Thursday, April 29, 2021

Rebranding books. When is it too much?

Girl holding pile of books

Over the years, I've seen a lot of books come and go. Rights get reverted, books get taken down by publishers, authors choose to rerelease the books or not. Indie authors choose to stop publishing or decide to pull current books from circulation and sale. There are lots of reasons for books' availability dropping off. What about books that get rebranded and are available for sale again?

In the past many years, a lot of books have been given a new lease on life with new covers and such. The most often reason I've seen with books getting rebranded is because the books were published previously by a traditional publisher, and when the rights of the book reverted to the author, he/she has decided to republish the books with new covers and potentially new blurbs but keeping the same book title. Sometimes they even re-edit the book and add new bits to it. Perhaps these were scenes that the author always felt the book needed but were excluded by the publisher, or perhaps because he/she felt there was still more story to be told. Whatever the reason, the book gets republished, usually with a warning in the blurb to say that the books was previously published by such and such publisher and with new content if that's the case.

Old book with heart

I also often see indie authors repackage and rebrand existing books if they feel the covers need an update because the book has been released for a few years, and it needs to be freshened up. Perhaps the cover design for the genre has changed, and the author wants to update the look and feel of the book so that it's "to market." In these instances, the author might update the cover and perhaps rejig the blurb a little bit, but the book essentially stays the same. He/she may simply do an update on the book content with the e-retailer they are publishing their book through and call it a day. Some authors may even choose to include a warning at the bottom of the blurb to say that the book has been previously published with a different cover though I don't think I've seen that often as a practice. In this instance, the book title remains the same, too, so a reader will know it's the same book with a different cover if he/she has read the book before.

I expect traditional publishers have also rebranded books when a series has had a long run, and they want to freshen up the look to bring the books up to date for a more modern audience. In this instance, I'm thinking about longer-running authors who have had series going for a decade or more with books.

Fatal Affair by Marie Force OLD Fatal Affair by Marie Force NEW

I think these are both very legitimate reasons for updating and rebranding a book. It's also an honest rebranding and does not deceive the reader into thinking that this is a new book, although that can happen if the reader is not paying careful attention. I know that's happened to me before when I've been interested in a book by an author I've read before, which sounded good, only to realise upon further investigation that it's a book I've read previously. That's on me. If it's the same blurb and a different cover, I could be initially misled or confused, but it's up to me to check and make sure it is a book I've read before.

But what happens when the author chooses a complete rebrand and decides to present the book as though it's an entirely new entity? I've seen this happen a lot recently with one particular author, and I can't say that I agree with that approach. I think it's inherently deceptive, and for the loyal readers who have read the books before and don't check carefully or don't read the "previously published as" (very) fine print at the bottom of the blurb, this can be very annoying.

Bookshelf in phone

What I'm referring to is when the author decides to take down the previous books from the various e-retailer sites and change not only the cover but also the book title, the blurb, and reupload the book as though it's an entirely new book. The main reason I've seen for this practice is that the original book was not selling well, and the author felt that rebranding it would reach a broader or new audience and sell more books.

Other reasons I've seen for this practice is that some readers do not like duets, so the author repackaged the duet into one big book because readers like long standalone books. I've also seen a trilogy repackaged in this way though I do not entirely fathom the reason for that.

Another reason was to take a bunch of shorter books and put them all into one very large book so that people who do not like reading serials or shorter books will get one big book to read instead of five shorter books.

Kindle reading

But I've also seen a single standalone book being taken down, given a new book title, new cover, new blurb, and presented as an entirely new book.

In these instances, the original books are pulled, and nothing of the original books will remain on the e-retailer sites. It's like starting fresh entirely. New book, no reviews, all old reviews, and bad reviews are gone. I've had this happen to me with a particular author. I've reviewed maybe six or seven books by this author, and when I checked recently, only two reviews remained because she has pulled and repackaged all the other books as new books. Well, wasn't that a waste of my time to put into those reviews?

All the examples I've outlined above are aimed at getting new readers and broadening the reader base. It's all about marketing and sales and numbers. Personally, (and this is entirely my opinion only), I feel this approach to be inherently dishonest. In my experience, once a book is out, it's out. It's in the world and what happens to it is what happens to it. Sure clever marketing and advertising can bring in more readers, but if the book is terrible and doesn't click with the intended audience, then no amount of rebranding is going to fix that, especially if it's supported by a heap of bad reviews which of course pulling the book will delete.

Old book with glasses and clock

I don't agree with this kind of rebranding or repackaging of old books. As I said before, I think it's dishonest. Loyal readers will think the author has published a new book because for all intents and purposes, it presents like a new book. They are going to have to be super careful and read the blurb very carefully to find the tiny one like at the bottom of the blurb that says that ABC books was "previously published as XYZ book." Or they will need to "look inside" the book or download a sample to read and see if it's the book they've read previously before purchasing it again. Otherwise, if they think, "hooray, my favorite author has published a new book" because the book does look entirely like a new book, they are in for one heck of a disappointment.

Sure, the author is going to potentially gain new readers from this action but is it worth pissing off existing loyal readers who will buy and read pretty much everything he/she publishes? Maybe it's a trade-off between gaining new readers vs. losing existing readers, and the author figures that the gain in new readers will more than offset the few pissed off existing readers lost. Make no mistake, though, pissed-off readers can be very vocal, and they are going to share that disappointment with friends and like-minded readers. News of these dishonest practices will spread.

That's my two cents on rebranding books and when I think it's reasonable and when it's not. What do you think? Have you fallen into the trap of buying a book thinking it was new only to discover you've read it before? Or are you always super careful to check first?

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  1. I have to say that some authors rebrand constantly and I don't think it is a good thing, I know of people who have bought the same book twice because of it, I these days make sure it is not a book that I have bought or read before.

    Although there are also lots that I have bought and read that are books where authors have got their rights back and republished the book and they openly let you know which is good.

    I think it can be good sometimes but not always

    Have Fun


    1. You are right. A lot of authors do it and some do it better than others.

  2. I don't think I've ever bought a book twice because of rebranding, although I did once buy from the publisher without cancelling amazon, but that was my fault. Lol. I usually know because the author will advertise it on social media or newsletter etc. It doesn't always tell you in the blurb though, which is a trifle annoying, I agree.

    1. I've done it once. It was a time travel Scottish romance and when I read it the second time after buying it again I felt such a sense of familiarity. Of course, then when I went to check my Amazon library I realised that I had bought it before with a different cover. Now I check first.