Giving an Old Book New Life

by James Scott Bell
@jamesscottbell

Gather round the ol’ cracker barrel, children. Let me tell you a story of long ago, when the only place you could get books was a bookstore. Yes! It’s really true! 

Now, a bookstore was a wondrous place. It was a building made of bricks and mortar, and it had shelves filled with books you could touch, take down and look at—right there in the store!

In this land the only way a writer could get a book into those stores was by entering into a contract with a publishing company and ceding the rights to his work. 

Those were perilous times, children. A time of heady highs and dismal lows. There was the excitement of that first novel showing up on a shelf in a Barnes & Noble. Sure, it was only a copy or two, and only the spine showed. But you were there! Along with John Grisham, Stephen King, and Dean Koontz!

Well, sort of. Those guys took up a lot of shelf real estate with their backlist titles. You, the new kid on the block, were going to have to prove your commercial worth over a period of years before you got that attention. After all, the bookstores were in business to make a profit. Every month thousands of books swept into the stores for their debut. Most of these were swept right out again on the tide of the next month’s releases. If yours was one of them, you kept your hopes of making a buck or two alive by working on your next project.

Until your publisher decided, well, it doesn’t look like you’re making enough money for us to keep you around. Sorry, it was a nice try, and good luck to you.

Your books became, in the jargon, OOP—out of print. If you had low sales numbers it was unlikely another publisher, unless it was dinky, would offer you another contract.

You would be out in the cold, and your books, your precious babies, were still under the control of the company that dropped you.

Hopefully, you and your agent negotiated a fair Out-of-Print clause which would enable you to request your rights back. 

But then what? Again, it was highly unlikely that another company would reprint books that didn’t do so well the first time. Your backlist was essentially a ghost town.

Then into this land came a wizard named Bezos. With one wave of his magic wand he changed the game forever. Now there was a way for a writer to make some dough without a big publishing company, physical bookstores, or sales reps! How could such a wonderful thing be?

But it was.

Many a midlist writer began seeking rights reversions so they could make their “dead” titles available again. Even more, they could control pricing and promotions. They could give their titles the attention they had long been denied. And do so in the world’s largest bookstore! Once again, right alongside Grisham, King, and Koontz.

Huzzah!

And “Huzzah” is exactly what I am saying as I bring back to life one of my books from the “old days.” In doing so, I have given it a light edit, a new cover and title, but in all other respects left it true to its time and place. I am happy to announce the pre-publication of Long Lost (formerly published as The Whole Truth). 

At the age of five, Steve Conroy saw his seven-year-old brother kidnapped from the bedroom they shared. His brother was never found. And the guilt of his silence that night has all but destroyed Steve’s life.

Now thirty years old with a failing law practice, Steve agrees to represent a convicted criminal, Johnny LaSalle, who has ties to a notorious family—and some information that threatens to blow Steve’s world apart. 

Desperate for his final shot at professional success, Steve will do anything to find the truth. But Johnny knows far more than he’s telling, and the secrets he keeps have deadly consequences. Now Steve must depend on an inexperienced law student whose faith seems to be his last chance at redemption from a corrupt world where one wrong move may be his last. 

I’m doing something Crazy Eddie-ish with this book. When I was living in New York in the 70s there was an electronics store called Crazy Eddie. It hired a fast-talking disc jockey named Jerry Carroll, who did something like 7500 commercials for them, with a rat-a-tat riff that ended with the tagline: “His prices are IN-SANE!” Have a look:

All that to say, my pre-pub deal price is IN-SANE! Only 99¢. For an 87,000 word novel. Why? Simply because I want my supportive readers to have it for a song (I can’t sing, so this is the nearest I’ll get). After launch I’ll price it at a sane $4.99. But you can  reserve your copy at the deal price by going to:

Amazon

Amazon Canada

Amazon UK

Amazon Australia

(A print version will follow shortly.)

And just so you know, it got some excellent trade reviews upon release. If I may:

“James Scott Bell takes this intriguing what-if concept and weaves it into yet another page-turning, redemptive thriller.” — 
TitleTrakk.com

“
This gritty tale will have readers cheering for Steve as he desperately tries to put the pieces of his life back together. The scenes and characters jump off the page to create a startling, emotionally stirring story. Deliciously suspenseful.
” — Romantic Times

The novel begins, They put Robert in Stevie’s room when Stevie started having night terrors.

It ends with said.

Thanks for listening. And help yourself to the crackers.

+11

30 thoughts on “Giving an Old Book New Life

  1. Best to you on this re-release.

    I wouldn’t call an introductory price drop “insane.” It’s marketing. I have 3 “first in series” books set as perma free.

    Being able to release back list titles (or new books) as indie titles is where publishing has been going for years, and it’s been working for me. I’ve abandoned traditional publishing — I don’t have enough years left to do that dance.

    • It’s all marketing, Terry. The “Insane” ad campaign was advertising gold. (Unfortunately, the company’s founder committed all sorts of fraud and ended up in a federal jug.)

      You bring up “years” for “that dance.” One of the biggest frustrations in traditional is having to wait a year to 18 months before your book is published. Being able to instantly publish your own work is, still, an incredible joy.

  2. I remember Crazy Eddie! Perfect character for those commercials.

    Wishing you HUGE success with your new(ish) book baby, Jim! Snagging myself a copy at that “insane” price. 😉

    • Nice of you, Patricia. Many thanks. One nice thing about bringing back these “old” books is that you don’t have to figure out how to integrate all the jazz that we are living through now. What a relief!

