Question: If I want to make changes to a book that is already published, can I update the book or republish it?



When you write and publish a book, you are sharing your ideas, messages, creativity, and voice with the world. It can seem overwhelming and even a little scary to put yourself out there in print, so it’s important to understand that what you publish does not have to be set in stone. Making updates to a book after the initial release is actually pretty common. These updates might include simple grammatical fixes or typos that were missed in the editing process, a book cover refresh, or more substantial changes like adding a new chapter or section to the book.

Making updates to a book that is already in the marketplace can have significant ramifications, so it’s important to understand the nature of the changes and the potential impact. When you are considering updating or republishing your book, follow these steps to evaluate the pros and cons of your decision and to ensure you are following industry guidelines.

1. Confirm you control the publishing rights for the book – all print, digital, and audio rights

Whether or not you control the publishing rights for your book will largely depend on your publishing path. If your book is traditionally published, you likely assigned these rights (and several others) to the publisher. If your publisher does control these rights, you must re-acquire them before you can legally self-publish the book or get it published through a different publisher. In most cases, book contracts give authors the ability to have the rights reverted to them under certain conditions - this is called a right of reversion. You will need to work directly with your publisher to see what is required to have the publishing rights reverted back to you.

Before you can update or republish your book, you will need to know who owns the publishing rights.Self-published and independently published authors typically retain all of their rights in the publishing process. This is one of the big advantages of publishing on your own or through a supported self-publishing company.

If you are unsure about whether you or your publisher control the print, digital, and audio rights for your book, we recommend you consult an intellectual property attorney and have them review your publishing contract. In addition, you’ll want to confirm you control the rights to any artwork included in the book if you plan to include it when republishing. This includes cover artwork and any illustration work or images used.

2. Understand the differences between updating, republishing, and second editions

The types of changes you plan to make will determine whether you can simply update your book by uploading or providing a revised manuscript, or, if you will be required to “republish” the book and treat it as a new edition, which will require extra steps.

Updating your book

No matter how much self-editing you do or how many beta readers you have, it is easy to miss typos and grammatical errors. Even professional editors sometimes miss these things. If after publishing your book you start to notice errors or are hearing feedback from readers that there are some grammatical issues, don’t fret. These types of changes can usually be made with an update and don’t require you to fully republish your book. The industry standard is: when changing less than 10% of your interior content, you can update your book with a revised manuscript. The idea is that if someone were to read both your original book and your updated book, they may not even notice the changes.

If you’ve self-published through a supported self-publishing service, you will need to check with the provider to understand your options. Many will allow a “resub” or resubmission of your manuscript if only minor changes are needed, but there may be a fee. Traditionally published authors will need to check with their publisher to see if and when a reprint can occur with the changes. Updates can be more challenging for traditionally published books since the publishers tend to do large print runs and will not reprint unless sales are good and they are out of inventory.

If you’ve self-published through a DIY platform like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing or IngramSpark, you will need to check their specific guidelines for updating a book. Take note that the guidelines can differ for print books versus eBooks versus audiobooks.

He are the types of changes that are commonly accepted for an update:

•  Fixing typos or grammatical errors – give it some time before you make an update so that you can capture everything that needs changed in one revision.
•  Changing the front or back matter – these are changes to the pages in front of your content and behind your content. For example, if you’ve written other books and would like to include them on the back page that lists your other published work or all books in a series.
•  A book cover refresh – *check with your specific publisher to confirm* If you’ve self-published through Amazon KDP, for example, Amazon will allow updated cover artwork to be uploaded if the current title, subtitle, and author name remain the same. If your book is printed POD (print-on-demand), you may not need to worry about mixed inventory.

With an update, an author cannot revise certain metadata like the book title, subtitle, author name, publisher information, the ISBN, book trim size, or ink and paper type. Any of these types of changes will require you to republish your book. Here is an example chart from Amazon KDP that shows what metadata can and can't be changed with a book update:

 Republishing your book

A book will need to be republished when you are making significant changes to the interior or exterior of the book, or when it is being published again through a different publisher. Both instances will require a new edition.

Some common reasons for wanting to republish a book include:

•  Your publishing rights have been reverted back to you from your current publisher and you wish to publish it on your own or through a different publishing house.
•  You want to remove an outdated chapter of your nonfiction book, or add in a chapter based on updated research.
•  You want to change the storyline of your fiction story, add a new chapter, or add illustrations.
•  You want to change your title and/or subtitle.
•  Your original book received poor reviews so you want to rewrite, rebrand, republish, and relaunch.
•  You want to release a special edition of the book like an anniversary edition with a premium cover.

