Patching pot holes in digital books

coverRevision. Revision. Revision. Any writer knows the importance of the “R” word in making one’s work better. The same idea applies to revising and improving not only that first (or second or third) draft, but also to improving the quality of previously published works with revised editions.

It’s a process that reminds me of how, at this time of year as winter gives way to spring, road crews are out patching pot holes.

For authors, one of the great benefits of ebooks and print-on-demand technology is that we can return to the text and make changes when some alert reader (or the author, lol) spots a typo or similar mistake. Writers and editors seek to slay a typo whenever we meet one, but sometimes these literary pot holes sneak into a published text. With an ebook, a revised version of a novel can be offered (hopefully without the mistake).

It’s funny how in publishing, everything old is new again. For example, Charles Dickens was what we might call today a “self publisher” in that he basically owned and edited the  popular magazines in which his serialized novels were published. After the books were completed, he sometimes went back and made fairly substantial changes. The ending of “Great Expectations” went through several published versions as he moved toward the ambiguous ending we have today for this classic novel.

Samuel Clemens was another author who participated in a kind of independent publishing by editing and printing President Grant’s memoirs.

Somehow, I think Mark Twain and Charles Dickens would have loved the possibilities that ebooks and print on demand present authors.

Because ebooks are still relatively new, the earlier versions have some quirks that stand out now that the techniques for creating (and reading) ebooks have evolved. As time allows, Indie authors will probably want to go back and make improvements to their earlier books.

I published my first ebook in 2010, and I’ve since revised that book (and all my other ebooks) at least once to improve formatting, covers, etc. Last summer, I made some fairly substantial changes to improve the readability of WINTER SNIPER. In late 2012 and early 2013, I repeated the process with REBEL TRAIN and came out with a new print version as well. Just this month, I completed an editorial review of REBEL FEVER and made a revised digital edition available. FIRST VOYAGE: THE SEA LORD CHRONICLES also saw a few formatting changes to the text. The result, I hope, is that these books are even better.

These tweaks were very minor, mostly involving changing the paragraph indents. Of course, it’s hard to change one element in a digital book without impacting other areas, and so items such as bullets and chapter headings also had to be tweaked as a result. In the case of REBEL TRAIN, the revision involved a new cover.

It’s a time-consuming process, to be sure, and I don’t know that the revisons make much difference in terms of sales, but “in my book,” it’s all about trying to improve the experience for the reader. I appreciate the fact that someone is taking time out to read the book and I want to make it better for them.

We may also be changing our idea of a book being a static work. Who’s to say that, like Dickens, some popular authors might revisit and change their novels in subtle ways as they gain new insights or revelations about their characters and their stories.

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One Response to Patching pot holes in digital books

  1. PJ Parsons says:

    The idea of going back and creating a new edition of a novel is a really interesting one. As a long-time non-fiction writer who has produced new editions at the request of publishers, I know that this process is well accepted in that area. Fiction? Interesting idea. Thanks for stopping by my blog. P.

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