the vast publishing conspiracy
July 26, 2009
Real quick–what’s wrong with these pictures?
Quick answer: nothing. Not a blessed thing. Well, except maybe they didn’t sell so well back in the early 90s, which put the author’s survival (sales-wise) in jeopardy.
Still, they look like lovely, interesting books. They even have inside illustrations of freakishly good-looking embracing couples, kind of a bodice-ripper secret bonus. I’ve always been fond of that kind of little grace note in my historical romances. English majors recognize the titles as snippets from the Bard Himself, everyone’s favorite Elizabethan, Shakespeare.
- A. to introduce old books to new readers who might have missed them the first time around
- B. to dupe readers with a Vast Publishing Conspiracy
According to a number of bloggers, it’s Answer B.
But I kind of wish they’d checked in with me before declaring me a shameless hussy (which we all knew already). To clear up the misconceptions, here are some myths and realities of modern commercial publishing:
Myth: Publishers are greedy and will do anything to make a buck.
Reality: Publishers love books. They love readers. The people I work with in publishing are book geeks who want nothing more than to evangelize books and authors they love. In the 23 years since I sold my first book, I’ve never heard someone in publishing say, “Let’s fool people into buying a sub-par product.” In commercial publishing, the goal is to appeal to the widest possible readership.
Myth: New titles? Seriously???
Reality: Are you a Georgette Heyer fan? Did you enjoy Powder and Patch? Were you aware that the book was first published in 1923 as “The Transformation of Philip Jettan“? By somebody named “Stella Martin”? Oh, and guess what else? For her reissue, my gal Georgette cut some stuff, including the final chapter, before its republication in 1930. If Georgette can do it, so can the rest of us.
Out of print books are reprinted with new titles all the time. It’s been done by the likes of Stephen King, Sandra Brown, Catherine Coulter, Dean Koontz…and some–like Koontz–change both the title and the author’s name for the reissue. A few people might have read books by Leigh Nichols. But everybody reads Dean Koontz.
There are a lot of reasons for this. Not every title can be perfect and timeless. Sure, you’ve got Gone With the Wind and The Thornbirds…but you also have “The Transformation of Philip Jettan” and things of that ilk, which are sorely in need of a makeover. I actually have a couple of titles I don’t love.
Did my original Shakespearean titles need a makeover? When I was asked, I said no. Actually, I said HELL NO. But my publisher is used to hearing this from me. And they know when all is said and done, I will park my ego at the door and listen to their rationale and 99% of the time, I’ll be persuaded. Confession time: When I saw the proposed artwork, I was similarly not thrilled. But I was made a believer by the reaction of booksellers and readers everywhere. There is a lot of excitement surrounding this re-release.
Myth: A reissued book is dumbed down.
Reality: A reissued book is often word-for-word, identical in text to the original. (Lord of the Night even used the same cold type, I believe.) But sometimes, the reissue has been edited and/or updated. I like to think I’m a better writer now than I was 15 years ago. So I jumped at the chance to revise the Tudor Rose books. They’re cleaner now, more dramatic and smoother. Trust me, you won’t miss the stuff I cut: “What ho, varlet! Draw your weapon!” We don’t really need that, do we?
Myth: Reissues are a new ploy by publishers to get us to buy books we already own.
Reality: Based on the sales numbers for the original publications, you don’t own the books. Nobody but my mother, my hairdresser, and a hapless shopper who stumbled into a booksigning in 1994 owns the books. Reissues are a service to readers who are interested in early books of an author they’ve recently discovered. Now, if you do own the books, I have just two words for you: Thank you.
Myth: You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
Reality: True, but you can give the cover a makeover. Books are repackaged with new cover art all the time. In fact, I love it when a smart publisher takes a classic and sexes it up with great art to get the attention of new readers.
Seriously, which novel would you be more likely to read?
So here’s today’s Super Special Offer. Post a comment below and you’re automatically entered. A virtual drawing via www.random.org will determine the winner of both editions of my new/old book–Circle in the Water, and At the King’s Command. Sound like a plan?
Post now! Tell me your thoughts about reissued books!