Second Editions

When republishing a book, you are creating a new edition which is sometimes labeled as a “second edition”. You will want to include the edition number on the copyright page for the republished book, and may even want to note it on the book cover and in the book description if you think readers will benefit from knowing this. For example, if you’ve added some new chapters or have made significant changes to the content and owners of the original edition will benefit from owning the new edition. This practice is more common for professional nonfiction books and textbooks.  

When changing less than 10% of your interior content, you can update your book with a revised manuscript. The idea is that if someone were to read both your original book and your updated book, they may not even notice the changes. 

3. Determine if a new ISBN will be required

If your desired changes fall under the category of an update, you will not need to acquire a new ISBN for your book. The major benefits of doing a simple update are that you will retain any current book listings and it will be seamless to the booksellers and readers. Once your revised manuscript is uploaded to your online distribution platforms or provided to the printer, all copies going forward will include the changes. Keep in mind that if you printed a large run of the original book, there may be mixed inventory for a while.

When your desired changes are more substantial as noted above, you will need to acquire a new ISBN in order to republish your book. If your book is sold through Amazon, for example, it will be set up as a new book with a new ASIN number and book landing page on the website.

You will also need a new ISBN for each format of the book, and if publishing in multiple languages, for each language version. ISBNs can be obtained in the United States by going to Bowker Identifier Services, or potentially through your publisher.

In addition to a new ISBN when republishing, you may want to register the copyright for the new edition if it contains any new material.

When you republish a book, it is considered a new edition or second edition.4. Understand the potential ramifications of republishing a book

There can be significant ramifications and extra steps required when republishing a book. First, there is the cost factor. ISBNs cost money, as does new cover artwork, interior formatting, professional editing, and more. Think back to all of the money you invested in your original version of the book, and expect you will need to duplicate many of these costs, depending on the changes you are making.

Second, you may want to invest in relaunching the book when you republish. You are making major changes for a reason, and your potential readers and followers should know about these enhancements. This can mean repeat business from current readers, or new readers that are now enticed to purchase your book due to the changes. There are budget-friendly ways to communicate these changes such as social media and email marketing, but also consider paid promotions to increase awareness for the new edition; especially if you have rewritten and rebranded the book.

Third, unless you are offering a special edition of the book and will still continue selling the original version, you will want to unpublish or delist the original version to eliminate reader confusion, which can be challenging. On some platforms, your book may still have a landing page but no longer be available for sale. On others, it may be completely removed. This will require some extra effort on your part to address all of the distribution channels where the original book is available for sale.

Last, republishing a book may cause you to lose all of the reader reviews you acquired for the original version. If the original book received poor reviews, this may not be a bad thing. For most authors, though, they want to keep those hard earned book reviews. Whether or not you can link or transfer your reviews to the republished book will be up to each online bookseller and platform. Amazon, for example, may allow you to keep the reviews by linking your new edition to your original edition. You will have to email or call Amazon to request your books be linked, and there is no guarantee they will comply. If you’ve changed your author name or book title/subtitle with the new edition, it will be much harder. Authors with a large number of positive reviews for the original edition will need to determine if the substantial changes they are considering are worth the risk of losing the reviews.

5. Watch out for republishing scams

Unfortunately, there is an increasing number of scammers out there targeting authors with false claims and promises, and some even pretending to be someone they are not. A popular scam targeting self and independently published authors is an email stating their book's suggested retail price (SRP) price is too high and an offer to republish their book at a lower SRP.

First and foremost, you do not need to republish your book in order to change the suggested retail price. If you are self or independently published, you can adjust your pricing or offer discounts as you wish. Print costs are going up, so keep in mind that a reduction in price or discount will affect the amount of money you make on each book sale at that price. If you are traditionally published, you will need to check with your publisher to see if a price adjustment is an option. Your book’s SRP is set based on print costs and the current marketplace. Any adjustment will affect the amount of money your publisher makes on each book sale, and ultimately, the amount of money you make in royalties.

Second, consumers of books are not as price sensitive as consumers of other products. If you are offering a quality book that fits what readers are looking for and is in the general price range of other books in the genre, they will not be deterred from purchasing your book.

Finally, if you are already planning to republish because of one of the common reasons noted above, it is the perfect time to reevaluate your book design choices, trim size, and length, as these can all greatly impact your printing costs and suggested retail price. When republishing, you’ll want to make sure you are maximizing your return while producing a quality book that meets industry standards and is priced competitively.

Writing and publishing a book is a long and challenging journey. It can be daunting to know your book might need to be revised at some point, but also empowering. If you find yourself wanting to make changes or enhancements to your book, be sure to evaluate your reasons, understand the potential ramifications, and follow all guidelines to make the process as smooth as possible.

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