Saturday, March 12, 2011

Releasing edited older works - Questions from the Readers

Yesterday -- sometime before I finished my book -- I polled individuals on twitter on what they wanted to see written about for this blog. There was a very quick response.

Today, I am going to cover the very interesting subject of releasing a new version of an old novel. By this, I mean this: a writer dislikes a book they once wrote and published. They go back and rewrite or do massive edits to it and release it again.

The subject came up as one mouse (Hi Squeecha!) noticed that an author had done exactly this and had left both copies for sale.

From a personal point-of-view, I would love to release a new version of an older, crappier work. But, as a reader, I am going to be quite upset if I am expected to buy a second copy of the same book because the author was too lazy to do the job right the first time.

Once you publish, unless you are correcting minor things like a missed spelling-error during typesetting... please don't do this. This is entirely of personal opinion, but if I buy a book, and the author slaps me in the face by releasing a new version of it because they didn't do a thorough job of writing it the first time, well... this will upset me as a reader.

I could never do that to my audience as a writer.

Sure, I will improve my writing skills as I write, but I find this sort of behavior as the ultimate insult. If I buy a book, I buy it because I want to read it. If you release a new copy of the book -- where the story has been rewritten or massively changed -- I will feel like I have been ripped off.

The only way I think I could accept this is if I were offered a free copy of the new version to read. This is something I could accept, as it would show that the author wanted to give me the best story.

If I'm expected to pay for them correcting their mistakes or changing the story, I would be very, very upset. To the point I wouldn't purchase books from this author again.

I can't put a logical explanation to this. It is entirely my opinion, and there are no studies or logic to it.

Yes, I know, I usually post factual sorts of things, but I finished my book last night before bed. I'm allowed. (But just for today.)

There isn't much more that I can say on the subject than that.

More Questions from The Reader to come! If you have a question you want to ask, @rebeccablain on twitter with it and it might show up here!


  1. I've seen this done a few times in which the book was the first book the author wrote, and then 10-20 years later they had really really changed and grown as a writer and they wanted to redo the book, probably because they were feeling frustrated with the glaring inadequacies of the first. I can understand that. It's always a bit odd, but I don't necessarily have a problem with it personally. But I doubt I'd ever re-buy the book.

  2. An author I love recently did this. A book she wrote very early in her career was published and didn't do well. It went out of production and became hard to find.

    Now she's super famous and awesome, so she's made edits to the first book released about 10 years ago, and now it's out in the world again, easier to find and better than the original. It's my understanding (she says this in a note at the beginning of the book) that she didn't make a lot of major changes, and most of them are in the opening chapters.

    And now, because this book is out, people who loved it the first time around can get the sequel, which was never released 10yrs ago, but is being released now.

    I think if a book is old enough (and for me that's at least 10 years, if not more) this is an OK thing to do. I think if an author does this A LOT, then there's a problem.

  3. Arthur C. Clarke did this with his first novel. The two versions are "Against the Fall of Night" and "The City and the Stars". I enjoyed both books, and they're not the same, though quite similar. I'm told fans don't agree which is the better book.