Ensuring Your Book Stays Relevant Post-Release

Many writers aim to publish a book that will stand the test of time and continue to resonate with future generations of readers. Today, we present five key considerations to help ensure your book maintains relevance for years following its release.

When we embark on writing our books, few of us ponder, ‘Will this still matter in five years?’ We often assume our work will maintain its importance over time. There’s a belief that our extensive research, countless revisions, and heartfelt dedication will endure, with our creations remaining popular even for generations to come.

Yet, the reality is that books age, sometimes not gracefully, whether they are fiction or nonfiction. While my focus lies on fictional characters, settings, and timelines, I recognize that the challenges affecting storytelling can also impact nonfiction works. Here are five considerations I keep in mind while crafting my books to ensure their relevance as time progresses:

1. Steer Clear of Dated References Without Context

Everyone today uses a Smartphone because of the computer power and software that reside in their small frame. However, very few people born after 1995 probably remember what a Bag Phone was. Anytime you are referencing technology, politics, automobiles, etc., always provide context. Assume your grandkids are going to pick up your book and read it one day.

2. What Is the Truth You Are Trying to Convey?

You may not consider yourself a truth teller. Perhaps your book simply documents the political divides in the U.S. that currently exist. You may see it as more of a reference book than anything philosophical. However, all books convey a message, whether explicit or implicit. In your endeavor to gather the facts of the day, consider how you organize your information and ask yourself, “In five years, will this book be regarded as a source of warning, a research reference, or will it simply be brushed aside as trivial facts?

3. Avoid Using Outliers of the Day to Drive Your Story into an Unrelatable Tale

In one of my novels,  I delved into the murky and somewhat dull world of government contracts and corruption. Had I focused solely on business intrigue, the book would have aged poorly and likely put my readers to sleep. Instead, I chose to explore the theme of government corruption, a topic that transcends time and remains relevant throughout history. I believe it’s safe to assume that the intertwining of power and corruption will persist into the future. Leveraging this timeless concept, I guided my characters through their conflicts, resolutions, and growth. By using recurring events as a catalyst, I aimed to ensure that my story would feel fresh and relevant for years to come.

4. Avoid Judging the Past or Future from Today's Perspective

There’s a growing tendency to evaluate the past through the lens of present-day standards. While this approach may yield immediate attention and book sales, it comes with significant risks. Writing exclusively from the perspective of contemporary norms and values can lead to a skewed portrayal of historical events and figures. What appears acceptable or admirable today may be judged differently in the future. Consequently, such writing tends to age poorly and can leave authors vulnerable to criticism later on. Instead, analyzing the past in relation to both its advancements and persisting challenges remains relevant over time. Attempting to assert that the current moment represents the definitive understanding of history is shortsighted and likely to become outdated.

5. The Future Cannot Be Predicted, but Truth Endures Beyond Time

As a devoted fan of Star Trek, especially the original series, my passion for space and science fiction was ignited by my father, a rocket engineer in the ’60s and ’70s. Yet, when I revisit the original Star Trek series on Hulu today, I can’t help but cringe at some of its predictions about technology in space. Even the beloved time-traveling tale Back to the Future hasn’t aged gracefully, largely due to unmet expectations of flying cars by now.

In crafting fiction, it’s wise to tread lightly with future settings. If your portrayal of a dystopian or utopian world falls flat in a decade, a robust thematic core can sustain your story, provided the future isn’t its primary focus. Take, for example, the Star Trek episode “Space Seed,” where the reference to transistors as cutting-edge technology seems quaint 51 years later. However, the episode’s enduring strength lies in its exploration of the character Khan, who challenges Captain Kirk as a formidable antagonist. Through their conflict, creator Gene Roddenberry delves into the clash between historical biases and the future’s ideal of embracing all life forms equally, allowing viewers to overlook the outdated backdrop.