How do I make a second edition of Breaking Down Breaking Bad worthwhile?

Breaking Down Breaking BadBack in late 2013, I decided to try an experiment: I decided I’d self-publish a book of television commentary on a show I was obsessed with at the time, Breaking Bad. The result was Breaking Down Breaking Bad.

The idea was a culmination of several things coming together at once. I’d had over a decade in journalism and knew I could meet a deadline, and with the show coming to an end it looked like a great time to hit the world with something. I’d also been Editor in Chief for a website devoted to movie and TV criticism for a few years, so I’d been down the “critic” road before (though admittedly, it was never my jam; didn’t enjoy doing reviews then, don’t enjoy it now).

A big factor was that my first book on film criticism, A Year of Hitchcock (with Jim McDevitt), had come out a few years prior via the respected academic imprint Scarecrow Press. Figured that would lend me some credibility. And on a small scale, I experimented with Lakehurst: Barrens, Blimps and Barons, a local history book self-published for a very niche audience that met and exceeded expectations, which gave me a feel for the process of putting something out on my own.

So in mid 2013, I started writing, watching, writing, and watching. My aim was to have this thing out just as the show ended. Long story short, I met that goal, albeit a few weeks late, and the book took off in a way that far exceeded my expectations. I won’t share numbers because they’re personal, but I’m quite happy. The damn thing even went to #2 in its category on Amazon UK.

Here’s the thing: It wasn’t the book it could and should have been. It’s an entertaining enough read, people seem to like it, and it still sells even today. I stand by it. But it could be better. I followed it up with two television books, Celebrating Mad Men and Dissecting the Walking Dead, and I think both are superior works in every respect. Better commentary, better insights, better writing, and even better proofreading (important when you put stuff out yourself!) and covers (ditto).

With that in mind, I’ve often thought about revisiting that Breaking Bad book and bringing it up to snuff. Adding new chapters, expanding existing chapters, and just plain working it over. But there’s a dilemma to doing that:

How do I do that without ripping people off? I can’t and don’t expect people to buy it twice, but I’d still like existing readers to have the new stuff. To be the best of my knowledge Kindle versions can be updated cost-free, so that’s cool, but not print.

I suppose I could assume that anyone who has the book got a complete package and they’re happy, so that’s that. Maybe they can sign up for a list to get a PDF version of the new material just so they have it?

Or maybe I can put the new chapters on this website for free, accessible to people who already own the book?

Or maybe I could sell signed copies of the new version to existing readers at a discounted price? That way they get a whole new book, signed, for just a few bucks instead of full price? I’d have to work out the logistics of that.

I could just do what regular publishers do, put a second edition out there, and say that’s that, deal with it. I don’t feel good about the idea, though. I’d like people who already have the book to get the new material at little to no cost while still offering a good new package worth more for new readers.

If I were to do this — that “if” is pretty big — it would be for autumn 2017.

I’m open to workable suggestions.

17 Comments

  1. Jim McDevittJim McDevitt

    Dig the idea and I’d be happy to discuss it with you privately. I’d definitely have some thoughts on this for you.

  2. Keith HowellKeith Howell

    Tackling Better Call Saul and how it fits into the bigger puzzle as both events after and before are depicted?

    1. Eric San JuanEric San Juan

      That would certainly be part of the expanded portion of the book. I’m more concerned with how to sell it without asking people to buy it twice, yet making it worthwhile even if they choose to, while ALSO drawing some new readers. Mostly, I just want to figure out a way to be fair to people who already have it.

    2. Keith HowellKeith Howell

      Snag a new interview with Bryan Cranston. That can’t be too hard.

      😉

    3. Jim McDevittJim McDevitt

      That’s a great idea, Keith. And he’s a totally personable guy. I bet he’d do it.

  3. John MiętusJohn Miętus

    Discuss R+L=J.

  4. Maria João MarquesMaria João Marques

    As someone who shares your obsession with Breaking Bad I think it’s an excellent idea. And I’d totally buy the second edition. Maybe we could even parallel it with the Portuguese translation. 🙂

    1. Eric San JuanEric San Juan

      I look forward to debuting the translation alongside YOUR fantastic Breaking Bad book!

