In traditional publishing, it takes a while to get your book published. You may have a signed contract, but there are months to go before your book sees the light of day. There may be manuscript edits, galley proofs to do, cover art to get contracted and completed, reviews of that art, marketing to get planned and in-place, and on and on. So it could be a year or more before your precious book gets on the shelves. But, what if you want or need to make a change afterwards? It’s going to have to wait until the next reprint. And it will have to go through the editorial review process again. Which means the updated book won’t hit the stores for perhaps another year, or at least several months if your books are flying off the shelves and reprints are needed sooner.
An ebook, on the other hand, takes as much time to update as the click of a couple of buttons. Same with on-demand trade paperbacks. In both cases, there is no stock sitting on shelves waiting to be moved by retailers before they will order more.
Case in point, my first novel, Dragonlinked. When I wrote it, I was passionate about telling the story of this kid dealing with life and the surprises that can come along to kick you in your butt. I was blithely unaware that I was making a few mistakes, most of which I didn’t learn about until I wrote the short story Moonflower while attending a critique group.
The first mistake was a much too loose point of view. I knew what PoV was, in general, but I didn’t fully understand it at the time. For example, there were instances where I switched PoV willy-nilly during a scene. Not good. Many times I do shift the PoV character from one scene to another, but within a scene (for the most part) I keep the PoV character the same. There are instances where I do shift away from a PoV character if that character leaves the scene and I want to continue the scene a bit, but there are tricks to smoothly shift PoV that I take advantage of in those cases.
Another mistake I made was with speech tags. If your tale is told in past tense (as mine are), for the most part, say 99.98% of the time, you will use ‘said.’
“Exactly,” Master Doronal said.
Every now and then you can toss in a ‘whispered,’ or ‘added,’ or ‘noted,’ or ‘mumbled,’ or even ‘shouted’ to emphasize a bit of dialog. But by and large, you will want to use ‘said.’ Why? Because readers pretty much ignore it. Their mind just slips right over it and they continue enjoying the read. If you throw in too many other speech tags, it can yank them out of your world. You don’t want that.
There were a few other mistakes that bugged me, too. So what did I do? Well, once I had a moment to spare, after getting the third book in the series out, I went back to Dragonlinked and started editing that sucker. I snipped, I fixed, I tweaked, I even moved a scene to another spot. All in the interest of making it better. The book is now eight pages shorter. The only issue that drove me nuts was whether to call it a second edition. If I told Amazon it was, they would have wiped all customer reviews out. While that would have eliminated the one-star reviews (many of which sound like they are from people who hated the fact that the protagonist was not straight–not a valid reason for a one-star review in my opinion, but, whatever), it would also have removed all the four and five-star reviews, several of which sound like they are from the main audience of the book, teens/young adults who are not straight. I couldn’t do it.
I also added something to the Kindle version that is absolutely not possible in a regular book: clickable product links to the other books in the series and to the short story that is set in the same world. After the last page of the book, I added a Dragonlinked Chronicles section (just before the About the Author section) thanking the reader for reading the book and letting them know that if they enjoyed it, there are more books in the series. I get to thank them, and I get to point them to more books they might like. Pretty nifty. I also added a clickable link to this blog in the About the Author section so they can check out the fan extras in the Library, should they so choose.
With all that out of the way, I was now ready. If Dragonlinked had been traditionally published, I’d still have a wait before the revised edition was available. But it took less than a day for the updated Kindle version to be available on Amazon, and I just have to wait about a week for the paperback proof to arrive so I can verify that the cover is still aligned correctly with the change in page count. It was that fast and that easy to get a better version of my book out.
And that’s my point. If you are publishing ebooks and on-demand paperbacks, why not revisit your previous works and make them better? Don’t be stuck in the mindset of ‘traditional’ publishing. Take advantage of everything you can in this digital age.