I Am Against Book Revisionism

Every writer, without exception, hates looking at their earlier work. (“Earlier work” can be as late as the last book or the pages written yesterday, but in general I mean books with a good span of years since their original appearance.)

I understand this.

But the book is what it was.

When it’s brought back into print years later, leave it alone. Don’t go inserting cellphones and post-1980s political correctness (agh!) into something originally published in the 1960s or 1970s.

The thought occurred to me tonight that writers who are eager to muck about with their earlier works can do what is done with TV and movies.

When Batman was made into movies three times (West, Keaton, Bale), the older versions weren’t taken out and shot. People can still go back to Keaton and even West to see them again.

But this is sometimes not possible with a book that never had a large print run. When it’s brought back different from what it was, people have to settle for that, period.

Why not adopt the way they do things with TV and movies?

Bring back the original in print — as it was — and then go off and re-do it as a new book too?

This sort of thing wasn’t possible in the days or print. You couldn’t issue the old and the revised.

But this is the age of the eBook.

I keep bugging Christopher Fowler that I want Roofworld back in print. He keeps insisting he’s appalled by the book. Too bad. Don’t ruin my memory of it! Go on to write it as Roofworld: A Remake or Roofworld: Redefined.

The original Roofworld could be re-issued in e. That’d set up the audience for the “remake” of it, which could appear as a conventional book, starting in print.

Why not a Roofworld: 1988 and a Roofworld: 2012?

Two income streams from one book idea. Why not?

I tell you, as a Fowler fan, I’d buy both!

And I think fans of other writers would do the same too.


Filed under Books: General, Digital Overthrow, eBooks: General, Marketing, Writer, Writing

7 responses to “I Am Against Book Revisionism

  1. Couldn’t agree more. Tweaking a published book just feels unholy.

  2. I think that’s an awesome idea. I CAN’T STAND retrofitted books (and there are a lot of them coming out because authors are releasing their backlists and have the freedom to make changes). Guess what? I NOTICE.

  3. I don’t understand this position. Why would anyone want an earlier version’s typos and bad writing? If a writer has grown, evolved, and is now appalled by an earlier edition, you don’t have any right to demand he make himself look like an ass. This just seems silly to me, especially in the digital age. You guys sound like hidebound traditionalists. MOVE ON!

    • mikecane

      Stop being silly. Just because the *writer* is now appalled doesn’t mean the *reader* was or will be. And the book was good enough to be published *once*, so why not again? The writer does not matter *after* the work is published; the work is *done*.

  4. I agree with Moriah Jovan: AWESOME idea.

  5. Sorry to hear Fowler hates Roofworld so much – I completely loved it, and in fact stumbled across this blog after googling for ‘fowler roofworld ebook’ – but I also, as a working writer, completely get his reluctance. Still, there’s hope it might appear yet.

    You know, I think writers *do* rewrite their earliest books sometimes — except they give their characters different names, a slightly different plot, and a different title…

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