Unpublishing, Republishing, and Updating Your Book

Ideally, you would publish your book perfectly the first time, everything would work out nicely, and you’d live your happily ever after publishing fairy tale.

Ah, but it doesn’t always work out that way.

For whatever reason, suppose you’re considering whether or not to unpublish your book.

Before you decide, you should learn exactly what will happen when you unpublish it. Here are some questions you need to ask:

  • Will the book disappear completely? If not, in what ways will it remain visible?
  • Will the book remain on your author page?
  • If you’re only unpublishing one edition, will the reviews stay linked together?
  • If you republish a revised version later, will old reviews return?
  • How long will it take for the book to be unpublished?

Of course, different publishing services have different policies, as do different online booksellers. So you want to consider all the possibilities.

A book won’t vanish from Amazon. However, an unpublished e-book can be removed so that customers won’t find it when they’re shopping. Print books, on the other hand, are permanently listed for the benefit of anybody who might have a used copy to sell.

At Amazon, once you add a physical book to your author page at AuthorCentral, it will evidently remain there forever. If you publish a paperback, for example, and add it to your author page, even if you unpublish the book, it will remain on your author page. The rationale behind it is that a previous customer could potentially have a used copy to sell, and this allows other customers to purchase such copies.

That’s something to consider when you sign up for an author page and when you add a new book to it. Think it over very carefully to make sure you won’t want to remove it from your author page in the future. (Suppose you have a Kindle edition already on your author page and then publish a paperback edition. If these become linked together, your paperback will appear on your author page even though you didn’t specifically add that edition to your author page.)

However, this isn’t an issue with e-books. If you unpublish a Kindle edition, the e-book can be removed from your author page. If it’s linked to a print edition, the print edition will remain on your author page, but the Kindle edition can be removed.

Suppose you have Kindle and print editions linked together. Some reviews may declare that they are for the Kindle edition or for the print edition. If you unpublish the Kindle edition, all of the reviews for both editions will remain on the print edition’s product page. However, you can politely ask AuthorCentral to unlink the two editions once the Kindle edition is unpublished, if you wish to have the reviews from the Kindle edition removed from the print edition.

A print book can’t truly be unpublished from Amazon. You can disable the Amazon sales channel. If you publish through CreateSpace, you can disable all other sales channels, too. You can even ask CreateSpace to retire the book for you once the sales channels have been disabled. However, the book will still continue to appear on Amazon, even though customers won’t be able to buy new copies directly from Amazon. This allows any customers or vendors who have new or used copies to resell them on Amazon.

If you unpublish an e-book and republish a revised version later, any reviews that you had before could suddenly appear on the republished e-book. It might be a month down the line, if not sooner. (I’ve never tried republishing an e-book, but other authors have discussed their experiences with this.) If it does happen and you’ve made significant revisions, you might contact Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and politely explain this. Nevertheless, nothing prevents a customer who left a review the first time from finding your e-book again and leaving a new review.

You could republish an e-book with a new title or cover. However, this may confuse customers to the point that some of your previous customers buy a second copy of the same book by mistake, which could result in negative reviews. (Perhaps a clear explanation in the blurb could help minimize this.) With a new title, old reviews are unlikely to show up on the republished e-book.

If you just need to revise your book, you may not need to unpublish it. It depends on the circumstances. If it’s desirable to prevent the sale of your book until the corrections are made, then for an e-book you must unpublish it in the meantime, and or a print book you must disable the sales channels until the changes are made.

It’s not necessary to create a new edition (with a new ISBN, for a print book) when revising your book. You can simply update the current edition, perhaps mentioning this briefly in the blurb. Include the edition number (or something that you’ll recognize) in the Look Inside for your own benefit. This way, when you check out the Look Inside at Amazon, you’ll be able to tell precisely which edition is showing; and if a customer shows you your book or inquires about the content, you’ll be able to check which edition the customer is referencing.

With Kindle, it is possible to notify previous customers that a file has been revised, but it depends on the circumstances and what KDP (not you) decides. You can find a place to send a request to KDP from the KDP help pages.

  • If KDP determines that the issue is minor, they will not contact customers. However, if a customer visits the Managing Your Kindle page at Amazon, the customer can receive the update there. The problem is that the customer won’t know to look for the update.
  • If KDP declares that the issue is critical, your e-book will go off sale until you correct the problem. When you fix it, notify KDP of the update. Then there may be a lengthy delay. Once KDP approves the revision and puts the book back on sale, customers will be notified.
  • If the issue is major, but not critical, in KDP’s eyes, then customers will be notified that an update is available.

There may be lengthy delays if you use an e-book aggregator like Smashwords, if the e-book has already been distributed.

The best action is to do everything possible to get the book right the first time. You only get one chance to make a good first impression.

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

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44 comments on “Unpublishing, Republishing, and Updating Your Book

  1. Over the past year I have updated the Kindle e-book of Catskinner’s Book twice, changed the cover once, and I have changed the cover of the print edition twice, and updated the text of the print edition three times. (So if you have an early copy of my print edition, it’s a collector’s item now!)

