Writers are all about being published, either by traditional means or doing it themselves. But sometimes, authors unpublish a book.
I can think of a few reasons for this decision:
- The author has decided the book is unworthy or even embarrassing. Maybe it was rushed into publication and has attracted mainly negative reviews
- The book has attracted other forms of unwelcome attention, such as accusations of plagiarism or threats of lawsuit
- The book contains obsolete or inaccurate information. (This would apply mainly to nonfiction)
- Sales of the book have been disappointing
- The author has issues with the sales platform(s)
In my opinion, only numbers 2 and 3 are really good reasons to unpublish. Number 1 may be as well, but it depends. Like the decision to publish, the decision to unpublish should be made after careful consideration and asking for opinions from writing partners or trusted readers (“omega readers?”).
And if the only problem is disappointing sales, they certainly aren’t going to improve if the book is no longer on the market because its author unpublished it in a fit of pique. “No one wants you, stupid book! Take that!” (Presses the “unpublish” button.)
I think it’s best to keep books available, unless there are really good reasons to take them down.
Why? Picture this scenario: a reader acquires a book but doesn’t read it for months, or even years. When they do read it, they post a favourable review in the usual places. Five stars and praise! But in the meantime, the author has unpublished the book, so any other potential reader who sees that good review won’t be able to buy the book. Disappointed, they may not bother to seek out other books by that author.
This happened to me not long ago, which is why I’m writing this post.
Poor sales, problems with the selling venue, or unfavourable comparison with one’s other works aren’t good enough reasons to unpublish.
On the other hand, unpublishing may be part of a plan to turn a book into something else. For example, in 2016 I published four short stories as separate ebooks. I wasn’t surprised they didn’t sell, because really, I myself would hesitate to spend a dollar for a 5,000 word story, when that dollar could easily buy a full-length novel or a short story collection. The stories did get snapped up when I offered them for free (but then, almost anything does).
Last year, I unpublished those four ebooks, re-edited the stories, and incorporated them into the collection I’ve since published as Tales from the Annexe. So they are still available, but in an improved form.
An author who intends to unpublish a book because they think it’s embarrassingly bad, or because it contains factual errors, may wish to consider publishing an improved or corrected edition instead.
Fellow indies, have you ever unpublished a book, and for what reason?
Featured image from Pixabay