Q. I have a nonfiction book that's just gone out of print, and I'm wondering what, if anything, I should do with it. Is it worthwhile to look for another publisher to reprint it? Should I rewrite or update it, or just send out copies of the published book to see if editors are interested?
A. Making the right choices at this point will be important in determining if your out-of-print book has any life left in it. If you have just been notified by your publisher that the book has been declared out-of-print, the first thing you will want to do is check your contract to see what steps you need to take to be sure you are getting your rights back—and when. In some cases you are required to ask for them in writing, other times it will happen automatically. With some publishers the rights revert to you immediately, some after 30 days, and some not until a year later. This information is also likely to be in the letter you receive from the publisher, but don't count on that. Start by taking any steps necessary.
The next step will be to determine whether or not you believe there is still a market for the book. Is it a topic people are still interested in? Is there any new or current changes in the church or society that make the topic relevant? Did the book get good promotion or sell a lot of copies with the first publisher? We never feel our books get enough promotion, but in some cases a book does fall between the cracks and truly deserves another chance. Be realistic in making this decision. There's no sense going to all the work of finding a new publisher if the book has little or no chance of succeeding in the marketplace.
In most cases it will be necessary or advisable to do at least some updating of the content. In some cases it may call for a fully revised edition that would be of interest even to the original readers. In other cases it is just a matter of adding any current information pertinent to your topic, or correcting any errors that appeared in the original.
When it come to submitting to publishers, most will want to see the book in manuscript form—not a copy of the original book. They will expect you to send a full proposal, the same as you would with a new project. However, as long as you send the manuscript, you can include a copy of the original book so they can see what the original publisher had done with it. In your cover letter or proposal, you will want to let the editor know what the details were of the first publishing run. Publisher? Number of books sold? Type of advertising or promotion that took place? Why you think it has more life in it? Along with your new and creative ideas for promoting a new edition. Not all publishers are open to reprinting books, so be sure to submit the new proposal to only those that are. That information is available in the Christian Writers' Market Guide or the publisher's guidelines.