Republish vs Update a Book: Which One Is Better?

If you are reading this article, chances are your book has a problem that you would like to address in some way.

The good news is that self-publishing makes it easy to correct your book mistakes, but there are two ways to do this: updating or republishing your book.

With a strategic update or republishing of your book, you can easily fix your book's mistakes, course-correct poor marketing, and even increase your book sales.

But what does it mean to update or republish a book? Which one is for you? In what situations should you use one or the other?

Because the truth is, they are very different and they both have different consequences. 

So, in this article, you will learn
  1. What’s the difference between republishing and updating a book
  2. When you should update
  3. When you should republish

What is Republishing vs Updating a Book?

Put simply, updating a book allows you to make changes to your current listing of your book without losing your ISBN, ASIN, and book landing page.

Republishing a book essentially creates an entirely new book, complete with a new ISBN, ASIN, and book landing page.

However, there are some nuances to each, and some special actions authors can take to maximize the benefits of an update or a republish that you should know about. So, let’s dig in a little bit more. 

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Updating a Book on Amazon

banner text image that says updating a book

Here is everything you need to know about updating a book on Amazon:

What is Updating a Book?

Updating a book is simple. Amazon allows you to upload a new manuscript or a new book cover, and even lets you tweak some of the metadata, at any time.

The good news is that this does not erase your reviews, you retain the same book landing page with the same ISBN and ASIN. This means that if anyone has a link to your book, it will still work for the updated book.

Updating a book is useful for correcting small mistakes, creating minor adjustments to your metadata, and even going as far as to change your book cover. Let's talk about each of the different scenarios where you should update your book.

When Should You Update a Book?

Here are a few situations that are most common for people updating their book through Amazon.

  • For small changes: any changes you make to your book that you would classify as “minor” are a good reason for just updating your book. These include, but are not limited to: mistakes in your manuscript, small updates to keep a nonfiction book current, and other small changes listed below.
  • When you have a lot of reviews: If you have a lot of reviews for your book, there's a chance you could lose those reviews if you republish. This isn't always the case (see below for how you might be able to migrate those old reviews to the new book), but the risk is still high. If you don't want to lose your reviews, see if you could update instead of republish.
  • To upload a new cover: Sometimes the biggest problem with a book is its cover. Many authors have simply swapped out a more genre-appropriate cover and seen sales skyrocket afterward. Amazon will let you do this in a simple update, so in most cases you will not have to republish your book.
  • When you have a typo: Typos are one of the most common reasons why you might update your book. Obviously, minor fixes like these do not require a republish.
  • To change your categories/keywords: While not all of your metadata is changeable, keywords and categories are one great way to optimize your sales post-launch. In fact, I might even recommend swapping out keywords and categories now and then, recording your data, and seeing what looks best for you. You can do this using free guidelines, but tools like Publisher Rocket will save you a TON of time.
  • To tweak front/back matter: This is another common reason why many authors update their books. Your front and back matter is where you put things like your Author Bio or a link to your email newsletter. Links and information like this will change over time, and updating your book periodically with the correct info is a good idea.

How Does Amazon Treat Book Updates?

Amazon does not treat an updated book any differently than had you not updated it. You do not get any special boosts, promotion, or preferential treatment at all.

HOWEVER!

That's not to say that an update won't improve your sales. Let's say you upload a new cover, and that cover does a much better job at appealing to the right reader. By updating the cover, you can improve your conversion rate, and the conversion rate will start to tell Amazon that people like your book.

So while updates don't affect anything in the algorithm, they can still be highly beneficial for your books.

How to Update Your Book on Amazon

To update your book on Amazon, follow these simple steps:

  • Step 1: Go to your Amazon KDP dashboard
  • Step 2: Find your book, hover over the three dots, and select “Edit e-book details” or “Edit paperback details” (depending on which version you are updating)
  • Step 3: make any metadata changes you would like, such as your description, keywords, or categories, then hit “Save and Continue”
  • Step 4: if you have direct changes to the manuscript or book cover, you can add them next, then hit “Save and Continue” again
  • Step 5: if you have changes you want to make to the pricing or available marketplaces, you can make them here
  • Step 6: Hit Publish!

