I’ve just been reading Graham Sleight’s introduction to The Body Snatchers, which I reviewed here, and Graham mentioned that this edition is based on the original text not the later Invasion of the Body Snatchers revision. On twitter just now he said the changes where only minor but the conversion moved on to such revelations as:

I’m not sure how I feel about that though @gollancz aka Simon Spanton through in a grenade:

Though Graham chucked in as reminder nothing is truly original:

Quot no man ever steps in the same river twice quot heraclitus

Of course, it’s true we change but should the books we read change as well?

8 Thoughts on “Question: Should Authors Be Allowed to Make Major Revisions To Their Novels?

  1. I have no problems with changing books, but I think it should be made clear on the cover that it is a revised edition.

  2. I definitely understand a book undergoing copyedits before each new edition is published, but when revision goes beyond grammar and spelling and into content, it bothers me.*

    *The only exception I have to this is with translations, as those often vary wildly and a new one is always welcome.

  3. If the revisions are made to fix textual issues, I don’t mind. If the revisions are made to change the story itself, then no, I don’t want to see the changes.

    Perhaps in the age of ebooks I could accept such a thing but only if old revisions were included.

    Part of this isn’t that I an odd phobia or sentimental attachment so much as I would rather the author produce new content than dwell on constantly tweaking old content.

  4. I like the idea of an author expanding on their older work and enriching their stories through revised editions (so long as it’s clear that you’re not buying the original text). The risk is becoming the George Lucas of the literary world and tweaking things so much they lose much of their original charm.

  5. In principle, I think the author is finished with the book when it is finished. But I see no problem wit revised editions, provided they are clearly marked as such AND that the previous text isn’t removed from the market.

    Sadly, I think this has become a relevant question lately. I see several self-publishing fundamentalists advocating: (paraphrasing) “Just get the book out there, and edit as readers get back to you with errors. Then just upload the new version”.
    This just gives self-publishing a bad name. And “proves” that those who self-published are putting out unfinished books.

    It can be done correctly. I think the way it was done with Neil Gaiman’s books, where they clearly are marked as “Author’s Preferred Text”, and there is openness in how the edition differs from the previous one is perfectly OK.

  6. In think the answer is in the question itself, specifically the word “their”.

  7. There’s also the question of whether an author might, when first emerging as a writer, have been pressured by an agent or publisher to go in a particular direction or cut a subplot out or something like that. I can definitely see where there might be a place for an established author to go back to his/her breakout work and say, “I let them tell me what to do back then, but here is how I wanted it to go…” — something like a Director’s Cut for books — but only if it’s clearly marked on the cover (or sale page for e-books).

  8. I dislike the idea of an author making changes to their work beyond copy edits. If a story has connected with readers in the past I don’t think the author or reader should cheapen that experience by making changes. If it is important to an author and a reader to return to the world of a beloved novel, wouldn’t it be better for the author to revisit the world with a new story? To me it smacks of having writer’s block if an author’s desires are to spend their time redoing a novel they have already written and sold to an audience.

    So often I hear artists of any kind, including authors, say that they are never entirely happy with their work. Even incredible books, pieces of art, etc have flaws in the eyes of the creator that they would be tempted to change if they could. I don’t want to see that happen. I’m reminded of the stories of Frank Frazetta completely painting over paintings he had finished, until his wife finally locked them all away in a museum. Would that someone in George Lucas’ life had done the same.

    Perhaps the only reason I would see a need for this is for those authors of classic works who had little control over how something was edited and want to ‘restore’ the text to its original edition. Even then I have some trepidation but it is nice from an historical perspective to see what the author originally intended.

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