Should You Unpublish and Republish Your Old Self Published Books?
A great question came up from one of my blog readers about unpublishing previous editions of a fiction book series in order to rewrite and republish them. Because positive reviews for the original book series had been received, there was a concern about losing those reviews with new editions.
There are a number of considerations for rewriting and republishing. What follows applies to self published books on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and ACX/Audible.
Unpublished Does Not Equal Gone
Realize that when you unpublish a book or eBook on Amazon KDP and it’s listed on your Amazon Author Central page, it will continue to be listed on Amazon and your Author Central author page. It doesn’t go away. (I speak from experience here.) It could show as unavailable/out of print, but used copies or remaining inventory may still be available for sale.
Is It Really a New Edition?
If any revision merely corrects minor typos or updates items such as author contact information, but is in all other respects the same book content, an author can simply upload the revised manuscript to KDP. The corrected/updated edition will be available for sale after that point. Previous copies that were sold would not be updated.
However, per KDP, if the book is significantly changed in terms of content, structure, or extensive editing, it should be published and clearly noted as a separate revised, 2nd, updated, etc. edition to avoid confusion for readers and buyers. Essentially, it’s a different book. During the setup process on KDP for the new edition, you indicate what edition you are publishing (2nd, 3rd, etc.).
Print and audio books, and eBooks which have an ISBN number in addition to an ASIN number on Amazon, should also be assigned new and separate ISBN numbers to clarify that they are different books than the original. Remember, too, that if you have multiple formats (print, eBook, audio) for a book, each format of the revised edition needs a new ISBN number.
For Kindle eBooks that only have an ASIN number assigned, a new edition would be assigned a new, separate ASIN number.
All these new numbers are assigned during the setup process for the new edition.
Disappearing Amazon Reviews
Authors are often scared to do separate revised editions because they will lose any Amazon reviews they received for the previous edition. Yes, you will lose those reviews. There is no way to blend reviews of all editions on Amazon. Every new edition is a separate product entity. The reviews from the previous edition will not carry over to the new one, and you’ll have to start gathering reviews from zero.
Do not be tempted to keep updating the existing edition with your significantly changed book manuscript just to preserve reviews! Those previous reviews were for a completely different product. So they aren’t authentic reviews for this updated edition. Bad customer experience!
A better question is why do you believe you won’t be able to gather reviews for the new edition?
Are You Trying to Rewrite the Past by Rewriting Your Book?
Do You Really Need to Rewrite and Republish Your Old Self Published Book?
The author who asked about unpublishing and republishing her book series felt that she had grown in her writing skills, and wanted to revise these older books to meet her current personal writing standards.
The author’s concern in this case is a personal one. Did she feel that she didn’t have the capability to create something brand new, choosing to go back to a place of previous success? Or was she just embarrassed by her previous work, wanting to make things “perfect?” Many authors are sure to relate to this.
Fiction readers may not want to buy a revised book, but may be looking for new, but similar, material. An option could be to publish a "reimagined," "revisited," or "next generation" type story using the same characters, settings, or situations, but retold in a new way. This provides something new for people to read and buy that builds on something familiar. Think of how many movies (Terminator? Batman?) retell or repackage a story with a new twist on the same story line.
For nonfiction books where the subject matter can change, rendering previous editions irrelevant, the decision to rewrite and republish is usually an easy and obvious one. For example, if a guide is written for a computer software program, when a major change is made to that software, it is a prime opportunity to update the material and publish a new edition. Some nonfiction books, such as travel guides, might be updated as often as annually to keep them current and useful.
Whether for fiction or nonfiction, the decision to rewrite a book should be based on the needs of the market it serves and the subject it covers. If it will not better serve the market, then rewriting may be just an exercise in seeking unrealistic and unwanted perfection.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
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© 2019 Heidi Thorne