It’s not normal to change an already published novel, not normal at all.
Tolkien did it with The Hobbit. After he decided to make Bilbo’s ring the Ring Of Power he had to go back and change how Bilbo acquired the ring from Gollum. In the original version Gollum gambled the ring willingly. In the new version Bilbo found the ring, and Gollum was distraught at losing it.
But that kind of thing is few and far between.
Normally when a book is published it has gone through a long and arduous process to make it the best that it can be. No other changes should be necessary or possible. That’s how the traditional publishers do it, and that’s how I did it when I first published Dexter & Sinister two years ago. However…
I had doubts. Doubts that would not go away. These doubts manifested in two ways. First in the comment from one reader who said, “It takes a while to get going,” and second in my own understanding that, should it ever get made into a movie, there are certain parts and characters that I would definitely cut out for timing reasons, considering them irrelevant to the overall storyline.
In other words, there were parts of the story you could get rid of and the main story would be just fine. That is an uncomfortable truth for a writer to behold.
And as I finished writing book two, and found that it was a good thirty to forty thousand words shorter than book one, I had to admit that, with my obvious change in writing style, there were probably a good few words in book one that it could maybe do without. So a few months ago I decided to see.
I chopped everything I could that didn’t affect the main storyline. I removed irrelevant side characters and red herrings, and squeezed the events of days two, three, and four, into one long day. I trimmed and tightened just like I would if I were writing a movie, and when all was said and done just over ten thousand words had been cut.
I was amazed, but also slightly annoyed. I now had what, to me, was a better version of Dexter & Sinister than the one already out there. So what to do? As mentioned before, people don’t rewrite already published novels. That’s just weird. They do abridge them though.
An abridged version of a novel is one where the publisher has asked an author to chop some stuff out to reduce the page count in order to keep costs down. Stephen King had to do it with The Stand, which is why you can now purchase the abridged AND unabridged versions of that novel. Once it had proven popular the publisher was willing to spend that little bit more bringing out a longer, costlier version.
But I digress.
I decided to publish my new version, not only because it was better, but because it afforded me the opportunity to change the book’s cover. I like my original cover, it’s great in person, but it makes for an uninspiring thumbnail. It doesn’t catch the eye. I wanted something that really stood out.
And so I hired an illustrator, and a designer, and I got a new cover done. I checked and reformatted the new text, and I’ve submitted it for pre-orders. The new version is coming out, replacing the old version now and forever.
I did it because I wanted to, and because I needed to, and because what I did has made my book better. I thought long and hard about it, especially with regards to all those wonderful people who had bought the original book. In a way it felt like a betrayal of their taking a chance on an unknown author. But in the end I had no choice. I knew it was the right thing to do.
I’m unlikely to do it again, I should hope my writing process is robust enough now not to need it to be done, but I’m not going to rule it out. I’ll do whatever it takes to make my books the best that they can be.
And the best thing is, as a self published author, there’s no one there to stop me!
*cackles a maniacal laugh*
Addendum: Seriously though, I do feel bad about making changes to a novel people have already bought. I stand by my original story, it works, and I like it, but I understand if people don’t like what I have done. If any of my original purchasers feel betrayed by what I have done please get in touch and I’ll see about send them an updated e-book free of charge (proof of purchase will be required).
I wouldn’t feel too bad about it though if I was you. What you have on your bookshelf is a collector’s item, a limited edition, a real rarity. Those books will never be published again, so one day, when I’m rich and famous, you’ll be able to make a lot of money off of them.
And also I promise, anyone turning up to a book signing carrying an O.G. Dexter & Sinister will get a lot of attention from me, not to mention a patented author hug (if so desired). You’re the ones who made me want to write book two. Without you The Dragonfly Delivery Company (coming soon!) wouldn’t even exist.