Updating an Older Manuscript By Karen McCullough

For the last few years, I’ve been working on getting rights back to most of my older published novels.  In some cases, this has been relatively simple. I had an agent for a while who did a good job of getting an excellent reversion clause written into my contracts. Once the books were out of print for five years, I could demand the rights back.


I’ve self-published several of those older books as ebooks. I’m not making huge profits on them, but since they’ve been out of print for ages, anything I make at this point is gravy. And I have had a few people ask how they could get my older works.


I re-edit all of them and even rewrite some before I release them to the public again. Some of the books can go with just minimal updating, but with others, I’m faced with a dilemma.


Several of those books were written and published in the 1990s and early 2000s. It’s astonishing to read back through those books and realize how much technology has changed in such a short time.


I debated whether to release them as they were, with just the usual rewrites or to update them. They’re in a gray zone timewise – the setting isn’t long ago, so they don’t really work as historical, but they don’t sound contemporary now either.


A couple of them worked with the addition of some technology that didn’t require significant changes in the plot. But, in some cases, newer technology wrought major changes in the plot. One of my early suspense novels had a computer programmer for a heroine. Computer technology has changed so much I had to completely rewrite that story before I released Programmed for Danger.


In another of my early romantic suspense novels, my heroine had to go to a library to do research she would now be able to do much more efficiently on her laptop using Google. That was a change that wouldn’t affect the plot itself too much. But when she was being chased by the bad guys, it could have made a huge difference if she’d had a cell phone. I finessed that by having the heroine lose her purse along the way in A Question of Fire.


My most recent release, Hunter’s Quest, was in a similar position. It’s never been published, but it’s been sitting on my hard drive for almost twenty years.  It was written for a specific publisher and line, but it didn’t make the final cut, so I moved on to other projects and forgot about it. I found it again last year while cleaning out older files. I re-read it and decided I still liked the story. Since I’d started publishing some of my older stories on my own I thought it worthy of releasing.


But first, it needed some rewriting and updating. Adding cell phones into the story was necessary but proved to be relatively easy. The setting in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina helped because there are still places there that have no service. (Verified by personal experience!) When using a phone would’ve made things too easy for my protagonists, I gave them no bars. I added in a laptop that isn’t actually needed very much.


Where I almost tripped up was in smaller things. Fortunately, I hired a sharp-eyed editor go over it. She pointed out a couple of things I read right over. Things that were normal at the time but aren’t now.


In one scene the hero consults a map for directions—a paper map. My editor noted that these days most people use GPS, either on the dashboard or a smart phone. I should know this. I haven’t consulted a paper map in years.


And then there was the car that had a bench seat in the front. Er, no. Following her instinct, the editor checked. The last sedan with a bench seat was made in 2014. Only a few SUVs and pickup trucks still have one.


And this is why I hire an editor. I should’ve picked up on those things myself, but I didn’t. And now I wonder what else we might have both missed? I hope readers will let me know if they find anything like that. I include my email address right at the front of the book for that purpose.


Blurb for Hunter’s Quest


Kristie Sandford’s vacation is interrupted when a man jumps out in front of her car. She avoids hitting him, but when she stops to see if he’s hurt, he demands she help him escape from the people chasing him. Kristie has an odd “gift” – she occasionally gets warning messages, and she gets one saying he needs her help or he’ll die. Jason Hunter is an NC SBI (North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation) agent working on his own time searching for a friend, an investigative reporter who disappeared while tracking down rumors of corruption in the bureaucracy of a small mountain town. Jason is grateful to Kristie for rescuing him, but dubious when she insists she has to continue helping him. Kristie is attracted to Jason, but the edge of danger she senses in him reminds her too much of the abusive family she escaped as soon as she could.

Still, the message said he’d die if she didn’t help him, and the messages have been right before.



Buy links:


Karen McCullough is the author of more than a dozen published novels in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres and has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy. She’s also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She has three children, three grandchildren and lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.


Author’s links:

Website: http://www.kmccullough.com

Blog: http://www.kmccullough.com/kblog

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KarenMcCulloughAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kgmccullough


2 thoughts on “Updating an Older Manuscript By Karen McCullough

  1. As someone who just this week am getting used to the technology in a 2018 car vs 2005 and feeling like a fish out of water, I enjoyed this blog post 🙂 However, I do enjoy revisiting “the old days” via stories set in previous decades. All good reading!

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