    All of these changes were quick and painless, and none of them involved the book being off-line. Granted they were all small changes, but the point is that both e-books and POD print editions are much more flexible for updates than traditionally published books.

  2. Chris, Amazon now automatically provides the latest version of a Kindle book as long as the reader has signed up for “Automatic Book Update”. That means that an author doesn’t have to contact KDP and explain the edits. I verified this recently with a couple of my books.

    • That’s good to know.🙂 If the reader must sign up for this service, though, there will surely be readers who aren’t signed up. Plus others who are reading on a device that’s presently offline (that’s the case with some people I know who have a Fire; it’s only connected when they go to buy a new book). But this is a step in the right direction.

  3. I published a book with SBPRA. They are not willing to make it an e-book because of the sexual content. The book is highly erotic but with no controversial themes(no incest, beastiality etc). I want to rewrite the book in the third person and republish with a different publisher. (1) Is this acceptable? (2) do I have to change the name of the book? It is currently in print at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and other stores..

    • (1) First, that depends on your current publishing contract. Your rights may be locked up with the current publisher, unless you can persuade them to release those rights to you in writing (which may not be easy). You have to analyze your contract. Secondly, whether or not Amazon or other companies will accept it in e-book format depends on their specific publishing criteria. (2) Just changing the title won’t release you from any publishing rights that you’ve granted to a publisher. If a publisher holds the rights, what you really need is a written statement from the publisher transferring the rights to you.

      If the publisher only holds the print rights, but not the e-book rights, that’s different, though most publishers retain as many rights as possible, including electronic and international.

      Of course, I’m not an attorney. An attorney can help you better understand what rights you may have.

      • Thanks, Chris. I looked at the contract, and it allows me to be released on payment to the publisher of $175. Therefore, I assume I can make whatever stylistic/name changes and get another publisher. My limited experience makes me wonder about the fairness of this as it relates to a reader. He/she may buy the book under the new name not realizing he/she may have read that very story under the original name. I hope I’m making my concern clear. Regards.

      • That’s a good question. It may be possible to include a note in the description that it was previously published as… If you get a new publisher, that’s a concern you can bring up.

  4. Thanks for this. Lots of great information to contemplate. I think I want to give my published trilogy a bit of an editing overhaul…. just trimming some fluff and maybe cleaning up some typos/minor grammar things. Reviews are good and for the most part I’m happy with them, but they could be better and I feel like I want to do more with the story. Now I’m thinking I might leave the books published and then just upload a new version when I have it ready.

  5. Should the same “You could republish an e-book with a new title or cover. However, this may confuse customers to the point that some of your previous customers buy a second copy of the same book by mistake, which could result in negative reviews. (Perhaps a clear explanation in the blurb could help minimize this.) ” be handled this way in the event you wanted to unpublish a book written by your pen name and republish under your real name or another pen?

  6. Hi Chris, thanks for this information.
    I published my first ebook on Amazon and not knowing better, I enabled DRM. I’ve since understood that this wasn’t a good idea. Since it’s not possible to change it on Amazon, I wondered whether I could unpublished the ebook and republish it without DRM. Do you know whether this is possible?
    I’ve read that republishing an ebook isn’t a good idea either because the old version can still float around and compete with the new version.
    What’s your advice?

    • Some people advise DRM, others against it. Here is a recent discussion on DRM and a recent case of piracy, in favor of using DRM: https://kdp.amazon.com/community/thread.jspa?messageID=741939&#741939. On the other hand, enabling DRM can affect sharing between friends and family. For example, see https://kdp.amazon.com/community/thread.jspa?threadID=188548&start=0&tstart=0, and check out JT’s response. I actually enable DRM on my e-books. Some people think it may hurt sales slightly, but it also enables some measure of protection.

      I don’t know that it’s worth republishing to remove DRM. You can unpublish your book then create a new title (adding the same title again). The new title will allow you to choose new DRM settings.

      I’ve unpublished a couple of e-books, but never for DRM settings. While the page still exists somewhere on the internet, I don’t see them by searching on Amazon. Amazon isn’t trying to show nonexistent books to potential customers, so you needn’t worry about shoppers seeing the old books.

      Personally, I would leave the DRM the way it is, but again that’s just my preference. Good luck.🙂

  7. Dear Chris, I like to just change the illustration of my book not the the content nor the name of my book. Would it cause any problems?, shell I do it with the same publishing or it is alright to go with different publishing company?

    I do have the copy right.

    Many thanks

    • You can do this. Was this originally published with a publisher? If so, in addition to obtaining the rights from the publishing company, you likely need to release a new edition with a new ISBN and you may need to adopt a new imprint name (your own). You need to work out those details with the publishing company (or you may want to recruit the advice of a contract attorney).

      If you published it yourself originally, then you can simply update the illustration, no problem. You can use your own imprint name or even change your own imprint name used originally to a new one (with the same legal limitations that ordinarily apply to adopting your own imprint, such as avoiding confusion with trademarks).

