Creativity Coaching : David Duggins : Republishing Books
Love of the Craft
Publishers Who Will Republish Books
By David Duggins
Q: I am wondering if there are any publishers or agents who become involved in republishing books? I wrote a children's book 12 years ago, and I want to republish it, making changes to the cover and title, so that it is more marketable.
Several major Print-On-Demand (POD) publishers iUniverse, Lulu.com and Author House are three have programs that allow authors of previously published books to launch reprints of their titles. If you're not familiar with POD and how it works, check out sfwa.org for the single most exhaustive article on this subject I've ever come across. Sfwa.org is the website of the Science Fiction Writers of America, but even if you're not a genre writer, you'll find plenty to sink your teeth into there.
The traditional way of looking at POD or self-publishing is this: the advantage is creative control; the disadvantage is a lack of professional credibility and limited access to traditional publishing outlets (i.e. bookstores) due to cost and return restrictions. The article linked above details what that's all about.
The traditional philosophy backed up by literally dozens of published authors I've queried after flirting with the idea of doing it myself is that using one of these services is not recommended if you're serious about a writing career. At best, a self-published book will not be considered a professional credit. At worst, it's career suicide if you're self-publishing, it must be because you're not good enough to be published in the commercial press.
The websites of self-publishing services are sad testament to this. Some allow you to view book covers, which are often terrible. Some allow you to read the first chapters of the books they've published. These are often worse than terrible. These companies exist to make a profit. They don't edit (or charge extra if they do). They simply publish whoever pays.
That said, I still feel there are legitimate reasons to self-publish, and I am still considering it as a possibility for my own novel although my intention is to choose my own printer, cover art, design and layout, which is not the same as using a service like iUniverse. True self-publishing means you oversee every aspect of the book's publication yourself. If your intention is to have input into things like cover design, this is your best option. Even POD publishers offer limited options when it comes to cover artwork. But if you intend to do everything yourself, keep in mind that you will have to wear many hats and switch them at will: for ten months, you may be a full-time writer, but for the following fourteen, you will be a designer, copyeditor, typesetter, publishing house and distribution outlet. If you are not interested in any one of those things, the process will bog down and become excruciating while you attempt to discharge those tasks you hate doing (for me it's copy editing and you can bet I'll be farming that out).
Bottom line: if you decide to use a POD services, do your research and choose carefully.
The other option is to shop your book to commercial publishers. You say the book was last published twelve years ago. I'm assuming all rights have reverted to you in the interim; if so, you could legitimately make any changes or updates to the manuscript you wished and shop it again. If you've already been published you know that process all too well.
The problem here is that you must of course fully disclose the book's past, which may or may not work in your favor particularly as your book is a children's title, which historically have been known to have better "legs" (reprint potential) than any other genre. The real classics are timeless, and appeal to children as much now as they did when first written (any of the E.B. White's books, The Wind in the Willows, A Wrinkle in Time, Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret).
If your children's book went out of print twelve years ago, you risk the stigma of perception that if the book has been out of print this long, it's because children didn't respond to it. If they didn't then, they won't now. I'm not saying that's true, but editors might think it's true and pass without even looking at your manuscript. It's a possibility. Now that I've spent the last eight months being an editor myself, I can tell you that it doesn't take a lot to disqualify a manuscript particularly if the slush pile is overflowing.
Your single best resource for market information is writersmarket.com, the website extension of the venerable Writer's Market hardback book, updated and published every year. The only other book that might be considered more completist is Literary Market Place, or LMP. LMP is both more expensive and more difficult to find. Log in to writersmarket.com and pay the twenty-five bucks for a year's subscription. It's updated weekly sometimes daily has articles, market tips, current market information and has a great customizable search engine. If you decide to go with a commercial publisher, you'll find suitable ones here.
This carefully orchestrated final paragraph allows me to segue nicely into a follow-up question: What are your favorite writing resources (books) which will be covered in my next column. •
© 2007 David Duggins. All rights reserved.
Dave Duggins, owner/creator of Voidgunner, is a creativity coach and writing mentor. More »