My Book Went Out of Print, Now What?
Contributor
Written by
marci alboher
February 2012
Contributor
Written by
marci alboher
February 2012

When I learned that my publisher decided to let One Person/Multiple Careers go out of print just a few months after its second printing, I didn't know what to make of it. The book hadn't sold millions of copies, but it had sold thousands, had a loyal following -- and garnered continuous media attention around the world.

As someone who spends a lot of time talking about the book business with other writers, this just didn't make sense. But rather than whine, I took action. I asked the publisher to revert the rights back to me -- which happened with relative ease and no cash on my end. And I decided to release an electronic version and a new paperback edition on my own, as the first "Heymarci.com" production. In fact, the thing that pushed me to get moving and get the e-book finished was a wave of recent interest (nearly five years after the book's publication) outside of the United States. It was killing me that there was no way to buy the book other than through Amazon, where the handful of used copies would surely run out at some point. I had some other reasons, too.

I wanted to start a conversation with other authors who are in the same position -- wondering what to do with an older book that still has readers but has been orphaned by the original publisher.

I also wanted to model the kind of entrepreneurial thinking I encourage others to adopt. The timing was awful. I'm weeks away from delivering a new book manuscript to a new publisher. And my head is focused on encore careers -- the subject of my new book. So the only way I could do this was by minimizing the labor involved. I tapped my network, found a great consultant to handle the technology parts, and gave her the updated introduction I had written months ago. I signed up for a PayPal account. My husband designed a new cover. And voila, we were ready to go in about two weeks.

So here it is. You can download the new introduction for free. And if you or anyone you know has been awaiting the digital version, you can order or share with this link. If you're inclined to help spread the word - either about this new edition or about how authors can be more entrepreneurial, I'd so appreciate it. And here's a few easy ways to do that:

1.  Tweet (#slashcareers) or share this post on Facebook.
2.  Write a review on Amazon.
3.  Share this post with other authors who may be wondering what to do about books that have gone out of print.

Oh, and don't forget to join the conversation about "slash careers" and share your experiences with others. There's a slash "/" careers group on Facebook that I plan to revive. I also regularly get calls from reporters doing "slash" stories and love having handy case studies ready to share. If you tweet, use the hashtag #slashcareers.

In a follow-up post, I'll cover the steps you need to take to take a previously published book and reissue it as a digital and POD (print-on-demand) edition.

Let's be friends

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Comments
  • Laura Simms

    I am also looking forward to your information and experience actually publishing an ebook. I have wanted to do this for some time and was unsure of how to do it.  If there is a best site or recommendations for where and how to begin and with which company, that would be incredibly helpful. Thank you for your generosity.  Laura

  • Nancy Mueller

    Valuable info., Marci! I'm looking forward to your follow up post as well. My book has gone out of print, and emails to the publisher requesting info. on getting the publication rights back, have gone unanswered. I'll try calling again - but so far no luck in getting any response. Thanks for your advice on getting a PDF copy of the book.

  • Lynn A. Davidson

    Marci, this is great information to have whether published yet or not. Thank you.

  • marci alboher

    @Gilly, I feel your frustration in the publisher going silent! Getting someone to respond to emails -- in a business where people seem to disappear between every emailing session is brutal. You might want to start calling to see if you can get someone on the phone who'll work with you. If they've told you the rights have reverted, that may be the best you're going to get from them. I did also get a PDF copy of the book, which was quite helpful. You don't want to incur the expense or time of retyping the entire manuscript if you can help it.

    @Joanne, thanks for sharing your experience. Fabulous that a local bookstore was interested in buying up the remaindered copies. I agree that the marketing is tricky. Because I'm immersed in new projects right now, I don't plan to do much more than a little social media to market the book. Part of my hope is that when my next book is published there will be some renewed interest in the last one.  

  • Gilly Fraser

    Very interesting post - unfortunately you skip over the bit that would be of most relevance to me - which is how to get your rights back from the publisher in the first place!  I had nine books published by Mills and Boon (under my pen-name of Rachel Elliot) quite a few years ago and I would like to bring them out again as ebooks and POD but in a rewritten and updated form and under my own name.

    I started a dialogue with M&B over a year ago - and have so far been told that the rights of two books have now reverted to me - but now the company's gone silent on me and hasn't answered any of my emails.  I'm not even sure where I stand with the two that have supposedly reverted to me, as I haven't had any paperwork to this effect .

    Does anyone know if I actually need the rights if I'm intending to rewrite the books to some extent?

    In the meantime - I'll be happy to tweet the news about your book which sounds really useful!

  • Joanne C. Hillhouse

    I had a similar experience in that, just as my first bookwas starting to attract re-newed interest (was even placed on the schools reading list in my country) the publisher decided to pulp it and I couldn't even afford to buy up the reminders. I remember feeling bitter and angry, and despondent, about it initially before picking myself up and doing some research. I requested reversion of rights of both my first and second book(which given our contract was pretty painless) and on the strength of strong reviews and the schools interest was able (after a few false starts) to attract publisher interest in the first one and have it re-issued. A local bookstore bought up the remainders of the second one but I haven't been able to get it re-issued as yet. Re self-publishing cost is a hindrance (new cover, layout etc.) though I've looked into some publish/print on demand services. Eventually I decided to let go of it for now (putting out feelers now and again) and focus on my new book, but haven't given up on getting the second book re-issued (and translated to reach an even wider market) and putting out e-versions of both. Would definitely be interested in hearing more about your experience. One thing my experience  inspired in me (beginning with the re-issue of the first book and continuing) is a determination to be less tentative about self-marketing and promotion to give the books more of a chance to find an audience. It's one of the reasons I became so much more active in online networks (for instance). I learned from my first experience that you can't rely on the publisher for creative and aggressive promotion and that just because a book is good doesn't mean it won't underperform. It seems so obvious now but when I got my first publishing deal I felt so elated, like I'd hit the goal I'd had all my life, that getting the deal is the first part and not the end goal was a realization I had to grow into. I coninue to fight my instincts and to put myself out there. So, it's all be a learning experience.

     

    Will book mark to learn more specifics on your experience as I've raised these issues on a few other board without success in the way of concrete experiences and recommendations.

  • marci alboher

    @Charlotte, not sure I understand your question. I'll be writing about the steps it took to do this specifically - getting an old book re-released as an e-book and a POD book.

  • Charlotte Watson Sherman

    Thanks for this info., Marci. Will you write about marketing new/old out of print books too?

  • Kelsey Berryman

    Amazing article!

  • Laura Zigman

    FANTASTIC PIECE, Marci!! Like you were reading my mind! I've been wondering what to do about my out-of-print novels! Will share this and look forward to downloading the e-version of yours!!