Doug Stewart – Of Backlists and Rebranding

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I am most grateful to CWA for this opportunity to mention my two new books but also to raise a topic of more general interest – rebranding. Since I signed up with American publishers MP Publishing, my eyes have been opened. They have refreshing views on selling books and I saw a new world out there – one that perhaps other authors with solid backlists will find of interest.

I explain this in more detail below but firstly, my publishers are releasing my new mystery thriller Hard Place in mid-summer 2015. It concerns Det. Inspector Todd “Ratso” Holtom’s obsession with bringing down a London-based drug baron. Over 90% of the world’s heroin supply comes from Helmand Province in Afghanistan. Back in 2001, when the USA and UK got involved in fighting the Taleban in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Tony Blair promised destruction of the poppy crop as part of the rationale for the War on Terror. According to SIGAR (Special Inspector-General for Afghanistan Reconstruction), destroying the Helmand crop (by fire or spraying) might have prevented an estimated one million deaths from heroin abuse.

But once embroiled in the Afghan war, the military in Whitehall and the Pentagon realised that destroying the local economy was not going to help win the war against the Taleban. Instead, and understandably so, the priority was protecting the lives of soldiers. Government policy, however reluctantly, had to change. Expediency meant that local warlords, drug-dealers and key political figures had to be humoured and even embraced to secure cooperation. Thus the poppy crop increased and now, with the British troops gone, Afghan heroin production is approaching 40% more than 14 years ago!

Instead of a 90% reduction in the heroin problem, Ratso and real-life crime-busters now face a worse situation. Ratso’s fight to prevent a mega-import of Afghan heroin takes him to Florida, the Bahamas and Spain as he suffers realpolitik in bringing down an entire network.

Terror at Sea

Also in mid-summer 2015, my publishers are launching Terror at Sea. This is an updated but rebranded version of my successful true crime book, The Brutal Seas (originally written for and published by Marebuch in Germany as Piraten). The book covered some of the most audacious, savage and cunning crimes at sea over the past twenty years or so. Piracy, human trafficking, scuttling or stealing ships were all covered but Terror at Sea now has more material on terrorism and kidnap such as has been prevalent around Somalia and elsewhere.


The publishers believe the new name and material will be important in their marketing strategy. But their rebranding does not end there!  Some of my backlist of mystery thrillers have been re-released unchanged but as eBooks. This has given them a whiff of oxygen – but others are being rebranded.  Late Bet was my international thriller first published about eight years ago in the USA involving casino fraud, money-laundering, Formula 1 racing and a Premier League soccer-star.

Tables Turned

On request from a Canadian movie producer, I adapted the book into a screenplay cutting out side plots and Formula 1 to keep the script focussed on his target of the US movie scene. Sadly, in the recession, the producer did not raise sufficient funding but since then, I have turned my script into a re-written and much changed and simplified thriller. My publishers liked it and although Late Bet is still out there and selling, the new version Tables Turned is being released in December 2015.

Cellars’ Market

Another mystery thriller was Cellars’ Market about fraud and a war in the wine trade. It was first published by Collins Crime Club. Now, MP Publishing want it  re-written in the present day – a fascinating project with so many changes since then – no-smoking in public places, different wine vintages, clothing fashions, smartphones, internet, email, social media and so much more that did not then exist. I am really enjoying the re-write, particularly because the publishers want a longer book than the typical Crime Club format. It too will be rebranded.

Health Warnings

Rebranding raises questions of what health warnings need to be put on revamped/ rebranded books to prevent some buyers feeling let down by buying a similar book. Legendary fiction writer John Fowles (author of the French Lieutenant’s Woman) wrote and re-published his magnus opus The Magus with differing endings – to considerable acclaim. At the cinema, popular movies get remade with a new cast and modern twists and movie-goers do not feel cheated. Ernest Hemingway wrote 47 different endings for A Farewell to Arms and classics like Great Expectations and Wuthering Heights have been rewritten with a contemporary twist.


Of course, for any author writing the first words of a new book provides special excitement but the fast-changing publishing scene has added new value to backlists. Getting these into the market whether rebranded or not – boosts market profile and therefore sales of new works. This surely, is an opportunity to be seized.

About Me

I have written eight mystery thrillers and four works of non-fiction. Having started life in the UK as a solicitor in the West of England and then London, I moved to Las Vegas and then Cyprus but am now back living on British shores. If you want to get in touch or to know more about me or my writing, my contacts are and or I am Facebook at DouglasStewartBooks and on Twitter as  @DougSBooks.You can keep in touch by registering as a Contact on my website.

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