Should You Unpublish and Republish Your Old Self Published Books?

Updated on May 28, 2019
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing expert, author of 21+ books and eBooks, and a former trade newspaper editor.

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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Unpublished Does Not Equal Gone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.

Questions & Answers

  • I have an agent who wants to REPUBLISH my self-published book. I have to take the book offline, which to me will always be online. It sounds messy going over who is promoting the book. She claims she can get a publisher to take the book. Can this be done?

    First, congratulations on getting some interest from an agent for republishing your self-published book! But, you're right, it's messy. My best advice to you is to get an attorney who specializes in media and intellectual property to review and advise on this situation. There will be a lot of questions as to who will own the copyrights if a publisher takes it on. You may be signing away those rights. Please, please, get an attorney to help you.

  • I have self published my book on Amazon.com. But it is not available in India. Even the author copy costs me 1.5k+ to get a single paperback copy imported from the US based website (Amazon.com). Can I unpublish my book on Amazon.com and republish the same on any of the India self publishing websites?

    Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) has a non-exclusive arrangement with authors for print books, meaning that they can publish or offer their books elsewhere in addition to Amazon.com. However, there are restrictions, including not selling it for less than on Amazon.com. See the KDP Terms of Service for details on non-exclusive terms and reach out to KDP's customer support for further questions.

© 2019 Heidi Thorne

Comments

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  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    5 months ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Dora! Indeed, lots to consider when considering the future of your published works. Thanks so much for stopping by and have a terrific weekend!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    5 months ago from Chicago Area

    Flourish, I think I'll take the "Frozen" advice, too. :) Not only are these folks trying to rewrite their past, they're often trying to relive it, too. Move on!

    Thanks for chiming in and have a lovely day!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    5 months ago from Chicago Area

    Thanks, Linda, for the kind words! You're right, there's a lot to consider, even for something that seems as easy as eBooks. Appreciate you stopping by. Have a terrific weekend!

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    5 months ago from The Caribbean

    Thanks for your insights on this important matter. Wise counsel to chew on before making the decision to unpublish or republish.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image

    FlourishAnyway 

    5 months ago from USA

    When it comes to rewriting the past, I'm embodying Elsa in Frozen and gonna sing, "Let it go, let it go!" I would hope in 99% of cases that those authors would just focus forward and create brand new material.

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 

    5 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

    You have a very useful collection of articles about creating eBooks. There are so many details to think about, but your articles are a great help. Thank you, Heidi.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    5 months ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Chitrangada! Thanks so much for your kind words! I agree that it's probably best to keep moving on and let past work be the past. Have a beautiful day!

  • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

    Chitrangada Sharan 

    5 months ago from New Delhi, India

    Wonderful article, very useful, well explained and your video is amazing.

    Instead of rewriting a book, it’s good to write a new one. And updating an article is different from updating the books.

    Thanks for sharing this useful article.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    5 months ago from Chicago Area

    Bill, I agree. It's just too much work to update old books, especially ones that are still selling. Upward and onward, I say. Thanks so much for stopping by and have a terrific week!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    5 months ago from Chicago Area

    Liz, updating a blog is so much easier than updating books. And we should be doing it! But books are a completely different scenario. Thanks so much for making that point about blogs and have a wonderful day!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    5 months ago from Chicago Area

    Thanks, Pamela, for stopping by anyway! Have a beautiful day!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    5 months ago from Olympia, WA

    Great information as always. It just seems like too much work for me with very little reward. :) Not that I'm lazy, but I've got other books to write and no time to revisit old ones. :) Happy Tuesday, Heidi!

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    5 months ago from UK

    This is an interesting article. On Hub Pages we are encouraged to update and revise articles on a regular basis. Your article helpfully putsthe pros and cons of this on a much bigger scale with books.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 months ago from Sunny Florida

    This article does not apply to me, but I still found it very interesting. am sure it will help anyone that wants to unpublish a book and have a do-over.

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