Learning

If you’ve followed the blog, you’ll already understand that my writing ‘career’ is a work in progress.

My experiences may help you; there are pitfalls. I’ve stumbled into a fair number of them. Words don’t really flow directly from your mind to a computer screen and seamlessly, perfectly, appear on a publishing site ready for sale.

Some favor the traditional approach; write a manuscript, mail or send electronically a copy to a publisher, wait. A number of writers who take this approach recently took out a  full page ad in the NY Times blasting Amazon for that company’s business practice.

Spoiled brats, IMO; Amazon has no requirement to do anything except what the company’s executives think favors their company. If Amazon chooses not to allow advance-orders for Hachette’s products, that’s their option; if Hachette doesn’t like it, then set up their own system of e-orders. It’s noteworthy that the people who bought that ad are highly successful writers. But for every success…

A friend recently pointed out that he’d already received a rejection notice; those are quite common, and there’s at least one best-selling author who got some seventy of the rejections before he sold his first book. My friend finds this encouraging.

I don’t. For every multiply-rejected, eventual success, consider how many authors never got published? How many manuscripts never got published, never got read? How many writers poured bits of their soul into that manuscript and waited for years to see if the lightning would strike?

Unlike my friend, I have no rejection slips, other than one for a short story. I had few expectations for ‘Ants’, and it met those perfectly! But for my novels, I sent them in, imperfect as they were. They all got published. They’ve all sold copies. They’ve been read.

I recently signed up for Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited free trial. For the first time, instead of buying my own book and paying Amazon for the privilege of downloading a version that looks exactly like what a purchaser receives, I got it free. I downloaded Combat Wizard.

I am disappointed. I see awkward phrasing, occasional punctuation errors, and minor formatting glitches. I didn’t see them when I uploaded the book, but having since written some half a million words and published four other novels (and Ants!), I see things I didn’t see before. So I’ll go back and rework that first novel.

Why? It’s readable, people like it, it’s selling. Why rework plowed ground?

Because it’s part of a brand. It’s me. My name is on the cover, and it’s not a pen name. Relatives read the book, my grandchildren will have the opportunity to read the book; I have an obligation to make it the best I can.

I’ve already reworked the covers; you can do that with an ebook. I’ll rework the text and reformat, too. If you liked the book, you need not re-download it. It will be almost the same, except more polished and with fewer errors that a professional might notice. But eliminating those few errors, making the words flow more easily, to me it’s worth taking the time to do it better.

About those words appearing directly on a screen? They go through a mechanical device, a keyboard; from there, the words encounter a word processor such as MS Word; it’s what I use, and it’s generally the standard. Word can be complicated and funny things happen when you use Word; learning to use it well, that’s one of your first challenges.

Format your document. Make it perfect. After Word, it will go through a series of other programs before it appears on your Kindle or your Nook or on paper. Any mistake will eventually show up. So learn ‘right’ the first time, and never cut corners; perfection is the standard. Do it right, as right as a team of professionals hired by a major publisher can do.

Or be prepared to go back and do it over. And hope readers will understand why occasionally they get notices that a new version is available. BTW, the new version is downloadable at no charge, and if you don’t want to change your version, you don’t have to. If you get such a notice, an author went back and tried to make his work more perfect. I salute those others who do what I’m going to do: rework the book, and make it better.

It’s worth doing, IMO; the book will be out there for a very long time to come.

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