Thursday, 9 August 2012

To update or not to update? That is the question.

Always one to wait until a bandwagon has trundled past and I’m left coughing and spluttering in the dust before I start to run after it, I am about to venture into self-publishing. 

Copyright ©1992 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd

Rather to my own surprise, I have recovered the rights to five of my earliest books, including my very first, A Sweeter Prejudice and one that remains a favourite after all these years, Woman at Willagong Creek.  As you have no doubt gathered, this was before I discovered that books sold better with Wedding or Baby or Billionaire in the title.

The technological challenge of the whole business has me daunted, but fortunately that’s being taken care of for me, so all I really need to do now is to decide how much editing I need to do before we publish these books again.  Opinion seems to be divided about whether you should update the stories so that the characters use cell phones and the internet, or whether you leave them as ‘vintage’ pieces. 

I’m inclining towards the latter, mainly because I’m afraid that if I start playing around with books written so long ago, I’ll end up feeling that I have to rewrite the entire book, which would defeat the whole object.

There’s no way stories twenty years old aren’t going to seem dated.  You can tell that even reading re-releases of early books by successful authors like Mary Balogh, Tess Gerritsen or Harlan Coben.  It seems to me that it’s not so much the details as the writing itself that is dated.

What do you think?  Do you like your contemporary romances bristling with up-to-date references, or are you prepared to make allowances for a vintage story?


  1. Vintage, all the way!
    I don't have any experience in this, but I would be afraid once I started tinkering, I'd be afraid to stop.
    Also, I feel like as long as somewhere on the book it is made clear that it is a reprint, readers can go in with appropriate expectations. Personally, when I read a "vintage" contemporary, I enjoy a vacation to a slightly different time and seeing how the author's style has changed.

  2. I'm glad you said that, Jill. That's exactly my feeling. I think I'll have to find appropriate covers and package them all as 'Vintage Jessica Hart' or maybe mention the dates somewhere ... haven't reached that stage of finding out how it all works yet but it's good to get another opinion.

  3. Like "Vintage Jessica Hart"! As a reader, as long as I know the year of the story, I'm OK with out-dated technology, etc.

  4. I agree with Jill. Vintage books have their own charm & it would be strange to read an updated version. If someone is looking for your earliest titles, at least they know what will they get.

  5. Phew. Better and better ... Thanks, ladies!

  6. Second (fourth?) the vintage option! It's always fun reading about a time before mobile phones or the internet - like a peek into a same yet different present, if that makes sense. I've been reading Isabelle Holland's contemporary books written in the 1970s recently and I love how they give me a feel for that time, almost by accident.

    I do agree with that the writing (plot or characters possibly?) may feel dated, but if you label pub year clearly, at least readers know what to expect.


  7. Chiming in late, but in total agreement. I love reading "vintage" books.

  8. Yep, vintage! I just finished reading a Mary Stewart published in 1958, the year I was born. Yes, dated in some respects but gosh the writing was good and that's all that really matters. I know your books will stand up without tinkering.

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  10. That makes you the same age as me, Louise! I agree, Mary Stewart's books are classics, the writing so good they stand the test of time. You get sucked so completely into her world that time isn't relevant anyway. I could do a whole post on my favourite Mary Stewart ... in fact (lightbulb!) I think I will, so thanks for the prompt!

    I really appreciate ALL the comments, and interesting that everyone has been in favour of vintage. I get the impression from discussions in other forums that a lot of authors now self-publishing their back lists are in favour of editing, which was why I've been hesitating, but I'm encouraged by your responses here, so thank you all.

  11. i have JUST written a blogpost about Woman at Willagong Creek ... and i think that one definitely better stay vintage ;-)