One of the great things about eBooks is that authors are now making their out-of-print books available in electronic format. I love this. There have been so many books that I haven’t read because I couldn’t find the book or I didn’t find out about the author until her substantial backlist was out of print.
However, I’ve noticed that authors are “tweaking” their vintage book before they upload it into eBooks. They want to rewrite a scene that may seem dated. Some want to update the story so they can have the characters use modern technology. Others are rewriting the books and giving it a more contemporary spin.
I may be in the minority when I say this, but stop it right now, authors!
It’s so tempting for authors to freshen up the story. The author they are now would write a book differently than the author they were ten years ago. Or maybe they are worried that a book from ten years ago would not appeal to a younger audience. Their motivations could be as simple as dreading e-mails from readers asking, “Why didn’t they just use the cell phone?”
Here’s my advice to authors: If you feel the need to warn readers that the book is set ten or twenty years ago, add a “Dear Reader” letter in the beginning explaining that this is one of your older books. So simple to do! Think of all the work you’ve just avoided.
Or, if you’re concerned that a younger reader won’t connect with your vintage book, think about this: what is the oldest book on your keeper shelf? Does it matter to you that it was written decades ago? Probably not. You love it because of the characters and the developing relationship.
Now, if you want to revise it because your writing style has changed or you feel that you could write it better today, I really hope that you will reconsider. That story, the way that it is written, still has value. I would venture to say that it has even more value to your readers. Let them see how much your writing has evolved and how you’ve found your core story.
And, finally, how often are you going to update these stories? Every five years? Every year?
I’m sure there are many creative people who would love to go back to their work of art and update or tweak it. (Ahem, George Lucas.) But what if an Oscar-winning director decided he wanted to splice up his movie so he could remove dated footage and add modern content? What if a guy who created an iconic TV show that celebrated the 90s wanted to edit the episodes so they seemed more 2012?
He wouldn’t revise his work. Instead, he would do a remake or a reboot. Offer a unique vision on one of his older work. Different characters, different setting, but inspired by his earlier film. It sounds like a lot more work, but I think updating a story would be like a house of cards–one wrong move and the story will fall apart. It’s better to start with something new.
Bottom line: Don’t mess with a classic. Honor the writer you were back then and keep your backlist vintage.