As is the case when you upload a new book, there will be a brief waiting period as Amazon reviews your request.

However, in my experience, updates are far less scrutinized than new books, and typically don't take as long to go live.

Republishing a Book on Amazon

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Here is everything you need to know about republishing a book on Amazon:

What is Republishing a Book?

Republishing a book, in Amazon's eyes, is a lot like publishing a new book.

Most people that republish a new book are doing so because they are publishing a new edition, completely rewriting the book, rebranding and relaunching on a big scale, or otherwise starting from scratch.

While there are some downsides to republishing about, there are a lot of advantages as well. Let's talk about each of the different situations where you might choose to republish a book.

When Should You Republish a Book?

Here are a few situations that are most common for people to republish their book through Amazon.

  • When making large changes: anytime you make significant changes to your book, it becomes wiser to republish that update. In fact, Amazon might not even let you update if the changes are too big. They may insist that you publish the book as a new edition.
  • When changing the print format: anytime you have a print book published through KDP, it has fixed formats that you cannot change after the book is published. This includes the trim size, the paper color, and whether or not your book is color or black-and-white. If you want to change any of these (ex. to save costs by switching from color to black and white), then you will need to republish rather than update. Keep in mind that this is only relevant for print books.
  • When changing the title/subtitle/author name: while the e-book has some flexibility with this data, it's usually not a good idea to change these. If you plan to change the title of a book, or even the subtitle, there is a good chance that you will need to republish the book entirely.
  • You don't like your reviews: let's face it, sometimes we mess up and the reviews show it. Perhaps we want to fix the mistakes and start over so that our average reviews won't be so bad. This is a valid reason to completely relaunch your book with no reviews.
  • You just got the rights back to your book: if you were traditionally published and only just received the rights back to your book, that is a perfect time to republish it. Since you were published with another publisher, you will not be able to just update that book on Amazon. You will have to republish it yourself.
  • A big relaunch: one of the biggest advantages to republishing a book is that you get that coveted “honeymoon period” where Amazon gives slight preferential treatment to new books (you can read more about that here). After publishing a few books, you might have gained some skills, and a complete relaunch might be a good opportunity to take advantage of those skills in a way that you didn't know how when you initially launched the book.

How Does Amazon Treat Book Republishing?

Amazon treats a re-published book very differently from an updated book.

In essence, Amazon treats a republished book just like a new book. It gives you a new ISBN and ASIN number, as well as a new landing page for the book. It also gives you that “honeymoon period“, puts your book in the list of new releases, and is known to give a slight boost in exposure.

If you know how to take advantage of this honeymoon period, this can be very valuable indeed, and is likely the reason why many people choose to republish their books.

If you were not happy with the initial reviews you got, plan to change the title or subtitle of your book, publish a new edition, or otherwise just want to start over, then re-publishing your book may be a good choice.

How to Republish Your Book

In order to republish your book, just follow these steps:

  • Step 1: make sure you have your new edition of your book completely ready to go
  • Step 2: go through the standard KDP upload process
  • Step 3: if your book is a new edition of an old book, rather than a relaunch, make sure you specify this in the book details section while you are uploading to KDP (see picture below)
  • Step 4: hit publish and wait for Amazon to approve your new book
  • Step 5: once your new book is live, find your old book, however over the three little dots, and select Unpublish
new edition in KDP

Note: while you can completely delist your e-book, you cannot completely delist your paperback. All you can do is prevent people from buying new copies of the book. The page will still be available in case people want to sell old copies of the print book that they had previously bought.

While some people will leave the old editions of their book available for sale, I recommend against this in most cases, as it can lead to confusion.

