Sometimes an author reaches the point in their career when they look back at their older titles and think to themselves, “Darn, I could have done that better.” And, sometimes, an author will have an opportunity to do just that, as Jordana Ryan tells us how she’s gone about this and some of her experiences.
How do you identify a novel that you'd like to rewrite?
When I write “the end” on a novel, I’m usually happy with what I’ve written and I don’t revisit it. However, there are times reviews will come in, or a reader will say something to me, and I will think, yeah I could have done that differently, or I should have done that better than I did. Of course, if the book is in publication at that point, there is not a whole lot I can do about that until or unless the book has run its course with a particular publisher, the publisher closes, or I’m willing to ask for my rights back to the book.
How do you advise an author about getting their rights back for a novel from a publisher?
Asking for your rights back is a relatively simple thing. In your contract, there is a clause that will tell you how to go about it. There is usually a waiting period of 30 to 90 days. Simply look at your contract to tell you how long you have to wait and what kind of notice your publisher needs. Is an email enough, or would certified mail be better? I personally recommend both. There are a lot of considerations in this. If a book is selling well with a publisher I would not recommend pulling a book simply because you wish to rewrite it. If the book is not selling, that is a different story. If you have found another publisher you like better, I also would not recommend pulling a book. You can write another book for the publisher. There are very few reasons I’d recommend breaking contract. But the actual approach to it is simple.
Once you’ve decided to do so, and you’ve really taken the time to think it over, simply look at your contract and find out what you need to do, certified letter or email, what the waiting period is, then write to the publisher very respectfully telling them that you have decided you no longer wish to be under contract with them. Tell them that you understand there is a waiting period of so long, and that once that period expires you wish them to remove your books from their site as well as any other venue from which they had placed your material for sale. Also, you would like it in writing that the rights for all material you had published with them have reverted to you and the date in which this has occurred. This will be important for re-publication of the material at a later date.
How do you approach a rewrite for a novel?
Rewriting a novel can be a very daunting task to say the least. You have an entire novel that you’ve written and has been published and for sale to the public. The key to it is deciding what needs to change and why. The book was obviously good on some level because it was published in the first place, but as the author I’m approaching it in terms of knowing there are things I want to be better. I know I’ve learned a lot since then, and there are many things that I wish I had done differently.
So, because I know the story so well, I have in my head the things I know will change and the things that won’t. I think the approach is to leave the characters essentially the same, but to enhance what was already written to make it more than what it was, to make it deeper and more meaningful. The thing about it is, the book is very close to my heart because it was my first. As a writer I have changed, and to see that book evolve and become closer to the writer I am now would really be a phenomenal thing. Bearing that in mind, I want to approach this as not changing the story, but changing the dynamic of it to suit the style of writer I have now become.
What are some of the dangers inherent to revising a novel?
The biggest one is that the book has a fan base. I know when I told a few people I was going to rewrite it they were like “Nooo I love that book.” There is always a danger of people saying, it’s just not the same. You’ve got to be careful of people saying that you changed too much. And it’s true, you don’t want to change too much of the story because then you change the basis of who the characters are. I think my readers will be surprised that I can change a lot but still have the same basis, because a lot of my style change has been to go into an even deeper point of view.
While emotion has always been my strong point, deep point of view has been something I’ve been working on, and it was one of the number one critics’ complaints with this book, so in rewriting it has been something I’ve been working on. But a danger would definitely be not to make the book so different it’s unrecognizable. A second danger certainly is that it’s not going to sell as well. The book has already been published, and it’s had its heyday so to speak. Audiences usually don’t buy a book twice, and revising it doesn’t mean those who already bought it are going to go out and buy it again just to see how I’ve changed it. Of course, I’m running a risk. However, knowing it wasn’t in the right market, and doing the revisions, I’m also taking a chance I can get it with a publisher that has a good market for the type of book that it is and the sales will increase. So it’s a chance an author takes.
Is it difficult to sell a revised novel to another publisher?
It can be. It’s easier to say this book has had significant revisions and rewrites done since publication, and here is the paper from my former publisher that says I have my rights back, than it is to hand a book over that has not been touched and comes immediately from another publisher. At least that would be my opinion of the situation.
What would you say are the advantages/disadvantages of revisions and republishing?
I think any time you revise and republish something, you will have curiosity seekers. Those who will buy the book to see what you have changed. You will also have those who have already bought the book and don’t feel the need to buy it again. So you might have a few takers just out of curiosity, but you also have a whole audience of people who might have bought the book, that now won’t because they have already done so. But then, to get it with the right publisher and see the book as I imagine it… It’s worth that risk because I might be gaining a whole new audience the book never would have had if I had not done this.
Keep up to speed with Jordana at her blog, http://jordanasmusings.blogspot.com or visit her website at http://jordanaryan.tripod.com