How to Breathe New Life Into An Old Book

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

When something isn’t new anymorewhether it’s your car or your bookvalue disappears with each passing day. But while that new-book smell might decrease, the value of your book to you, as a creator, doesn’t have to if you know where to look.

Reach Foreign Markets

Conventional wisdom tells us that to sell more of something, you need more people to sell it to. For books, it’s easy to see beyond different places to sell your book, and focus rather on different ways to sell it through subsidiary rights. Sub rights, as they’re commonly known, are the different ways your book can be recreated—whether that’s a foreign edition, a movie, or a theme park—and sold. Though movies and theme parks are hard to break into, there is an entire portion of publishing entirely dedicated to foreign rights: the selling of your book to a specific market, in a specific format, in a specific language, for a specific period of time. For example: you might sell a publisher in France the right to sell your book in French, in print, throughout Europe, for five years. A typical foreign rights deal would include an advance and royalties paid on books sold.

Foreign rights can be a boom for books of all types. For self-published authors in particular, foreign rights have a low barrier of entry because in most cases, as the creator and publisher, you own all of the rights (as with anything, make sure you own it before you sell it!). And with an older book that has sales history, you’re in a better position to sell rights than you would be with a new, unknown book that has not been market tested.

Some of the quickest ways to break into foreign rights include attending an international book fair (like the Frankfurt Book Fair or Bologna Book Fair) either by yourself or with a collective, using an online rights platform like PubMatch or IPR License, or looking for a sub-agent to represent your book abroad.

Reinvigorate Your Media Outreach

With so many books published each year, it seems like people only care about new books. For a lot of media, that’s true; it’s why so many outlets have such strict guidelines when it comes to submitting books for possible review, or pitching to media.

The major book review journals—Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Foreword Reviews, etc.—all have strict pre-publication submission guidelines, but they all also have a backdoor: PW’s Booklife, Kirkus Indie, and Foreword Clarion are a few examples. These secondary options do not restrict the potential for review based on the book’s release date, and as such, already-released books can be submitted for review. In the case of Kirkus and Foreword, these options are paid for and therefore guarantee a review for your book.

A new book review—particularly a positive review—is a great way to bring new attention to an existing book, whether that’s new outreach to booksellers or librarians, consumers, or media.

Cut It Up

Before it was a movie, and before it was published by Random House, The Martian was a serialized work of fiction. Serialization is the latest trend in storytelling, from the Serial podcast to Serial Box (an online platform for serialized fiction), entire business models are cropping up around the idea of leaving the reader hanging, and it could be a way to find a new audience for your narrative.

And it’s not just linear storytelling that you can apply parts of your book to. Services like Slicebooks exist to cut up your work to sell on different platforms, in collections and more.

Just because your book is no longer new doesn’t mean you’ve squeezed it dry. Launch is just one part of a book’s life, and the ideas above are just a few ways you can create an income longtail for yours.


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Seth Dellon

Seth Dellon is the Associate Publisher of Foreword Reviews, a media company devoted to covering independent publishing. He’s spent the last decade immersed in book publishing, previously at Publishers Weekly and the American Collective Stand/Combined Book Exhibit. Seth is a co-founder of the online rights exchange PubMatch and a member of the Board of Directors of the Independent Book Publishers Association. He lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife and daughter who is named after a Harry Potter character.