Reverted Books and Digital Publishing

Secondhand Books

I have been a published author for thirty-two years. I’ve had bestseller stickers at Amazon and won a number of awards. It’s been a great career.

Sadly, though, my publisher’s business plan was to put up a book for a month and then it was gone. If a reader wanted to find a copy, they had to hunt it down in a library or look on secondhand bookshelves.

Then a publishing revolution occurred with the arrival of digital publishing and suddenly it was all about the eBook.

Digital Publishing

Woman Holding Traditional Book And E-book ReaderThe digital reader proved a big hit with romance readers. Unfortunately, my publisher — the biggest romance publisher in the world — was slow to give them what they wanted.  It was understandable. They were publishing dozens of titles every month. It required investment and new staff just to keep up with their new books. As for their backlist titles, they ran into many thousands.

Authors, understandably, wanted them digitally published to take advantage of this new boom in romance reading but because the publisher had grabbed all the Rights (there was clause to include anything “not yet invented”) in their author contracts, no one else could publish them digitally.

Digital publishing had been tried before without much success and, hoping that it was a flash in the pan, would all go away and things would quickly get back to normal, they tried to ignore it.

They reckoned without Amazon.

Head in the sand

Ostrich with head in sand.Being an ostrich didn’t work; eBooks were the new normal and new digital romance publishers were grabbing the younger readers and a big piece of the market.

Under pressure from their authors, they finally began digitising the backlist but while the spirit was willing the reality was disappointing.

Vintage cover of The Five Year Baby SecretThese were the less than inspiring “Vintage” covers which were never going to compete with the fresh marketing from the new digital publishers who weren’t hidebound by their “brand”.

Vintage cover of The Secret Life of Lady GabriellaSome didn’t even get a proper cover.

In the exploding publishing phenomenon of Amazon, most of them sank without trace.

Reversion

Cover Wild Justice by Liz Fielding - brooding manThis was the point when authors started asking for reversion of the rights to their older books. It wasn’t easy.

Under those old contracts they had to have been published for six years before you could request reversion. After that you had to wait eighteen months to give them time to reprint.

Meanwhile, I had three books from another publisher and went ahead with those.

The one thing I knew was that the cover had to be professional and US designer Kim Killion, did a wonderful job for me.

They more than earned their keep and I did get a few of my early romances from Mills and Boon but, busy, I left it there for quite a while. Recently, however, I’ve regained the English language rights to more of my books.

Doing it myself

Cover The Bachelor's Baby by Liz FieldingFellow Liberta hivie, Joanna Maitland, taught me how to prepare the books for digital publication – you can follow her instructions here. Since then I’ve been doing it for myself. and, using Canva, I am now making my own covers. This is a recent one. (If Canva is a bit of mystery to you, do sign up on Facebook for Canva4Authors)

So now it’s easy, right?

Not exactly.

Described by the great Leigh Michaels as “accidental historicals”, these are classic contemporary romances. They are of their time and live in the era in which they were written.

It’s not about the physical stuff, the lack of mobile phones, the fashion or the fact that cars all have electric windows these days. Thankfully I just missed the era when it was consider sexy for the hero to smoke cheroots! It’s the attitude and the language which, over the years, have changed quite dramatically.

Letting go

Pink trash bagI’m about as “PC” as you can get, but reading a couple of early books in preparation for republication made me feel distinctly uncomfortable.

In their day they were bestsellers and much reissued but the world has moved on. Left as they are, they would need the trigger warnings I hear on the radio these days before the broadcast of old comedies. The ones about the language and attitudes being in line with the time in which they were written.

I could put in the time to do a serious edit.  I could, but I won’t. Like those comedies where I reach for the “off” button, I have closed the files on these books. They have had their day and won’t be republished by me.

Liz Fielding

Liz

3 thoughts on “Reverted Books and Digital Publishing

  1. Elizabeth Bailey

    It’s a conundrum, isn’t it? I was lucky in that my books are historical romance, so the dilemma of being in their time wasn’t an issue. They still needed editing though. Principally because my craft had moved on, but also because, as you say, issues are very sensitive these days and you have to be careful not to offend readers. “Of their time” becomes relative, I think. Your modern reader understandably takes exception to some of the alpha male behaviour depicted in historical romances of yesteryear, never mind the era in which yours were set which isn’t nearly as far in the past.

    Reply
  2. Liz Fielding

    So true, Elizabeth. We all want to tiffle with books we wrote a long time ago, bring them up to scratch, but those 90s alphas were a little bit too macho for my taste these days. They could have been edited, no doubt, but some things are better left in the past.

    Reply
    1. Joanna

      And yet I have a good friend in the US, a bestseller, whose advice was just to put up all the reverted books, unedited and unchanged, on the basis that some readers would like them and pay, and those that didn’t like them wouldn’t buy.

      I note that a lot of oldish Joffe books have a warning in the front that the books reflect the time they were written and don’t include things like mobile phones. I can see the sense in including that while putting up the books unchanged. You may find, Liz, that some of your fans are desperate to get hold of a beloved old book of yours and will object if you deny them the chance to replace the one that fell apart. Just sayin’ [and ducking]

      Reply

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