Take 2: Revising an ebook in no time flat

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There’s a unique feeling an ebook author gets when they’ve released their book into the markets, ready to be bought… they’ve alerted the media, and told their customers and friends to spread the word… and they sit back, take a breath, and wait to see what develops. Naturally, what they want to see is right-off healthy sales, and maybe a few emails in their inbox telling them how great their book was.

So it was a let-down, to say the least, when I released a book a year ago, and quickly received emails… counting down my editing and grammatical errors. I felt sick inside. Admittedly, I generally do all of my own editing and proofing, because I can’t afford to hire an editor, and because I regularly received high marks for writing and reports in school.  But for whatever reason, I hadn’t done much of a job on this book.  Over half a dozen outright mistakes… things I should have caught… were right there in front of me. I couldn’t let them slide; I had to fix them.

Fortunately, that decision allowed me to demonstrate one of the greatest advantages of ebooks, not to mention the web and social media, in being able to make reparations, fix the ebook, and get the revised copies to my customers—in days, as opposed to months or years (or sometimes never) with printed books.

To begin with, the edits themselves were simple enough.  I made the changes (kicking myself along the way), and as I had just a few days previous, I made new versions of the ebook.  For me, this meant 5 formats for my website, plus Kindle, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords versions.  Sure, I grumbled about it a bit… but once I started, I had new versions online, in 4 different sites, in less than 2 hours.  Any new customers would get the new version, updated mere days after the first release.

Then, came the real kicker: Through my site, I store the names and emails of all of my customers, so I can easily keep track of who bought what, and so I can respond personally to customer inquiries.  This came in handy, because it allowed me to send an email to each of my customers who had bought that book.  I explained what happened, told them that they only had to contact me, and I’d personally send them a new copy of the ebook.  It worked like a charm: The customers emailed me back, and I attached a new file to each request, in their format of choice.

Even the process of revising the copyright on an ebook is easier now, thanks to the U.S. Copyright Office’s acceptance of digital files.  Through their website, a user can fill out an online form, download the document, make an online payment with a credit card or established account, and your copyright is essentially done in minutes.

All told, the quick revision and resending of the novel took less than 2 weeks.  And as a bonus, I received new emails, complementing me on my quick and forthright response to the errors, and the efforts I made to satisfy my customers.  I had accomplished in days what print books sometimes never manage: To fix a simple error.

Print book users love to talk about the advantages of print, about the “look and feel” of books, the joy of a physical copy on their shelves, etc, etc.  But print books have errors, too… or did you think publishers do “revisions” just for the heck of it?  Unfortunately, when a book is re-issued with revisions, you can’t take your old book back to the store and ask to have it replaced with the new revision.

And that assumes a revision is made.  A lot of books get only one printing, especially if the market is considered to be limited, or if it doesn’t do as well in the stores as the publishers hoped.  You may have a book with the most glaring error, and have to accept the fact that it will never be revised.  Ever.

Whereas the new world of ebooks means that revisions can be made, and released to the market in days… even hours.  And there are mechanisms in place to manually or automatically send revised copies to consumers.  This is only one of ebooks’ gifts to the 21st century.  With things like this, and many others, going for ebooks… who needs print?

That little episode helped to remind me of the need for a good editing/proofing pass on my backlist books, before they are re-released.  I’ve been working on one book, Evoguía, for the past few months (off and on), and I was surprised at how many little errors crept by my original proofing pass.  Chances are, most of my earlier books are roughly the same, with small errors and mis-types, and the occasional odd phrasing that should have been yanked and fixed before the book was released. (If anyone who’s familiar with the original manuscript takes a “moment,” they’ll know what I mean.)

The only excuse I can offer for the earlier releases is, my eagerness to release the books resulted in rushed proofing.  But now that I am a relative old-hand at this, and don’t feel the need to rush (especially when releasing backlist titles), I can afford to take my time and do it right.

There’s another reason to take that time, as well: Major publishers are scrambling to convert their backlist titles to ebooks; but in many cases, they are doing an incredibly sloppy job at it, doing fast scan-and-OCR jobs, and not putting any effort into proofing their text.  As a result, major publishers are releasing ebook versions of their backlist that can only be called “hack jobs” by any consumer unlucky enough to purchase one.  This is my competition… and anything I can do to make my work look better than a major publisher’s work will benefit my sales.

Hopefully readers will notice the quality (or, at least, note the superior quality compared to other major publishers’ works) and will help spread the word about my work through reviews and recommendations.  So it’s clearly in my best interests to do the better proofing job, elevate my reputation as a quality artist, and be a positive element in the evolution of publishing from Big-Publisher domination to a more integrated field of publishers and independent artists.

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