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Friday, June 9, 2017

Making Old Books New Again



How do you make what’s old seem new?

There are many books that are now in the public domain due to the copyright laws – or lack of them at the time of publication.  Anyone can publish these books at any time.  Could there be gold mined in these old books?

Some publishers have been reprinting such books for decades, even centuries.  This is why so many publishers have dueling copies of Shakespeare, The Bible, and other classics.  They don’t have to do anything except cash a check, however many publishers will seek to put their unique thumbprint on a book by adding commentary and analysis to it.  Or they’ll insert illustrations and decoratively redesign or colorfully repackage the book.  They’ll make a special edition with glossy pages and a well-crafted hardcover casing.

Five years ago I had the pleasure of working with Pamela McColl, who did something quite creative when it came to reissuing a public domain work.  She took the children’s classic ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, and edited out a handful of references to Santa’s pipe and commissioned fresh illustrations absent the puffing Santa. It was a smoke-free version. We got coverage from The Colbert Show, The View, Today Show, AP, NY Post, LA Times, Vanity Fair, USA Today and the WSJ.  It was a clever idea, a great a marketing maneuver, and a society-serving act of good will.

I will have the pleasure of working with her again through the public relations firm I’ve spent the last 18 years, this time to promote a 96-year old classic, The Boy Who Lived in Pudding Lane. It tells the story of how Santa came to be, dating back to when, as a little boy and the son of a poor baker, he started making toys and giving them away to his siblings, then his town, and eventually the world.

So much can be done with older books. You can do the following:

·         Issue updated material, commentary, or related stories side-by-side to the original content.
·         Add or change illustrations and visuals.
·         Include a sequel or related material like a coloring book, study guide, or audiobook.
·         Alter the text and modernize it.
·         Merely reprint them as they were and bring out-of-print books back in circulation, perhaps for a special anniversary or as a tie-in to an event.

As time goes on and everything is digitized – and if more people gravitate to e-books – the notion of re-releasing old books may not be as big of a deal, but for now, there’s still a news-making marketplace for such books.  

Go find a story that hasn’t been told in a century and give it new life.  You may just have an original idea here.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs 

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