Should You Make a New Edition?

Updated

Republishing Your Book

You’re faced with an important decision when you revise your book:

  • Should you create a new edition of the same book?
  • Or should you simply update the current edition?

Revisions are easy to make in the modern publishing world. With print-on-demand paperbacks and with e-books, there is no need to produce a new batch of hundreds of books.

You could simply upload new files to replace the old ones in the existing book. Or you could create a new book with a different edition number.

Each has its own benefits and disadvantages.

Keeping the Same Edition

In this case, you simply upload revised files to your existing book.

Possible pros:

  • Your book won’t have to rebuild customer-also-bought associations at Amazon.
  • If your book has good visibility in search results at Amazon, you won’t have to rebuild this.
  • If your book has a good sales history, you won’t have to start over with no sales history.
  • If your book has a good history of reviews, you won’t have to worry about transferring them.
  • All the links in your online marketing to your current book will still work.
  • There is no need to use a new ISBN; customers who search for your book by ISBN will easily find your update.
  • Kindle has new features to help customers get the most recent version of your e-book.

Possible cons:

  • If your book has a slow sales history* and you’re hoping to improve on this, the lack of sales in the past month may be tough to overcome.
  • If your revisions address critical reviews, those reviews may continue to haunt the book after republishing.
  • Your book won’t gain new exposure in the new release categories.
  • Since the ISBN and edition haven’t changed, customers who purchase used copies may receive old editions without realizing it.

*Sales rank combines both recent and distant sales history. When a book hasn’t sold much in the past month and suddenly sells, its sales rank climbs much more rapidly than a book that normally sells frequently, but just hasn’t sold recently. It’s easier to maintain a good sales rank than it is to overcome a history of slow sales.

You can still write the edition number on the copyright page. In fact, this is a good idea: That way, you’ll be able to tell which edition is showing on the Look Inside at Amazon, and if you’re discussing your book with a reader, you’ll be able to tell which edition the customer has.

Making a New Edition

With this choice, you publish a new book with a different edition number.

Possible pros:

  • You get new exposure with the Last 30 Days and Last 90 Days new release filters for sorting search results on Amazon.
  • If your earlier edition struggled with sales and reviews, a new edition gives your book a chance for a fresh start.
  • It should be clear (but isn’t foolproof) if customers are selling or buying old editions of your book, since the editions are clearly separate and have different ISBN’s.

Possible cons:

  • You have to rebuild your sales rank, reviews*, search visibility, and customers-also-bought lists at Amazon.
  • Any links to your old edition in your online marketing need to be updated; there may be some links on websites that you can’t update.
  • The new edition needs its own ISBN (in order to distinguish the two different books). If customers search for your book by the old ISBN, it will pull up your old book.**
  • If customers want to get your updated edition, they must purchase the new edition (for print books, this will be true regardless of how you update your book).

*It is possible to get your new and old editions linked together on Amazon in order to consolidate reviews. Your best bet is to make the request through Author Central. (If they hassle you over it, go to the CreateSpace community forum and find examples of books for which this has been done. Cite these examples to help demonstrate that it can be done.)

** If you get your editions linked together, customers will have the opportunity to find your new edition from the product page of your old edition.

You do have the opportunity to build buzz for the new edition. Successful pre-marketing can help you start out with a good sales rank, early reviews, and make early progress rebuilding your search visibility and customers-also-bought lists at Amazon.

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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Unpublishing, Republishing, and Updating Your Book

Ideally, you would publish your book perfectly the first time, everything would work out nicely, and you’d live your happily ever after publishing fairy tale.

Ah, but it doesn’t always work out that way.

For whatever reason, suppose you’re considering whether or not to unpublish your book.

Before you decide, you should learn exactly what will happen when you unpublish it. Here are some questions you need to ask:

  • Will the book disappear completely? If not, in what ways will it remain visible?
  • Will the book remain on your author page?
  • If you’re only unpublishing one edition, will the reviews stay linked together?
  • If you republish a revised version later, will old reviews return?
  • How long will it take for the book to be unpublished?

