’s cut” version.
I went back through my books and fixed things that bothered me. I’ve learned a lot about writing since I published those stories. I found some really clunky writing that begged to be tweaked. I fixed typos that slipped through numerous editors. I expanded a couple of scenes that had been cut too close to the bone. It wasn’t much editing, just enough that I was happier with the end result.
The short answer is change what you feel needs changed. At the very least, check the formatting and run it through a quick proofing edit. Since you have to do this anyway to self-publish, you might as well take the opportunity to fix it up.
Fourth, get good covers.
This is an art in itself. Finding something that works as a cover and evokes the essence of the story takes practice. Even good cover artists miss sometimes. Although I personally liked the covers for books 2 and 3, they just weren’t working. I went with something more simplistic that fit the style of the other books in the series.
This is the one area where I recommend spending money. Get a good cover. I did mine myself, but I also have twenty years of graphic design experience. There are good sites that offer pre-made covers. If you find something perfect there, go for it. If not, get an idea of what you like, then hire someone who knows how to design covers to do it for you. Just because they own Photoshop does not mean they understand cover art.
There are plenty of posts about cover art, so I won’t say more.
Third question, Where do I publish this? Answer, anywhere you would self-publish anything else you write. Smashwords, Kindle Direct Publishing, Createspace are just a few that I use. Publish with the platforms you are comfortable working with, just like you would any other release. The only difference I’ve found so far is that Kindle questioned me about holding the rights. It was an extra hoop to jump through, but not complicated. I sent them an email explaining the situation. Since the ebook was no longer available to purchase, though the paperbacks are, they published with no problem. I had to email them about linking the versions, and I’m still waiting, but Goodreads has linked them so there is hope that Amazon will, too. Eventually.
Last, celebrate! Spread the word. Let people know that your books are still out there. And don’t forget to write new stuff, too.