It’s amazing how books I wrote recently (to me, recently means within the last five years) are now Back List and it’s time to give them new life. Many multi-published authors say this, so it’s not an original idea. Check the blogs of writers like J.A. Konrath, Russell Blake and Louisa Locke.
Since I’m doing this myself, I can share my thoughts about what to change, and what not to, here today.
1. The Title. No, don’t change the title. Even if you sold very few copies when the book made its debut, changing the title would be a mistake. Someone who bought an earlier version might buy the new one and get very angry when finding they already read it under a different title. Angry enough to give you a one-star review or vow never to buy one of your books again.
2. Names. Although I don’t recommend this, character names can probably be changed without damaging your reputation, but don’t do it unless absolutely necessary (like a main character has the same name as a suddenly-notorious serial killer).
3. Plot. This ranks as another place to tread carefully. I think it’s a good idea to reread your older novel and make notes of anything that seems odd, or unclear. Such changes might improve the experience for your reader.
4. Word choices and grammar. Be sure your grammar is correct, but also set your “search” feature for “was, were, that, had” or words ending in ly. (adverbs)” Also sentences that begin with “And” or “But” or “It was” or “There was.” These, perhaps, can all be improved and therefore strengthen your writing skills. Words such as “seemed,“ and “felt” can be changed to better ways to show how characters thought and behaved. Similarly, look for “saw,” “watched,” “looked,” and “turned,” to give readers a more tangible vision.
5. I’m giving “said” a paragraph of its own. If you haven’t already changed old-fashioned speech tags such as “laughed, groaned, replied and opined,” replace them now with “said.” In fact, I recommend trying to eliminate “he said” and “she said,” by putting the character’s action in the same paragraph with his/her speech, which will make it clear who’s talking.
I wrote some of this in an earlier blog post, but I think it bears repeating. I sincerely hope it helps and results in new sales for your older books.