Of course, different publishing services have different policies, as do different online booksellers. So you want to consider all the possibilities.

A book won’t vanish from Amazon. However, an unpublished e-book can be removed so that customers won’t find it when they’re shopping. Print books, on the other hand, are permanently listed for the benefit of anybody who might have a used copy to sell.

At Amazon, once you add a physical book to your author page at AuthorCentral, it will evidently remain there forever. If you publish a paperback, for example, and add it to your author page, even if you unpublish the book, it will remain on your author page. The rationale behind it is that a previous customer could potentially have a used copy to sell, and this allows other customers to purchase such copies.

That’s something to consider when you sign up for an author page and when you add a new book to it. Think it over very carefully to make sure you won’t want to remove it from your author page in the future. (Suppose you have a Kindle edition already on your author page and then publish a paperback edition. If these become linked together, your paperback will appear on your author page even though you didn’t specifically add that edition to your author page.)

However, this isn’t an issue with e-books. If you unpublish a Kindle edition, the e-book can be removed from your author page. If it’s linked to a print edition, the print edition will remain on your author page, but the Kindle edition can be removed.

Suppose you have Kindle and print editions linked together. Some reviews may declare that they are for the Kindle edition or for the print edition. If you unpublish the Kindle edition, all of the reviews for both editions will remain on the print edition’s product page. However, you can politely ask AuthorCentral to unlink the two editions once the Kindle edition is unpublished, if you wish to have the reviews from the Kindle edition removed from the print edition.

A print book can’t truly be unpublished from Amazon. You can disable the Amazon sales channel. If you publish through CreateSpace, you can disable all other sales channels, too. You can even ask CreateSpace to retire the book for you once the sales channels have been disabled. However, the book will still continue to appear on Amazon, even though customers won’t be able to buy new copies directly from Amazon. This allows any customers or vendors who have new or used copies to resell them on Amazon.

If you unpublish an e-book and republish a revised version later, any reviews that you had before could suddenly appear on the republished e-book. It might be a month down the line, if not sooner. (I’ve never tried republishing an e-book, but other authors have discussed their experiences with this.) If it does happen and you’ve made significant revisions, you might contact Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and politely explain this. Nevertheless, nothing prevents a customer who left a review the first time from finding your e-book again and leaving a new review.

You could republish an e-book with a new title or cover. However, this may confuse customers to the point that some of your previous customers buy a second copy of the same book by mistake, which could result in negative reviews. (Perhaps a clear explanation in the blurb could help minimize this.) With a new title, old reviews are unlikely to show up on the republished e-book.

If you just need to revise your book, you may not need to unpublish it. It depends on the circumstances. If it’s desirable to prevent the sale of your book until the corrections are made, then for an e-book you must unpublish it in the meantime, and or a print book you must disable the sales channels until the changes are made.

It’s not necessary to create a new edition (with a new ISBN, for a print book) when revising your book. You can simply update the current edition, perhaps mentioning this briefly in the blurb. Include the edition number (or something that you’ll recognize) in the Look Inside for your own benefit. This way, when you check out the Look Inside at Amazon, you’ll be able to tell precisely which edition is showing; and if a customer shows you your book or inquires about the content, you’ll be able to check which edition the customer is referencing.

With Kindle, it is possible to notify previous customers that a file has been revised, but it depends on the circumstances and what KDP (not you) decides. You can find a place to send a request to KDP from the KDP help pages.

  • If KDP determines that the issue is minor, they will not contact customers. However, if a customer visits the Managing Your Kindle page at Amazon, the customer can receive the update there. The problem is that the customer won’t know to look for the update.
  • If KDP declares that the issue is critical, your e-book will go off sale until you correct the problem. When you fix it, notify KDP of the update. Then there may be a lengthy delay. Once KDP approves the revision and puts the book back on sale, customers will be notified.
  • If the issue is major, but not critical, in KDP’s eyes, then customers will be notified that an update is available.

There may be lengthy delays if you use an e-book aggregator like Smashwords, if the e-book has already been distributed.

The best action is to do everything possible to get the book right the first time. You only get one chance to make a good first impression.

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing