Should You Publish a Second Edition?

The phrase “now in its second edition” would sound pretty great next to your nonfiction book title, wouldn’t it?

Traditional publishers might suggest a second edition if the first one sells well or if the content changes regularly. Indie authors can decide for themselves when the time is right to do a second, third, or fourth edition of their books.

I recently published a second edition of my book Subscription Marketing. Just over two years had passed since the first publication, but the Subscription Economy moves quickly. Stuff that seemed fresh in 2015 now looked stale. And my opinions have become stronger as I’ve spoken with people after the first edition.

So I took the plunge and updated the book. Along the way, I picked up a few pointers about doing a second edition. Here are the pros and cons, questions to resolve, and lessons learned from my experience. I hope they help you!

When To Consider Another Edition

Nonfiction authors might undertake a new edition for many reasons:

  • Content update. If you’re writing about a dynamic subject, like tax law, the book may lose its value unless updated. A revised edition can give your book more years of sales.
  • Re-launch. A second edition is a valid reason for going through the book launch process again. Perhaps the market would be more receptive.
  • Change in publishers. You might retrieve their rights from a publisher that has backlisted the book or is going out of business. In this situation, you could revise and republish something new.

Make sure you know who owns the rights to the book. If you published traditionally, you may need the publisher’s cooperation to do a new edition.

The Challenges of Releasing a New Edition

Launching a second edition is like having a wedding with 25 people instead of 250; you go through nearly all the same steps as the big wedding, and you’re still tired when the day is done.

Publishing and launching a new edition requires all the work of a new book: proofreading, copyediting, layout, etc. Then there’s the content itself. Once you open the door to revising, it’s hard to slam it shut again.

In my own case, what started as a minor revision kept growing in scope. The second edition is much longer than the first, even after I cut material I decided was unnecessary. It’s almost a new book.

All of this work takes time – time not spent writing your next book.

In addition, if you have an audiobook for the first edition, you have to record it again. I had difficulty communicating the idea of a second edition with the audiobook publishers. Make sure you understand who owns the rights to the audiobook.

Questions to Resolve

From a publishing and sales perspective, the second edition is technically a different entity, with a unique ISBN. Preparing this new book, you must answer a few questions.

  1. What will the cover look like?

A physical book needs a cover with that new ISBN. How will you make it clear that the book is a second edition? Do you slap a “second edition” sticker and updated bar code on the original cover, or create something visually different but related?

I chose to go with the latter option. Here are the covers for the first and second edition of my revised book:

Anne Janzer 2nd Edition

  1. How do you talk about the revision to your readers and followers?

How do you pitch the edition to people on your email list, many of whom may have the first book? I decided to offer the Kindle version for 99 cents during the preorder, so existing readers could get the update for a buck.

  1. How do you handle the pre-launch?

Once you put a new edition up for preorder, you effectively kill the sales of the existing book. Navigating the transition is tricky. Decide how long the preorder period will be and when you will announce the new book.

Lessons Learned

Here’s my advice if you’re considering a second edition of your nonfiction book:

Reconnect with your supporters. I took the opportunity to contact people who submitted testimonials or helped with the first edition and let them know about the project. This was a great excuse to get back in touch with people who had been helpful in the past, and to reconnect with authors I admire.

Every book launch is another chance to learn. Make a point of experimenting and learning with each book launch.

It’s easier the second time. You already have a list and connections, and know which audiences are most excited about the topic.

Put boundaries on the revision. The process of revising could have taken me twice as long as it did. Heck, I could still be working on it now. I started rethinking every word choice, and could have gotten stuck. Once I understood the real scope of the project, I gave myself a firm deadline and stuck to it.

Overall, I am satisfied with the decision to do the second edition; it will give the book a much longer life, and the re-launch helped me reach a broader audience.

Will I revise the book again? I don’t know. Ask me in two years – right now I’m working on the next book

Author Bio

Anne Janzer is and NFAA member and author of the books Subscription Marketing (now in its second edition!), The Writer’s Process, and The Workplace Writer’s Process (coming out in July 2017.) Find her at annejanzer.com.

1 Comment on "Should You Publish a Second Edition?"

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  1. A second edition can actually be a bad decision. In March 2005, my “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” was paired with the first edition of “The New Retirement” by Jan Culliane. “The New Retirement” was chosen by Michelle Singletary as her “Color of Money Book Club” selection and it actually hit the sales rank of number 1 on Amazon.com while bringing my “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” to number 114. In 2007, a new edition of “The New Retirement” was issued but this actually hurt overall sales. I won’t get into the details. Incidentally, “The New Retirement” is no longer available in the print edition but my “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” (first released in the US in 2004) has been selling over 25,000 copies a year in the last four years. For the record, I had to self-publish “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” with a new ISBN in 2009 but I did not change the content. The new ISBN presented a big problem for me with Amazon.com that I had to overcome with creativity and critical thinking skills, but here again, I won’t get into the details. In short, I believe that my “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” is good for at least another 10 years without bringing out a 2nd edition. Furthermore, I intend to sell 500,000 copies of the book with this approach (sales are only at 325,000 copies so far).

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