Sooner or later, professional writers have to finish their manuscripts. Deadlines seldom allow for Infinite tinkering unless that tinkering is happening with a back-burner project.
But let’s suppose a book goes out of print, especially one that didn’t find a readership when it was new due to the timing of the release, the promotion, the cover, or even some of an author’s own editorial decisions.
If you have always believed in the story, you have another chance to start fresh. After all, it won’t be like you’re changing a classic and will have a million readers asking why Bob shoots George in the first edition and George shoots Bob in the second edition.
The fresh opportunity I see here probably is less drastic than a major plot upheaval. In fact, if anyone to sees both editions, they might not notice what was changed.
Once a book comes out, it usually is as it is. If we have second thoughts later, we usually have to let them go. Plus, whether you’re under contract with a publisher to produce a new series of books or not, it’s usually considered more forward-looking for an author to concentrate on new stuff rather than trying to re-work (or salvage) old stuff.
With a new edition, you can add that character you deleted the first time out, you can tighten up the language or re-work scenes you wish you’d made longer or shorter, and you can explore things you wanted to say, but didn’t say. We’re influenced by a lot of things as we write: what a beta reader or editor suggests, what the publisher wants, or even how we feel exactly about the more edgy themes and plot twists.
These things are on my mind these days as I re-work an out-of-print book of my own. To some extent, the publisher and I didn’t have a solid “meeting of the minds” about how the book should be focused. More importantly, I was less than comfortable writing about incidents in the book which came out of my own experience and skirted a few issues.
When the new edition comes out, I hope it finds more readers than the first edition. But even if it doesn’t, I’ll feel better about it because (sink or swim) it will more closely match with my original vision for the story.
Sometimes there’s gold in old stories whether they reached publication or not. Fix the old or create the new? That’s not an easy choice. It probably comes down to passion. Are you passionate about the story. If so, it might be worth another look and a fresh opportunity for making it what you really want it to be.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “The Sun Singer,” “Sarabande,” “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire,” “Emily’s Stories,” and “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”