Saturday, March 15, 2014

Thinking of Revising Your Self-Published Book? Read This First!

It’s no secret that first-time authors have an incredible learning curve, and that curve gets a lot steeper when they choose to self-publish.  After pouring their blood, sweat and tears into their book, they realize that all that effort was just the beginning. They now have to be willing to tirelessly promote their work and carve a presence for themselves in the endless sea of books flooding the market today. While self-publishing has done much to equalize the playing field, it has also placed a tremendous responsibility squarely on the author’s shoulders. Authors can publish their book without having to jump through hoops for agents and publishers; they also retain complete control over the finished product. However this control means that the author is accountable for errors in grammar, character development and storyline.  Like anything else in life, this process gets easier with experience, but there is one thing about that first book that may come back to haunt you.  

Let’s say that a few years ago you wrote your first book and “threw it up” on Amazon.  Perhaps you did not have it edited, or you didn’t know how to properly market it. In any case, it didn’t do much in the way of sales.  But undeterred, you stuck with your writing, and now you have improved your skills, you’ve found an editor that you work well with, and you have become a self-promotion expert.   Armed with this knowledge and perhaps a few books under your belt, you decide to go back and revise that first book—your baby.  When you’re done, you have a masterpiece! Beaming with pride, you make it available for sale, only to receive a slew of negative reviews, citing all its errors.  WHAAAT?! After careful investigation, you learn that the original version of your book is still available online, and that’s what readers and reviewers are getting their hands on.  

This is an all too common problem, and one of the topics on last week’s Aspects of Writing Radio Show. I spoke with James Kelly, the show's host and a published novelist; Janet Coursey, author of The Secrets of Time, and PR guru Travis Shortt about what authors can do to remedy this issue.  Here are a few takeaways from that discussion:

  • If you are in the process of readying an original manuscript for self-publishing, the answer is obvious: don’t rush to publish! Get that editor, make sure your book is properly formatted, and have a marketing plan ready.
  • If you have already published a first edition and are writing a revision, contact the publisher and tell them you would like them to take down that original version. Be persistent; email and/or call them and try to get a definitive answer as to when it will come down.
  • Then, before publishing the revision, do an Internet search to find out if the original book is still available anywhere else.  Please note that it is not always possible to remove old versions. If this is the case, you must make it clear to your potential readers that there is a new version available.  Provide identifying information--such as a new cover, ISBN number, publisher, publication date, etc.—in all of your marketing materials.    
To hear a replay of that show, click here. For more advice on writing, publishing and book marketing, tune into Aspects of Writing every other Tuesday on KLAV radio. The next live show is Tuesday, March 25 at 2pm Pacific/ 3pm Central / 5pm Eastern.

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