Saturday, 28 January 2017

Reprints, or the Art of Changing your Mind - Clémentine Beauvais

My little Sesame Seade series is soon coming out in French for the first time. The first book came out in 2013, and was written a year and a half before that. It feels like I wrote it an eternity and a half ago, and of course Things Have Happened since then.

Principally, I, erm, am no longer in the relationship I was when the book was first published, so the Acknowledgements page duly translated into French (I didn't do the translation), which sees The Previous Boyfriend passionately thanked, is today a bit awkward.

No big deal, I'll just ask the publisher to remove that last paragraph. But it made me think of the changes authors do when books are reprinted, especially decades after the first run.

Sometimes a novel will be reprinted with an author's note at the beginning, explaining the changes. I've seen some that are basically like, "I hate that book now, but apparently it's become a classic, because you're all stupid; so go ahead and read it, but I've written better things since then".

Sometimes, however, there'll be subtle changes inside the book that are not necessarily openly acknowledged. Some are simply for the purposes of updating the book, even within just fifteen years: references to VHS deemed ridiculous or incomprehensible to children today, street names that have changed, names of presidents that are no longer in office or of TV shows now quite forgotten.

Other changes may be ethical. Some of my author friends have told me they've changed jokes that were once acceptable but are no longer so. Others, having become vegetarian, have deleted references to roast chicken and legs of lamb.

I love how much that complicates the (sempiternal/ boring/ awful) question 'How long does it take you to write a book?'

'I don't know. How many reprints do I get?'

Have you changed anything (other than spelling mistakes) from one print to the next?

1 comment:

Pippa Goodhart said...

I tweaked two novels first published almost a quarter of a century ago for their current, and upcoming, editions. Mostly it was a matter of adding reference to mobile phones (and excusing the lack of use through lack of signal!) and computers (instead of looking something up in an encyclopaedia) and money. But there were subtler things that worried me. I agonised and consulted the RSPCA over the reference to puppies being drowned that comes in A Dog Called Flow, but was told that still happens so left it in. It's an odd game to play, sort of changing history!