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Opinion: Don’t Be Afraid to Read Your Back Catalogue – You May Be Pleasantly Surprised

Ann Richardson headshot

Hybrid author Ann Richardson shares her thoughts on back catalogues

Many indie authors have a long tail of work behind them, whether unpublished manuscripts left in a drawer for years, or books published under a trade contract. In either case, says Ann Richardson, don’t be afraid to look back at those earlier works and reassess them – they be a valuable addition to your self-published portfolio. Here she shares her own experience of revisiting her past books and what she found there.

Revisiting Books Written Some Years Ago

Have you ever gone back to read books you wrote some years ago?  Most writers, I suspect, don’t. We write, we publish and we move on.

Some writers say that when they do go back, it makes them uncomfortable to see their earlier, less formed self.  They have learned so much in the meantime.

Indeed, some remove their own books from sale, lest readers think this is the best they can do.

Looking back with pleasure

But there is another response. Some of us return to old books to find ourselves surprised at how good they were. We have also learned much in the meantime, yet our earlier self was unexpectedly thoughtful. It is wonderful to discover.

Last year, I returned to two books I had written many years ago, which were trade-published. I was so impressed with both that I re-launched both for new readers, after getting my rights back (much easier than you think).

Ten years ago

cover of Life in a Hospice

The new self-published edition

Ten years ago, I wrote a book offering the thoughts of hospice staff about working in end-of-life care, Life in a Hospice. It had been published by a highly respectable medical publisher and had a Foreword by Tony Benn, a well loved MP. Indeed, it was Highly Commended by the British Medical Association in 2008.

But I was irritated by the lack of publicity by the publisher (taken over by a major conglomerate) and wondered how relevant it would feel today. Yes, what a delight. I was very touched by the stories and it felt fresh as a daisy!  That prompted me to take back the rights and re-publish it as both a paperback and e-book, but added a new cover.

RESULT: I must have been right, because after selling one or two books a year, it has sold nearly four hundred copies since March 2017. That’s not Harry Potter, but it is good for a book on hospice care.

Twenty-five years ago

cover of Wise before their time

Once topical, now of historical value

That experience prompted me to go back to a book I had published in 1992 setting out the personal stories of people with HIV/AIDS when it was a life-threatening disease, Wise Before their Time.  It was long out of print, although there were second hand copies available on the net. I approached the task of reading it with some trepidation, as I could well have been embarrassed.

On the contrary, I found myself incredibly moved by my own book, which I had not read for twenty-five years.

Although the stories have no current relevance, as people diagnosed with HIV can now anticipate a normal life span, they had a historical significance.

Again, I took the rights back and republished it as both a paperback and e-book, again with a new cover.

RESULT: It is selling less dramatically, but selling nonetheless. And it has garnered nothing but five star reviews, which is pleasing.

Conclusions

I am not a young woman, so these books – old as they are – were not written in the full flush of youth. Perhaps if I were able to go back to writings from my twenties or thirties, I would well be embarrassed.

But for those of you who have traditional publications long out of print and wonder whether to just forget about them – think again.

Take them out and have a look.  You might be pleasantly surprised.  And if you are a member of ALLi, you know that self-publishing is easy.  The next step is obvious.

#Authors - don't be afraid to look at your back catalogue, says @CelebratingGran - it may be perfect material for #selfpublishing. Read her case study here: Click To Tweet

OTHER POSTS ABOUT WORKING WITH YOUR BACK CATALOGUE
From the ALLi Author Advice Center Archive

Opinion: Why You Should Never Stop Growing As An Author

Opinion: What Should Indie Authors Do with their Back Catalogue of Early Self-published Books?

Publishing: A Case Study of Getting Back Your Rights to a Trade-published Book

 

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One Response to Opinion: Don’t Be Afraid to Read Your Back Catalogue – You May Be Pleasantly Surprised

  1. K.S.Trenten March 17, 2018 at 8:04 pm #

    You’ve just validated my own path which I’m following. I pulled out the very first story I wrote when I was 11 years old. I’m currently revising it. I’m also working on a manuscript most of my beta readers deemed beyond help, plus I’m expanding a previous publication into a new form. It’s wonderful to know I’m not the only one who sees the value in looking back as well as forward.

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