    2. Rick LundeenRick Lundeen

      Eric San Juan –I’ll email you a couple thoughts

  5. Michael San JuanMichael San Juan

    This time don’t break it down, instead speculate on what happened to Jesse after he got away. Also dig a little deeper into some of the other characters and what might’ve happened to them after Heisenberg was dead

  6. Larry PhillipsLarry Phillips

    I’m in the ‘just put out a second edition’ category. A fan will buy it again. As a fan, I’ve done that countless times with books. I’ve never felt ripped off. I’ve enjoyed the revised/expanded content. I’ve enjoyed comparing and contrasting original to subsequent editions. I enjoy allowing both works to live individually yet co-exist (Stephen King’s The Stand for example). The most recent example of this is the SNL oral history, Live From New York, which, as the show is an on-going concern lends itself well to the occasional expansion.

    Again, a fan would enjoy this, especially if they’ve enjoyed your previous edition. If they liked your ‘voice’ and either loved, or loved to argue with your opinion, I’d have to say they would enjoy your take on the show under a more current filter, with the perspective of distance and with a few more literary miles under your belt.

    In addition, it’s not as if this would be coming our arbitrarily out of the blue. With the show itself continuing to make a cultural impact on new fans through home video, streaming, and yet another AMC marathon, not to mention the high-quality success of Better Call Saul, the world still needs this book.

    Your instinct is very sound on giving this an expanded polish. You’re not ripping anyone off launching a new edition in the world. Your feeling of guilt is misplaced. Remember, we all met on a DVD message board. How many times have you bought the same film? Through different media, different restorations, different cuts, and different content, the only time we ever felt ripped off is when they either presented it with less, or threw the same shit in a new box.

    You wouldn’t be wasting your time going at this again unless you had something more/better/new to offer. The marketplace and the readers will accept that.

    Rant over. Good luck!

    1. Keith HowellKeith Howell

      Let’s see. I bought EXCALIBUR on videocassette, then on Dvd, then on digital streaming. I bought 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY on videocassette, then on letter boxed videocassette, then on dvd, then on bluray, and then paid to add it to my streaming library. I bought all the Watchmen, Crisis, and All-star Superman issues individually and bought collected editions. In fact, Watchmen I bought on tpb, one hardback, and the Absolute Edition. I have multiple copies of Burroughs, Bradbury, and Farmer novels. I have both versions of The Stand. I own Salem’s Lot in pb, kindle, and audio.

      The idea that readers and fans won’t want to own a new edition is pure poppycock. 🙂 Get Rick to work up another stellar cover and expand a little where it makes sense and people will buy it.

    2. Eric San JuanEric San Juan

      Larry, you make some really good points here (as always). And in most cases, yeah, a second edition just comes out and that’s that. I do wonder if just four years later is too soon, but you’re right that fans of something are usually happy to get more of the something they like. Rebuying the same thing hits close to home for all of us, I’m sure! Good food for thought. Thanks.

  7. Nerd Out With MeNerd Out With Me

    May I suggest doing large amounts of meth while live broadcasting the process… partially nude.

  8. Kiley Fuchs

    First and foremost, I think it should be acknowledged again how considerate you are for wanting to give your readers access without having to pay for a second edition of something they already own. That reflects a lot about your integrity as a person and a writer. The thought hits close to home as multiple editions are a nightmare in the academic world for students and authors.

    How about setting up a promo code through Amazon for those who have previously bought the first edition? I have no idea if Amazon would be able to do something along those lines for you, but it’d be worth a try. Another suggestion would be to offer a “free preview” chapter on your website so that those who previously purchased can get enticed by the new content. This may help alleviate that feeling of resentment about a second edition. These are just a couple harebrained ideas.

    Ultimately, I agree with the others that if people really want it, they will buy a second edition. But, I appreciate that you are trying to find solutions to the 2nd edition problem and am interested in seeing how this discussion pans out.

    1. Eric San Juan

      The promo code idea is a good thought. I’ll have to check with Amazon to see if they offer anything of the sort and if so, how workable it would be. If they do, that might provide a pretty simple, fairly elegant solution. People would be able to pay only a small amount for the new material without having to repurchase EVERYTHING. Great suggestion, thanks!

  9. AngelaRar

    You always do the right thing. God Bless you.
    Thank you

Comments are closed.