A couple weeks ago I visited a Barnes & Noble that was much larger (and farther away) than my local one. I visited the Writing/Reference section and was pleased to find a few books by The Self-Publishing Manual, 15th edition. It looked much nicer than the 8th edition sitting on my bookshelf. It was thicker too and contained much more Web-useful information (to be expected). I didnâ€™t see anything so compelling that I needed to buy it. After all, most of my questions have been answered by this point and Iâ€™ve discovered that what questions I still need answered canâ€™t be found in a book. But, a good resource all the same. (I also noticed that the meat of most of his chapters hadnâ€™t changed much.)
Then I opened Writing Nonfiction. It wasnâ€™t a thick book. Iâ€™d considered buying it several times over the past couple years but I never did. Mr. Poynter has made a very good living by writing nonfiction and that alone was enough to make me want to buy this particular book.
This was the first time I got to see the book in-hand, noticing that it was large-print in a large-sized format. As I flipped through the chapters, the words started looking very familiar. When I compared them to Chapter 2 of The Self-Publishing Manual, they looked totally familiar (Chapter 2 is â€œWriting Your Bookâ€). Writing Nonfiction also has a few chapters dealing with the traditional and self- publishing industries, sort of a quick summary of what The Self-Publishing Manual covers.
My understanding is that marketers (at least what Iâ€™ve read online), exhort their clients to â€œrepackageâ€ information. Iâ€™m sure Iâ€™ve consumed repackaged information but this example was surprisingly blatant. My reaction was disgust and disappointment. For someone whoâ€™s been so successful, I wouldâ€™ve thought heâ€™d have more to say on the subject, something new. Being sold the same thing in two different formats feels a bit like a rip-off to me.
This happens all the time in article-writing but that doesnâ€™t bother me. Not everyone reads the same magazines and the articles are paid for by the magazine, instead of directly by the consumer. Iâ€™ve seen evidence of re-worked articles in magazines, but I havenâ€™t been aware of reading the exact same article. Book readers tend to buy multiple books from authors they like, which would lead a fan of Poynterâ€™s to a disappointing surprise. (One pen-pal of mine bought a few of Poynterâ€™s books at once, only to discover she really only needed to buy The Self-Publishing Manual. She isnâ€™t a happy customer.)
These made me more aware of following marketersâ€™ advice. How would my readers feel to discover Iâ€™d â€œrepackagedâ€ information? Probably like I did. Is that the reaction I want? No. (But Iâ€™m ethically fine with repackaging on my blog(s) because theyâ€™re free to read.) Iâ€™ve seen some companies sell information a chapter at a time (interesting concept) while also offering the whole book. To me, thatâ€™s ethical repackaging because it leaves the burden of choice on the consumer.
It probably sounds idealistic, but I wonâ€™t do that to my readers. Iâ€™m sure Iâ€™ll transfer the same ideas from place to place (and perhaps some favorite phrases), but I swear that I will not copy entire blocks of text from one book to another and sell both. (Article-writing is a somewhat different proposition). As with blogging, if I have nothing new to add, I wonâ€™t write it.
I am curious about what any business-people/marketers who are reading this blog have to say about the concept. Iâ€™m curious about any consumers who have had a similar experience with a purchase. Am I the only one who finds repackaging on the sly to be an underhanded way of parting me with my money?