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Rewritten books: Redux need warnings (Updated)

Update:Susan Grant posted at AAR in response to a query about the sameness of Mysteria and BBeB. Her response was

That’s a big change! I added character development, plot, and #####, something I couldn’t hardly do in the short, episode format for BBB which really amounted to just teasers.

Now we are paying for teasers? I take back every bad thing I said about the second epilogues of Julia Quinn. I notice that the all authors have contributions in the sequel to BBeB so you can buy the “teasers” for the Mysteria II. I’d say skip the book and send your donation directly to the Susan B Komen foundation.

A savvy reader noted to me that reading the Mysteria anthology was a strange experience. Three of the four stories were recycled/revised versions of the material in Bewitched, Bothered and BeVampyred.

The Bewitched, Bothered and BeVampyred offerings included:

  • “A Dance Through the Garden of Good & Evil” – Grant, Susan
  • “The Witches of Brokenoggin & the Dead Who Love Them” – Showalter, Gena
  • “Candy Cox and the Big Bad (Were)Wolf” – Cast, P. C.

The Mysteria offerings were:

  • “Mortal in Mysteria” – Grant, Susan
  • “Alone Wolf” – Davidson, MaryJanice
  • “The Witches of Mysteria and the Dead Who Love Them” – Showalter, Gena
  • “Candy Cox and the Big Bad (Were)Wolf” – Cast, P. C.

Mysteria Copyright PageApparently, the Grant, Showalter, and Cast stories were rewritten, in some cases only about 25% and in others up to 75%. Ironically, the story that was most rewritten (Cast’s) had no title change and the one with the least revisions (Grant) had a completely different title. There is no mention on the copyright page that these were revised stories.

I was standing in Waldens the other day, listening to a reader to reader conversation. The one woman said to her companion, “I can’t tell if this is a reprint.” The companion replied, “Isn’t it illegal to sell it without telling us its a reprint?” No, I thought. The first woman said, “It should be.”

Which brought me back to the dreaded ARC debate which arose out of the presale of Mysteria. Many people, including the authors who wrote Mysteria, questioned the ethics of selling an ARC. I wonder now at the “ethics” of selling stories in a repackaged format (In BBaB, the stories were set in a town of Brokenoggin and in Mysteria, the stories were in Mysteria) without noting that these were revised stories that had been published not a year before.

I really appreciate the “first time in print” logos (Nora Roberts and Jayne Ann Krentz are two who sport this). I would also love to see “revised/updated” so that I can check and see if I have read these books before. This is particularly true when you have epubbed authors taking their ebook works and publishing them with a NY house under a new cover, new title, new imprint.

I don’t think these authors don’t intentionally want to mislead the reader about the freshness of their content. Of the three authors who weren’t providing all new content, only Susan Grant’s website had a note on the Mysteria page that this collection included longer versions of the original BBaB contributions. Maybe some reviewers sold the Advanced Readers Copies because they felt like they had read the book already. My reader friend did think that the rewrites worked better as romances in Mysteria than they did in BBaB. Even so, maybe we need “born on” dating like the beers. With the misleading covers, false advertising, and revised editions, buying books requires a PI license at times.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

11 Comments

  1. Cece
    Jul 31, 2006 @ 08:54:43

    ALL good points…….

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  2. Nicole
    Jul 31, 2006 @ 11:31:37

    That sucks. This doesn’t exactly make me want to spend money on the anthology.

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  3. jmc
    Jul 31, 2006 @ 12:11:02

    It seems philosophically inconsistent to me to bitch about ARC sales/distribution when in fact the story is already circulating in another volume, even if the story has seen some revision. It all comes down to money, I know — the author wasn’t getting her royalties for the ARCs of Mysteria. But the reader has just as much right to bitch about money — I would’ve been pissed to buy Mysteria and discover that I had already read (and paid for) the same stories in an earlier anthology.

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  4. NicoletteRivers
    Jul 31, 2006 @ 14:11:50

    I can see where that would be frustrating. Sometimes I can be tripped up by a new cover on an old book, especially where they get to that level of fame where there are no longer descriptions on the back cover.

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  5. Sunny Lyn
    Jul 31, 2006 @ 15:11:42

    I picked up the Mysteria anthology for free at RWA/Atlanta, but I think I’d have been a tad ticked off if I’d paid for something without knowing I might possibly already have it at home. Interesting blog post.

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  6. Keishon
    Jul 31, 2006 @ 15:54:30

    Color me shocked. I do appreciate Nora Roberts denoting when books are new vs. revised. I remember being highly upset by Iris Johansen going back and revising an earlier work for her suspense audience. The revision was mention alright—at the back of the book. I hate this practice.

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  7. Robin
    Jul 31, 2006 @ 21:27:02

    It seems philosophically inconsistent to me to bitch about ARC sales/distribution when in fact the story is already circulating in another volume, even if the story has seen some revision.

    Given Cast’s vehemence and indignation in agitating the great ARC debate, I am stupefied that her story in Mysteria appeared *in any form* previously. I understand what she argued about ARC sales and why she dislikes that practice, and I understand that it’s not unethical per se to re-publish different versions of the same work (or to reissue specific works). But how about some indignation toward the publisher for putting out a book that is very nearly a reissue in toto without direct and obvious warning to the reader (or any warning AT ALL, as in this case)? It seems to me that everyone from the ARC seller to the publisher to the author is competing for what is perceived to be a limited pot of money, and the competition seems to be driving some of these charges of unethical behavior. But a little sneaky behavior on the part of publishers may be more likely to yield the author money, so it might simply be deemed “marketing” and not bleeding of the reader. While the publisher certainly has the authority to do this (and opponents of ARC sales would likely claim that ARC sellers are not authorized in their actions) is this really something authors who spoke so vehemently against ARC sales would defend as ethical?

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  8. Robin
    Jul 31, 2006 @ 21:27:54

    Oops, somehow the block quote thing set off my text instead of JMC’s. I don’t know how that happened, but I apologize.

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  9. sybil
    Jul 31, 2006 @ 22:44:12

    hmmm I had no idea… I would be pissed if I had paid for the book. I never read the first antho so I will still read this.

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  10. Leigh Ellwood
    Aug 01, 2006 @ 09:14:54

    Very good point. I have a few old works I’m thinking of revising and will definitely make sure to note they are revised should they be published.

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  11. Jay
    Aug 03, 2006 @ 07:29:40

    Hmmm interesting. I just read this but since I never got around to reading the BBB anth I didn’t know some of the stories were rewrites. I”ll be sure to note that in my review though.

    ReplyReply

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