      The main drawback of changing the illustration is that a customer who previously purchased the old one might accidentally buy the same book again. But if your new illustration brings possible benefits, it may be worth this small risk. Good luck with your book.🙂

  8. Hi Chris,
    I published my first eBook on smashwords, amazon and ibookstore sometime in February last year, i didn’t promote in anyway and didn’t bother about sales.
    I have now rewritten the book, added more chapters and ready for a large-scale promotion which include heavy social media presence, 2 potentially viral videos and heavy word on the street.
    I have also uploaded the manuscript on createspace and printed 2,000 copies for sale in my country Nigeria.
    The trick is, the PR company I am working with advised i take out previous publications for them to heavily promote the book before an agreed launch date in December so that readers can anticipate it before it is released. I strongly support this plan and believe sales will be really good from the day of launch.
    The problem I have now is what to do about smashwords and the other platforms, the book is supposed to appear as new an not previously published.
    Please advise.


    • It is possible to unpublish at Smashwords. There can be a significant delay in getting your book to disappear from a few of the stores, but it will be unpublished.

      When you republish, if you also have a different title, along with a new cover that will help to differentiate your new book from the old listing (if the old listing is still showing on some sites). Also, you might consider republishing under Draft 2 Digital, an alternative to Smashwords, so those sites see your book coming from a different source. Good luck with your book. I hope your promotional plan works out well.

    • Hi

      SBPRA published my book and it’s currently at Amazon etc. (I bought a few copies myself..lol). I decided to read it again…over a year later, and I see a need for some rewriting. Firstly i want to write it in 3rd person. Secondly I want to make some stylistic changes. Thirdly, I want to delete some stuff and also make some additions. Just as importantly, I want to go with Samhain Publishing (they E-book my genre) because SBPRA is unwilling to make it an E-book. I’m planning to terminate my contract with SBPRA (of course within the terms of our contract). Are there any possible ramifications in republishing with basically the same story line, but with the type of changes i mentioned??


      On Thu, Nov 27, 2014 at 6:04 AM, chrismcmullen wrote:

      > Dave commented: “Thank you Chris, Never thought of it this way. Quite > insightful.”

      • The first possible ramification is legal. Check your contract (and any termination paperwork) carefully to ensure that you have the republishing rights that you need. (It may help to have an attorney with relevant experience look it over).

        Assuming that you obtain the rights that you need to republish, the one ramification I see is a customer who bought the original book and buys the new book without realizing that it was the same book. The fewer sales you had originally, the less this becomes likely. If the cover is similar, that will help avoid this problem. If not, simply writing a note, like “Originally published as ___ in ___,” may help to avoid this possible confusion.

        Maybe you can hear from other authors who successfully terminated their old contracts and have republished, to find out more about their experiences. Good luck.

  9. Pingback: Recovering from a Less Than Favorable eBook | Anita Lovett & Associates

  10. Hi Chris,
    Random question. I only have 1 review for my book and its 1 star because the reviewer made claims that I didn’t know how to write in English. He gave no specifics and didn’t respond to my inquiries. Is there a legit way to start over with publishing my book (i.e. start with 0 reviews) ? Thanks for your time.

    • If the review is for a Kindle edition, you could try unpublishing and republishing. The review is likely to return. But if you make some revisions, you might be able to gently persuade KDP support to remove the old review from the new edition. (If you change the title a little and add a new title instead of republishing, it might not return. But it might eventually.) However, nothing prevents the same customer from discovering your new or updated edition and writing a review again.

  11. What is the best option if I want to put new title, new cover and book description. Should I unpublish the book and publish new book or should I just update the existing book?

      • Thank you Chris,
        I don’t mind losing customer reviews. At the moment I don’t have many reviews. I agree with your advice to unpublish the book and publish a new book. But, as I am only going to change the title, sub title, cover image and many be chapter names in the book (But not the content), how can I stop the same buyers from buying the same content under different title and book cover?

      • If you only have a Kindle edition, you could just republish. Then customers will see a note that they have purchased the book before (no guarantee that the customer will notice the message).

      • Hello Chris,
        What do you mean by republish? Does it mean unpublishing a old version and publish new book from the scratch? I have four books under one series.

        1. For first book of the series, I am changing book title, sub title, cover image and I AM also DELETING chapters.

        2. For remaining three books of the series, I am changing book title, sub title, cover image and many be chapter names in the book. I am NOT adding or deleting any chapter.

        What should I do here?
        For the sake of the consistency of publication date, I would like to remove all 4 books and publish them as new books. If is a good option?

        And what does it mean by second edition? can I publish new books as second edition?
        Please suggest.

    • By republish, I mean simply to upload new files into your current book and publish the same book again. I suggested this regarding your concern that previous customers may accidentally buy the same book again. If you do this, the book will have the same ASIN, and Amazon will put a message at the top of the page showing customers that they have already purchased the book (though not all customers will notice this message).

      If you remove all of the books and publish new books to replace them, you will get newer publication dates and renewed visibility in the New Release filters. There is a field where you can enter the edition number in the publishing process. (You can also mention this in the description if you think it’s worth putting there.)

      Good luck with your books.

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