SECRET: How to Keep Your Book Reviews When You Republish a Book

Despite popular belief, it is sometimes possible to retain your book reviews even when you republish a book.

Sometimes.

Let me preface by saying that this is not a 100% sure thing. If you are republishing a book, you should be prepared to lose all the reviews. However, under specific circumstances, you may be able to transfer all your old reviews to a new edition of your book.

To request that your old reviews be added to your new, republished version of your book, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Amazon KDP’s support page (make sure you’re logged in to see all the different options) 
  2. Click on Amazon Store & Product Detail Page, then Link your print and Kindle editions
  3. In this space, give them the exact ASIN numbers of your old book and your new book (make sure to include all editions, including Kindle and Paperback)
  4. Ask them to link the reviews from the old book to the new book. Explain clearly that this is a new edition of the old book.
example of the Amazon contact page and how to ask for your reviews to be linked.

Bear in mind that your new book must have the exact same title, subtitle, and author name as the old book. From everything I’ve seen, Amazon will not link your old reviews unless this is exactly the same.

So if you’re planning a complete rebranding with a new title and everything, you’re out of luck. Amazon will not transfer your reviews.

However, don’t worry. This may still be a good thing. Unless you have glowing reviews on your previous version, you might want to consider abandoning those reviews anyway. After all, they were for an older, inferior version of your book. Ultimately, we would hope and expect your new edition to be better than the first, so it would naturally get better reviews.

The choice is up to you.

Updating vs Republishing Comparison

There are advantages and disadvantages for either updating or republishing a book. 

For most authors, updating a book is sufficient for most changes that need to be made. It comes with the advantage of being easy to do, and it won’t hurt your reviews or change your landing page.

Republishing, on the other hand, can be a sound publishing strategy, especially if you’ve learned a lot since you initially published it, and want to see what would happen if you gave it a proper book launch with everything you know now about book marketing. It gives you that Amazon Honeymoon effect, and a chance at getting picked up by the algorithm again.

That said, it’s a more advanced strategy, and not one you should do unless you know exactly how you could improve on your original book launch.

Here is a breakdown of the advantages of each method:

BenefitUpdateRepublish
You can keep your reviewsGreen Check Mark
Green Check Mark
(with steps)
Changes are easy to makeGreen Check Mark
Sufficient for most issuesGreen Check Mark
Your book gets to have another honeymoon periodGreen Check Mark
It’s a great way to rebrandGreen Check Mark
Lose the bad reviews and start overGreen Check Mark
You can change things like the title, subtitle, or trim sizeGreen Check Mark

So which one is best? 

So which should you do? Update or republish?

The answer depends on your needs. You should update a book if you:

  • Have minor changes to make
  • You don’t want to lose any of your reviews
  • You want to update your keywords and/or categories
  • You want to tweak your front/back matter

Likewise, you should consider republishing if you:

  • Just received the rights back to your book
  • You need to change the print format
  • You have large extensive changes that would warrant a new edition
  • You want to change the title/subtitle/author name
  • You don’t like the reviews you have and want to start over
  • You’re doing a big relaunch of your books or brand
  • You want to take advantage of the Honeymoon Effect and build up sales

My recommendation is to ask yourself if you can update the book and get the benefit you need that way first. Then, if that’s not enough for you, and you’re willing to take on a more advanced strategy, republishing might be a good avenue.

But a final word of warning:

It can be easy to fixate on the errors of the books we’ve written in the past, then spend all of our time trying to fix them.

Instead, we should always remember that the best thing we can do as writers is to write. Never lose sight of that ultimate goal.

We will not improve our writing skills by obsessing over our old work as much as we will by writing something new.

So while republishing is a great tactic for some, I only recommend it for those who have obvious benefits that they can glean from doing so. But it should be low-hanging fruit. Otherwise, it might be a better idea to do a minor update, then move on to the next project.

In short, never let any of this stop you from writing.



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