  3. The best brick & mortar bookstore memories for me were between the mid 70’s-mid 80’s when you used to be able to go and find a new Star Trek the original series paperback every few months. Those were the days.

    • Here in L.A. we had the chains but also an abundance of independent bookstores, like the great Mystery Bookstore in Westwood. Now, sadly, mostly gone…B&N is hanging by a thread.

  4. Congratulations on the reentry of LONG LOST into the book world. I bought it when you announced it in your newsletter. I look forward to reading it.

    Thanks for all your wonderful posts here at TKZ, your craft books, and your teaching. I began my writing journey down the Indie path, mainly because of your advice and warnings, and have never regretted it.

    Good luck with your book, and may it have the greatest of success!

  5. Congratulations, Jim, on your upcoming relaunch of “Long Lost.” That has to be a great feeling, to be able to add this book to your indie author stable. Having the freedom to publish, and the freedom to publish when and where you choose, and for how much is so freeing, isn’t it, and why I love being an indie 🙂

    I pre-ordered the book and I look forward to reading it!

    Have a great Sunday.

  6. Pre-ordered and looking forward to reading it, Jim.

    We have that exact air conditioner with the carry handle in Crazy Eddie’s ad. And it still works!

  7. Just pre-ordered “Long Lost.” And note that you’re Amazon exclusive with it.

    Ah, the old days of seeing your book in B&N. When my nonfiction How-To on digital printing hit the B&N shelves back in the ‘00s, I got a kick out of hearing that my mother was moving the copies from the bottom shelves up to eye level. It was her idea, and I have a photo of her doing it somewhere. I did it myself when I visited the B&N store on Fifth Ave in Manhattan. Those were the days.

    Appreciate all you do here, JSB (may I call you “JSB”???).

  8. Got mine with your email, and look forward to it.

    In a little PNW town called Walla Walla, WA (I know, right?), about 200 miles from us, there’s a small bookstore called Just Right Books. Used books. Been there many times, as my dad used to live in Walla Walla. I’d load up some books to donate and receive a discount on purchases. And when she discovered I’m an author, it was like I was royalty…pretty special for a newbie. 🙂

    That bookstore is so cool! Every nook and cranny filled, books on shelves, on the floors, stacked almost to the ceiling. And hardly any signage. If you visit, plan to spend a good share of a day.

    The best part is that the owner, last name Wright, can find you any title or author or subject you want. A little white-haired lady about three feet tall.

    I’m not sure it’s still there, because my dad now lives in our town & I haven’t been to Walla Walla since, but I sure hope so. It’s an icon. (And she always has chocolate.)

  9. Congratulations on the pre-publication of “Long Lost.” I’ve pre-ordered my copy and I’m looking forward to reading it.

    Following the advice and wisdom you and other contributors at TKZ offered, I self-published my second novel. I have no complaints about the traditional publisher who handled my first book. They were (and are) great to work with — very accessible and helpful. For a first-time novelist, it’s good to work with a professional organization. But for all the reasons you state in your article, I decided not to sign again. Having control over all the aspects of publishing and marketing the book is priceless.

    • Kay, you’re wise to mention what good, professional guidance can do. There are ways for new authors to get it, via freelance editors and the like.

      I’ve also advised those thinking of going straight to indie to approach it as though you were trying to entice a good agent or editor. Put your book through a “grinder.” Write up a proposal as if you were going to send it to Random Penguin or Steven Spielberg. Make the concept irresistible, then write it that way!

      • I’m not officially signing up with NaNoWriMo this time because I’m over 30,000 words into this book. But I’m counting on all that writer energy flourishing around the world during November to keep me inspired and on track. Once this one is done, I can complete a couple more novels I started during previous NaNoWriMo events. That’ll clear the decks to begin a brand new book for NaNoWriMo in 2021.

  10. My area has a car dealer called Crazy Kevin Powell with a voice that could shame most hucksters.

    With the advent of ebooks, the big publishers decided that an ebook out meant the author would never go out of print with no real cost to them. Since ebooks have become profitable, you will be lucky to get your book rights back from their cold, dead hands. Lots of scary stories from friends. The contract terms have also become so onerous that they may very well “own” your creative output, whatever you write, until they say otherwise. Creative slavery is real, folks. A publishing lawyer or a good agent is an absolute necessity for anyone selling anything to a traditional publisher.

    Good luck with your book, JSB.

    • You’re so right, Marilynn. An ebook is an “asset” that costs nothing to maintain. So there’s really no incentive for a publisher to give that up. That’s why I strongly advise writers entering into a publishing relationship to negotiate an OOP clause that is tied to a minimum royalty amount. The old idea of “copies in the warehouse” is meaningless.

  11. I love these stories of bringing back “old” books. I’ll definitely give it a read. Indie publishing has been an awesome thing for me because I avoided even writing for many years because I’d figured many of my ideas weren’t marketable, so who would read then anyway?

    Also, I remember we had Crazy Eddie in Philadelphia in the 80s before it all went down.

    • Isn’t it amazing, Philip, that you WILL find readers. We all don’t know how many when we start out, but if we continue to write good books, that number will grow. Good on you. Carpe Typem.

  12. Thanks for yet another great post, Jim. I hope that this terrific idea brings fantastic results for you, both short and long term. And that price isn’t insane at all. It’s within reach of everyone — people drop that much on the floor of their car after a trip or two through the fast food drive thru — and a bargain. Good luck!

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