Book bind-ups and how to avoid stepping in them

One of the early terms I learned in the publishing business is ‘bind-up’. It wasn’t the first term I learned. But it came close.

My Adler Gabrielle 25 – on which I typed maybe a million words in the 1980s.

It’s not what you might think. I mean, all books are bound, by definition. But ‘bind-up’ has a specific meaning. It refers to collecting several related books under one cover and selling them as a new edition, usually at a lower nett price than if you bought the component books individually. Sometimes it’s done for books that have sold out, but whose life can be extended in a new ‘bind-up’ edition. Or sometimes a bind-up will appear earlier in a book’s life, giving readers the option of buying the titles individually or together. (I should add that ‘title’, in the business, is usually a metonym for  ‘book’. More on that anon.)

Often a bind-up will have a title of its own, then list the titles of the books it contains separately on the cover. And bind-ups, usually, are quite fat volumes – as you’d expect if they jammed several other books together. Usually the books are conceptually or thematically linked in some way. Ursula Le Guin’s first four Earthsea books, for instance, have also been released as a four-book bind-up The Earthsea Quartet, although they are all stand-alone novels.

Sometimes, especially in non-fiction, they are also referred to as an ‘omnibus volume’.

That said, it’s incorrect to call The Lord Of The Rings a ‘bind up’ if it’s in a single volume – technically, the late Professor T. wrote six ‘books’ making up a single epic, which Allen and Unwin then released in three groups of two. But I digress.

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Anyway, after many years and several attempts I now have a ‘bind-up’ in my own publications list. It’s taken a while. Way back when I wrote a series of eight books for Reed New Zealand on matters military, including a trilogy covering the experiences of the Second New Zealand Division in the Second World War. The first, on the battle for Crete, was wholly stand-alone, but I wrote the other two, on the North African land campaign and the Italian ground war, back-to-back, in essence as two halves of the same story. They made a trilogy, and each sold very well individually – Battle for Crete was reprinted with new cover. So in 2007 when Penguin took over Reed I got into some quite serious discussions with them about a bind-up of this trio.

That never happened, but now – well, it has, with a different imprint. What’s more, I extensively revised the texts of all three, creating second editions. That put them a notch up from the Kindle editions of the same books.

Oh, and they are also available as individual titles. How cool is that? All with new covers, which I might have mentioned before. So now readers have the option of buying these books in second edition, either by themselves or – if so inclined – all at once through the bind-up. It’s been titled The Division Trilogy, which pretty much exactly describes what it is.

Go check it out.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2018



2 thoughts on “Book bind-ups and how to avoid stepping in them

    1. It always intrigues me how the ‘virtual’ world has carried over so much from reality. The box-set was a little different from a bind-up in that it presented the volumes as individual pieces, nicely contained in a box (I remember it was always difficult to get them OUT of the box without damaging anything). Something else that Kindle etc cannot replicate! I seriously doubt the physical print world will stretch to the sort of costs needed to do that these days, any more than it usually does to bind-ups (based on my experiences trying to negotiate one out of Penguin for this very series) – though you never know.


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