Thursday, June 16, 2011

Book Talk - Too Soon?

More than once I've had works orphaned, either by a publisher's implosion or by choice - sometimes you come to recognize a story has run its course at a certain place, but it doesn't necessarily mean the book should be sealed in a vault forever. Major media conglomerates recognize the value in their properties no matter their age. Ever wonder why Disney sends Peter Pan and Dumbo back to the untouchable mouse-eared archives every few years? It's not because there is content one might deem offensive - they're nurturing the demand for their product. I remember as a child watching these commercials they used to air:

You had your chance to purchase Sleeping Beauty on videocassette, and now it's gone. (Picture image of fading VHS case here.)

I'm sitting there thinking, HOLY SHIT!!!!! They're never going to release Sleeping Beauty on video again, and we don't have it. We have royally f--d up! (It didn't come out exactly like that; remember I'm probably about ten here.)

Then the commercial continued the tease to buy Pinocchio before it, too, was locked away. Right there, Disney has stimulated interest in two films, and sure enough Beauty gets trotted out every few years for an anniversary edition or HD rendering. I still don't have a copy.

So what does this have to do with eBooks? I can tell you now, no way in heck will I attempt a stunt like that. These days, I must rely on every release I have to keep my name out there. I doubt the vault-tease would work with my books. I could try, and maybe you all could comment and beg for the book's return. Please?

Okay, seriously now. I've seen where authors are taking their back list to KDP and PubIt and Smashwords, and that's great. I can also understand the desire to get the newest edition live as soon as possible to maximize sales. People have Kindles and Nooks now, and that oh so tempting instant click button grabs a commitment before a reader can go "Wait, what?" What I want to talk about now, though, is how soon is too soon to get your re-releases out there.

To determine a good date for re-release, check your contract if you book is still under one. Normally, your current publisher will have anywhere from 30-90 days to take down a title. This will depend largely on how a book is distributed. In the case of eBooks, it could be a few days before a vendor renders a title inactive. In some store databases, though, the eBook won't go away altogether. Here's why: if a customer buys your book from Small eBook House, the vendor may offer indefinite access to that book in the event the customer switches reading devices or accidentally erases a file. They can go back and get another copy of the book they bought. Of course, new readers won't be able to buy it because it's no longer on sale.

Some vendors will take longer to respond to publishers' requests for take down. I know - I have to deal with that sort of thing. It gets to the point where I'm like Bart Simpson, bugging the mail woman for his spy camera. You know the episode. If I'm lucky, the vendor complies in a timely manner; if not, lady, where's my spy camera.

If your book is in print as well as eBook, know that the process to make a book out of print is more involved. I've never had to do it myself, but I understand there are procedures to follow and, depending on the printer, it may take the full 60 or days to accomplish. Now, I can understand an author wants to re-release a work once the rights are fully retained, and it's frustrating to see an older edition of the work listed for sale past that point. Here is one thing I've learned about that:

Certain vendors like Amazon.com, when they list your print book, will order a few copies to have on stock for immediate fulfillment. When you list that book out of order, if Amazon still have copies in stock, the book will remain for sale until those copies are sold. Then, that edition's listing may remain, but the buy button will be gone.

Don't assume, therefore, that a remaining listing on a site means a publisher hasn't worked to take the book down. There's no magic light-switch to press - I wish there was sometimes. There's nothing more frustrating then sending an e-mail and not receiving an answer. I don't like acting like a pest, but I find I have to do it to avoid legal ramifications.

That said, if you're working to re-release a book, I would suggest giving it some time between the day of your official release from the publisher and the live date. This way you can confirm the old edition is down everywhere, and you can follow-up where applicable. In the case of prints, you may need to contact a vendor and find out what needs to be done. If it takes buying out those last copies to create the out of print listing, I would personally do it. I'd write it off as a business expense and give away the books. Your old publisher may also have inventory you can buy.

Take the time, too, to go over your book and proof for corrections. Also, check your contract. Some publishers may stipulate on release of your work that you cannot used the edition as edited by their staff. Either way, it's always a good idea to give your book a once-over before setting it free again. If you hope for sales the second-time around, give readers the best possible book.

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