7 February 2015

Let's talk about re-writes

Hey everyone,

So this week I was all set to review a paranormal M/M romance novel, however, at the start the author acknowledged it was a re-vised and re-written version of a previously published novel. This simple statement got me thinking about re-writes or revisions or whatever people want to call them. Do we like them? Do we think they're just a publishing scam to make more money? Do we think the author is just trying to improved a book for his/her readers?

I don't have the answers but I'd thought it'd be interesting to start a dicussion about authors and publishers re-vising, re-writing and then re-publishing old novels.

Like most arguments there are always mulitple sides to the same coin, and like most arguments there is no clear cut right and wrong answer, what I hope to achieve with this post is other all sides of the arguments and perhaps (although unlikely) start a discussion on this topic.

Perhaps the most famous example, within the romance community, of a book that has been re-written is Whitney My Love by Judith McNaught. This historical romance was originally published in 1985, to say it was popular would probably be an understatement and yet in 2000 Pocket Books re-published it advertising the fact that it had been adapted with a 'new enchanced ending' and more 'in-depth characters'. For those unfamiliar with the book might be questioning why a publishing house would choose to change such a popular and well loved book.

In this case I think the answer was simple, during the 1980s romance books were not the most, politically correct, shall we say and often featured dubious consent between the hero and heroine. Therefore I would assume part of the reason this book was re-published was because of its success and they wanted to update it to make it more acceptable to a modern day audience.

In that context I can understand why a publishing house might have chosen to re-write or re-edit certain parts of the book, and in all honesty it doesn't appear to have harmed the popularity of the Judith McNaught or the book. In fact it has led to many discussions between Romance readers about whether they prefer the original or the revised edition.

On the other hand I have increasingly noticed that some more recent books are being revised after about five years of the original being published. As five years is not enough for a universal shift in the genre; readers are left to assume that it is the author wanting to re-write one their earlier works now that they have grown and improved as a writer.
Again in prinicpal I have no issue with this, however, what I do have a problem with is when authors try and cover-up or underplay the fact that this book has been previously published. Secondly surely as reader we are intelligent to know that an authors first work is going to be 'rougher', shall we say than there more recent books. This doesn't mean that they are bad and should be written, in my opinion, but instead they show the development of the author. Some readers will prefer the athors earlier works, whereas others will like the newer books.

This trend of re-writing and re-publishing books isn't bad in and off itself, but at the same time I wonder if its really necessary? Perhaps there are legal reasons for the re-writes that I am unfamiliar with, or maybe the majority of readers have no issue with re-writes as long as the story is good. Then again if revision mean we can enjoy romance novels from the 1980s without the dubious consense scenes do we really want to stop them all together?

I would also love to know if re-writes are common among other genres? Surely it isn't only romance novels that are being re-written and re-published?

Happy reading everyone and see you next time!