There are many reasons why an author might want to republish a book they’ve already published. The way to go about this differs depending on your contract with publishers.
You can publish your book multiple times. When you self-publish, you can make changes and republish as often as you like. Still, when publishing with a publishing house, you must ensure you have the rights necessary to republish, and that you receive credit for your work.
Keep reading if you’re curious about how and why authors republish their work! We will explore editions, copyright laws, and more. Make sure to consult a lawyer before acting on any legal information in Letter Review.
Republishing a Book In the Public Domain
An author can choose to submit a book to multiple publishers. Depending on the agreed-upon contract between the author and publishing house, one publishing house may have exclusive rights to a published work for a specified time frame.
When the copyright term ends, the book becomes public domain, at which time a publishing house can decide to publish it and make it available without paying royalties.
Changes can also be made to a published work, before it it published again. The part of the published work under copyright can also be part of the contract between the author and the publisher. For example, an annotated edition of a book can be released, in which only the annotation and index would be under copyright law and not the entire work.
Depending on who owns the rights to your published work, it can be republished once it is out of print circulation. If you have the publishing rights to the work, you can self-publish your book once it’s no longer being printed.
Self-publishing authors can choose to edit aspects of their work and submit it to publishing. This could be to experiment with different cover designs, book descriptions, illustrated versions, and fonts.
Experimentation can also be done through other mediums or formats such as:
The New Yorker discusses the appeal of illustrated works of fiction and how they give a certain air of collectibility to books that were previously considered ordinary. These alterations can renew interest in a book that has been out for a while or reinvigorate a book that didn’t sell well initially.
This process is arguably more straightforward when it comes to modifying ebooks. No print cost is involved in releasing an edited version of an original work. The author can release new versions of their work with graphs, illustrations, maps, hyperlinks, categories, and keywords.
Here are five famous novels that were republished, and the authors’ reasons behind the literary renovation, years after their initial publication.
Rules for Republishing a Book
You can legally and ethically republish a book that has been out of print.
To do so, you need to either be the owner of the copyrighted work or the book in question needs to be in the public domain. If you’ve sold the rights to the published work, you must re-acquire the rights before you can legally self-publish this book or get it published through a publisher.
The content of your contract with a publisher is crucial in this scenario. You need to understand what “out of print” entails and who the rights revert to when this happens.
Once you have ensured you have the right to republish, you’ll need to convince publishers why they should help you republish this book. You need to note why the book went out of print and be confident that the republished work will actually sell.
If you decide to republish a book without a publisher, you still need to make sure you have the right to publish. However, you don’t need to pitch this to publishers, as you can publish the work in question.
Any author seriously considering republishing a book or purchasing copyright should be well-versed in, or at least aware of, copyright law. Cornell University can take you through US copyright and public domain terms.
Purchasing the Copyright for a Book
To purchase copyright, contact the current copyright holder. You can request a license agreement to use the work for a fee, but this doesn’t mean you own the work. Once you have ensured you have the right to use the copyright as you plan to, record whatever agreement you come to in a written contract.
Alternatively, you can negotiate with the current copyright holder for full copyright ownership for a fee. Becoming a full copyright holder requires you to sign a legal agreement that lists you as the new owner of the copyright.
The copyright process can be lengthy and requires you to research beforehand to ensure you’re doing everything right. To get more of an idea of the copyright process from start to finish, look through this ReedsyBlog guide on copyrighting a book.
Editions of a Book and How To Identify Them
Books that have had substantial changes made to them are referred to as second editions. However, books republished with relatively minor changes are known as the second print of the first edition.
The true first edition is the very first printed edition of published work. It is the most coveted by collectors and booksellers.
Identifying a First Edition
A first edition is a book from the very first batch printed from the first set of type, i.e., before any alterations were made to the text for republishing.
Sometimes identifying the first edition is as easy as reading the copyright page. Some authors will include a line that states “first edition,” “first print,” or a line of numbers on the copyright page.
If this line number has one in it, this is likely to be the first edition. This one doesn’t have to appear at the beginning of a sequence, as these line sequences have no fixed order. But this depends on the publishing house.
The lowest number indicates the printing, not the edition. For example, a one indicates the first edition, a three indicates the third batch of prints in a first edition, a six indicates the sixth batch, and so on.
You might also use the date on the first page to identify the first edition.
If the date on the first page matches that on the copyright page, then it’s likely you’ve got yourself a first edition. This is especially handy for old books, as works published before 1900 did not indicate editions with line sequences or even note “first edition” like they do today.
Sometimes, none of these features are present, and collectors and booksellers have to identify first editions in other ways. This is not always as easy as word-searching the number one.
Sometimes, it takes a professional or antiquarian to identify a book as a first edition print, particularly for works published pre-1900.
Books Tell You Why has a brilliant bank of resources for aspiring collectors of rare books, such as original first edition works of old books. This includes a glossary of essential terms, storage tips, and how to determine the value of a book.
A book is not put out into the world and set in stone in that state forever. It can be published, edited, republished, redesigned, and republished repeatedly. Any book can be republished, as long as the person who wants to republish it has the legal right to do so according to copyright law.