Update Stories Or Leave Them Be

Today's post was inspired by Terry Odell over at Terry's Place. Yesterday, she blogged about whether to update an older story or not if you plan to publish it as an ebook.

I have some friends who are being contacted for reprint rights of their early romance novels. These books would be limited print editions, and the publisher wants no changes made to the manuscripts.

Given that contemporary life has changed so much from 30 years ago, that would make those books seem like "historical" romances to a certain degree.

I mean, can you imagine a novel that makes no mention of home computers, the Internet, email, cell phones, and all the other technology we take for granted?

When I started publishing my backlist as ebooks, beginning with Just One Look, I made the conscious decision to update the book for not only technology but also for cultural references, i.e., music, movies, etc. In some cases where I didn't update, I made sure the cultural reference was something classic to which the reading public can still relate.

By the way, Just One Look is a Fiction Bestseller on XinXii.com and is performing well on Kindle. I read on some discussion board or other that if you're doing well, you should blog about how you sold over 200 copies, if your book is new.

I've done a bit better than that so I'm working on a "how I did it" post even though I'm pretty sure that I'm not setting any records, and I really don't know how I did it. I like to think it's selling well because of the great cover, and the fact that it's a funny, sexy romance.)

Now, back to the Updating discussion. 

My Reasoning

I think if you're going to attract today's readers then you must make your work something to which they can relate. Technology is so much a part of the fabric of our lives that to have a book that leaves out mentions of email, IMs, smartphones, iPods, net surfing, and all the other things we all do on a daily basis is to create something, in my opinion, that's lacking verisimilitude.

A Work Around

The only way you can get around the technology is to explain why the characters don't have it. That's what I did with the ebook I'm publishing today. In The Trouble With Love (shown at left and probably available for sale by April 17 if uploaded today), my heroine lives on a strict budget and can't afford smartphones, high-speed internet, and all the other gadgets.

For those of you who are publishing backlist, here's a bit of advice to spot the anachronisms. Do a global search for "music" and "phone" and any other word that might refer to something archaic.

Also, be careful about scenes where a character must warn someone about something, but there's no pay phone around. Today's readers will wonder why a cell phone wasn't used. Plus, many of them may not have ever used a payphone. Technology can really mess up some plot points.

Takeaway Truth

It's such a cliche to say that the world has changed, but it has. Readers have certain expectations. If you're publishing something listed as contemporary, it's wise not to ignore those expectations. At least that's my two cents. Two cents. Do you see a cents symbol on your keyboard? No? That's just an example of change.


  1. So TELL us about that great cover, Joan. Did your boyfriend photograph you?

  2. Very funny, Harl. My husband thinks it's funny too. *g*

    Have a good weekend.