I’ve been thinking. (Calm down, readers; it’s not that unusual.)
Publishing rights are being reverted to authors, and this usually means they self-publish instead of shopping to a new publisher. This pretty much definitely results in new cover art, but also sometimes means altered content – i.e. “heavily revised”.
So what does this mean for readers who bought the original publications, but still want to acquire these new editions? Is it fair to make fans pay twice for essentially the same story (though its telling may differ)?
Publishers do this all the time: A book may be released first in hardcover, but its paperback publication a year or so later may have “extras” – i.e. a short story, author essay on the evolution from idea to finished product, interviews, “diary excerpts”, etc.
This is not limited to the book biz: You buy a CD (yes, I’m old) the week it’s released because you’re a fan, but when the band comes around to tour your country the album is re-released with extras – and not just remixes or a DVD, but bonus tracks or B-sides (i.e. meaningful stuff worth buying).
Record labels and publishers have taught the public that those who buy products early on are not the people the companies are trying to court. They’re not as fussed about long-time fans – they care more about catering to the “I don’t usually buy albums”/”I don’t usually buy books” crowd. So basically early adopters aren’t as highly valued as newcomers.
What I want to propose is some form of rewards scheme for early adopters. Such as: If you can provide proof that you bought the original edition, you could get a discount/freebie of the re-released product. e.g. Instead of paying full-price for the re-released book, customers could have the option of buying the extras separately, or buying the complete-with-extras re-released book but with a discount exclusive to those who can prove they bought the original edition. Or, with proof of having bought the original print books the person could receive the new eBook for free or heavily discounted.
Does this make any sense? Maybe I need to use an example. DISCLAIMER: I have no problem with the author; she’s awesome. I’m just scared to ask anyone for anything 😉
Tor originally published Jordan Summers‘s Dead World trilogy (Red, Scarlet, and Crimson), and I bought those mass market paperbacks. More recently, the author got her rights back and self published the trilogy (along with two related novellas or short stories). From what I’ve heard, the original books were more paranormal romance, but the re-releases are more urban fantasy – so that’s a pretty dramatic difference. In all honesty I’d much prefer to read the urban fantasy editions. And if I were to read and review the original, para-rom editions I probably wouldn’t enjoy them as much as I would the UF, and my reviews would have to carry the annoying heads-up that my reviews aren’t based on the most recent version. In a way, that would be like reviewing an earlier draft, rather than a finished product.
Of course, I’m non-confrontational so I don’t have the courage to ask for a discount or freebie of the new editions, which is why I’m writing this post instead. If I shared a photo of all three paperbacks together as proof that I bought them all (my only photo-altering skills: flipping the angle, changing the lighting, and trimming the edges – NO PhotoShopping), would that be enough evidence that I was an early adopter, and thus maybe – just maybe – I’ve earned a reward?
Because I just don’t know if it’s worth it to pay for the same story (even if it’s told somewhat differently) twice. Publishers and record labels, this is why your customers sell their books/CDs second-hand on eBay and whatnot – because they want to earn back some money they spent buying essentially the same thing twice. And selling this stuff second-hand robs the writers of royalties.
My ideal would be for record labels/publishers/authors to value early adopters as much as they value newcomers. We all know early sales are important to keeping a book, or maybe even a career, afloat. But if newcomers only have to pay for the definitive edition once, what’s the point of even being a long-time fan?