Guest Post: Sherry Garland on Requiem for a Book

Sherry & fellow children’s author Melanie Chrismer

By Sherry Garland

I do not like sad endings; I do not like things that go gentle into that good night; I’ve never been able to say good-bye without tears.

When I watch the finale of a favorite long-running TV series, I know that I will sob.

Okay, I’m weird, but I have never found anything “sweet” about the sorrow of parting.

So you can imagine my heartbreak when a publisher notified me that not one, not two, but three of my darling books were out of stock and would go out of print.

It is a stabbing pain in the chest, a sinking feeling of loss to know that something that you created, something that you struggled and sweated over, that you wept and laughed over, something that you brought to life and shared with the world, will soon disappear into the forgotten files of “slightly used” on and the bottom shelves at Half-Price Books.

So, why does a book go out of print?

Sherry’s latest, illustrated by Judith Hierstein (Pelican, 2012)

1) It sells out of stock but the publisher decides not to have another printing; or 2) the book sells poorly and the publisher decides to get rid of the left over stock, usually at a remainders sale, and let the book go out of print.

For #1 (none in stock) contact the rights department and officially request that the book be printed again. Gather up ammunition and hit them with logic and statistics — honors, awards, good reviews and reading lists — any reasons why the book should stay in print.

If your book is hard cover, request it be issued in a paperback edition. The publisher has a certain amount of time to respond.

For #2, if your book has not sold well and the warehouse is full of stock, there isn’t much chance of the book staying in print. If the “remainders” do not sell at auction, they are often sold to a pulper and destroyed. Let the publisher know that you want to purchase some of the stock at remainders pricing. Add this to your contracts.

If the publisher declines to keep the book in print, request reversion of your rights.

Once you have the rights back, you are free to sell the text to another publisher. (Artwork belongs to the illustrator.) I have been fortunate to have this done three times, finding that smaller publishers are more receptive to reprinting a book than the larger publishers.

For example, my historical picture book, Voices of the Alamo, was originally published by Scholastic. When it went out of print I resold it to a smaller publisher. It has done so well for them that I developed a series and wrote three more books in the same format.

Another option is the e-book industry. Many authors are making their out-of-print titles available on-line in e-book format.

This method requires a new cover design and conversion of the text into an e-book format. If you already have an established name, you may expect reasonable sales.

Lastly, you can pay a printing company to reprint the book yourself, typically in paperback. These books can then be sold online, during school visits and even through local bookstores.

With a little effort you can postpone saying, “goodnight, sweet prince,” a little longer.

Cynsational Notes

Check out Sherry’s blog.

2 thoughts on “Guest Post: Sherry Garland on Requiem for a Book

  1. What a helpful post! It's reassuring to know the different options to revive out-of-print books. Does the new publisher need to indicate the original publisher & publication date on the copyright page? Should authors who self-publish do this, or treat the out-of-print book as though it's a new book? I also wonder if you would advise authors to use the rights reversion as an opportunity to revise their book (or not). Congrats on your success with VOICES OF THE ALAMO!

  2. Sherry Garland responds:
    Hi Sangeeta– thank you for the kind remarks. I do not know if it is required, but on the three books I re-sold, the new publisher did indeed reference the original publisher and copyright date. Here is an example for a novel that was reprinted in 2006: "First published by Henry Holt and Co., Inc. 1991…..First Pelican edition, 2006." As for self-publishing an OP book, I would probably include the original copyright & publisher, but I think that would be up to you. If your OP work is a novel and is really old (I have one from 1982), you may want to revise it to make it sound more contemporary (unless it is a historical novel). I did add some material to one of my reprinted picture books and it totally messed up the page layout. I'm very new to self-publishing and e-publishing, but hope to bring back some older titles in the near future.Best of luck with all your projects!!

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