Releasing a Second Edition of Your Book

As per usual, I’m going to start off this blog post by drawing from personal experience and recounting a short anecdote about my writing adventures.

I wrote and self-published my book in 2011, but after a few years on the market, I decided to take it out of circulation. Why? Frankly, it was a poorly written mess. It wasn’t the book I wanted to be known for. The writing, the structure, the overall execution – just bad. My readers deserved much better. Therefore, I went back and re-wrote it, then re-wrote it again, and then one more time. Then I personally edited it twice, sent it to a professional editor, and had a close friend edit it as well. I ended up re-publishing the story as a second edition a few months ago. Now, if you were to purchase a copy of “Dodger’s Doorway“, you’d be grabbing that second, more “complete” edition, instead of that mess of a first edition. You want a first edition anyway? Sorry, Charlie – you’re out of luck.

When I talk about book editions, I guess I should be more specific. Remember in school when your textbooks would constantly have to be revised year after year to include corrections and updates? In college, I remember taking a psychology course that required the 10th edition of a specific textbook. My friend was going to let me borrow his, but apparently it was only the 9th edition. According to the class syllabus, mine HAD to be 10th edition since the page numbers and chapter orders were changed around or something. Needless to say, it was frustrating. But I digress…

With novels and such, the editions scenario work on a similar principal. To my knowledge, if you’re going to make a significant change to your book, you will need to re-release it as a whole new edition with a new ISBN. Of course, this may entirely depend on the publisher. With Createspace’s self-publishing platform, if you change the title or author name on a book, or if you change the page count or trim size by more than 10%, you’re going to have to get a new ISBN, and thus release a new edition.

So if you’re going back and fixing a typo or two in your manuscript, you most likely don’t have to worry about the new edition. But if you decide to completely overhaul the manuscript and lengthen or shorten the page count by a significant margin, then you’re in for a ride.

In my case, I knew I was going to be needing a new edition. The original copy of my book was about 200-odd pages. The second edition is 280 pages. There is definitely a major difference between the two editions, not only in size, but in writing quality and storytelling. For me, the second edition was worth it. The question is: is it right for you?

First, you’ll want to look back at your work and decide if you’re happy with it. Is it really the best it can be? Do you think you’ve become a better writer since the time it was published? In the several years between my two editions being published, I noticed that I had become a much better writer, so I knew that my book could be better. Remember, your writing talents are like a muscle – the more you work out, the stronger you become. It shouldn’t come as a surprise if you notice a major change in your writing abilities over the course of a few years if you’re writing frequently. In this case, you may want to go back and consider doing a second edition for your previous work.

It may not even be an issue of writing quality when you decide to make a new edition. Did you know that J.R.R. Tolkien made major revisions to “The Hobbit” after he had written “The Lord of the Rings”? It’s true. He had to essentially re-write some dialogue and re-characterize Gollum to better fit with the overall lore of the rest of the saga. I won’t lie – I did the same thing with my book. I had to revisit (and fix) certain elements because of how they impacted the overall story as well as the future tales. It’s okay to make these kinds of changes if you think it has an overall benefit on how the story is told, but I’d be very wary about making HUGE changes to the entire plot. You have to be considerate of the people who already own the first edition.

Let’s put it this way: let’s say you own an original copy of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone”, but then J.K. Rowling comes out and announces she’s releasing an entirely new canon edition of the book that completely eliminates a key character, like Hagrid or Professor Quirrell. At that point, it almost becomes a whole new story because the plot changes to accommodate these characters’ absences. You want to avoid pulling such a stunt with your own book if you’ve sold a lot of copies. It can be frustrating for the readers who bought that old edition and then have no idea what’s the canon story anymore. I mean, you’re absolutely allowed to do whatever you want since it’s your book, but you might want to be considerate of your initial readers and how they might handle the situation.

If you’re lucky, you may not have sold a lot of copies of your first edition (ironic, isn’t it?), because this means that you can pretty much change whatever you want and not have to worry about confusing a bunch of your readers. If you’ve sold a few copies here and there to family and friends, then go nuts with the changes. Tell them that this is the updated copy with better writing or new plot points. They can either toss the first edition away, return it back to you, or keep it as memorabilia. For all you know, if you become famous down the road, that first edition copy could end up being worth a lot of money!

On the other hand, if you’ve sold hundreds of copies around the world, you’re going to have some issues with ensuring that everyone gets a second edition.

I lost track of how many copies I sold of my first edition, but I know that a majority went to family and friends. You know what I did when I re-published it? I literally contacted every single person to let them know of the update. I promised everyone a free copy of that second edition. It took a huge chunk of money out of my own pocket, but it was so worth it to ensure that everyone got the book that they deserved. My only regret is that there are some copies of the first edition out there and those readers aren’t aware of the second’s existence. I know one belongs to a former friend of mine who disappeared off the face of the Earth when she moved to Australia. Another copy belongs to an ex-girlfriend… you can guess where this is going. All I can hope is that one day they manage to get their hands on the second edition.

A good idea to spread the word about your new edition is to use the power of social media. Post to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, even YouTube. Tell people what the deal is and how they can get their hands on a copy.

I cannot stress this enough: let them know the difference between a second edition and a sequel. You’re bound to have people asking “So, is this a sequel?”, and you’ll have to break the news and tell them that it is merely just a refined edition of the first book. Same story, different execution. In this case, they might not even care about getting a new copy. Or they might be enthusiastic and proudly ask for a refined edition to add to their collection. Honestly, the worst that can happen is they say “No thanks” to the new edition.

As you can see, it can get very complicated dealing with the second edition of your book. If you are willing to put the time and effort into re-writing and re-distributing it, then go for it. My advice is to avoid this entire scenario by editing, editing, and EDITING your work before even thinking of publishing the first time. However, if you find yourself pin-holed into absolutely having to release the second edition, make sure you cover all your bases.

Is there a particular topic you’d like me to cover in a future post? Leave a comment, or head on over to my Facebook page and share your thoughts!

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