Kay: Going Long at the Berkeley Book Festival

Last weekend, our Elizabeth, who lives just down the road from me, and I decided to go hear Catherine Coulter interviewed at the Berkeley Book Festival. This annual event, held in downtown Berkeley, California, attracts thousands of visitors, who can hear famous and not-as-famous writers talk about a wide variety of topics and, between panels, browse the many booths that crowd Berkeley’s Civic Center Park and the surrounding streets. This is the third year I’ve attended, and I’ve always enjoyed it, but this year the weather was cold and blustery, so lingering over intriguing new titles in gale-force winds was not in the cards. Elizabeth and I pretty much steamed our way through the booths in an effort to keep warm.

I was interested in hearing Catherine Coulter speak because she started her career writing shorter, category-length Regency historicals, then moved to full-length contemporaries. Now she writes FBI thrillers, some in a partnership with J.T. Ellison and some still under her name alone. She’s written 83 books so far and has been successful in every genre. I’ve read many of her earlier FBI books and enjoyed them. I was interested to find out more about how she wanted to expand her brand by teaming up with other writers and how it works in practical terms.

I did learn that. (Ellison writes the first draft. Coulter writes the dialogue and does a final edit. It’s working out great.) But as it turned out, the point Coulter made that I found the most interesting was about her Regencies. She’s expanding them, she said. Not writing new ones, but developing the original stories, making them longer. Expanding the hero and heroine. Fleshing out the secondary characters. Developing the plot. Boosting the original 70,000 words to the 100,000 range. The books are getting new covers. They’re getting new titles, and, so readers don’t get confused, the new covers include the old title underneath, like this:

New Title Here!

By Catherine Coulter

Originally published as Old Title Here

I found this a super intriguing idea. You start with something you’re already written and take another crack at it. It has to be—well, I won’t say “easy,” certainly—but one obviously has a very nice head start there. And conceivably by making it a longer story, you make it a richer story. And you sell it again.

Will readers buy it again? I’ve never read Coulter’s original Regencies, so I can’t say. But in general terms, would you? If you’d read a 70K book once, would you pay again to read it at 100K?

Because, hey. I’ve got a bunch of novellas sitting right here…


6 thoughts on “Kay: Going Long at the Berkeley Book Festival

  1. If I loved the original story, I’d absolutely read the expanded version. So often I finish a book still wanting more – this would be perfect!

  2. That is an interesting concept! Is she self-publishing these, then? She’d have a base, for sure. And so many readers read a good book, and think, “Jeez, if only this were longer!”

    In SF, I have heard of people publishing short stories, and then going back and making a whole novel out of their original. It happened with “The Weatherman” from Bujold (who turned it into The Vor Game).

    • I think Coulter’s regular publishing house is bringing them out. She sort of sniffed at the notion of indie publishing. Interesting to hear of Bujold’s foray into that expanded-novella territory. I imagine you’ve read both? What did you think?

      • Huh, now I can’t remember if I read the original short story or not. I don’t think it was in the collection of short stories that she put out. It was nominated for a best novella Nebula when it came out in Analog, and then it won a Hugo for best novel when it came out from Baen. The book definitely had a structure thing going on that . . . worked? But not quite business as usual.

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