So what can be done about this? Well, it’s also quite obvious: editing.
But if it’s so obvious, then why aren’t more people doing it, or perhaps, doing it properly?
Why Do I Care? I’m a Great Editor!
Well, alright, I missed a few days, and I could dig out my notebook with those daily word counts and tell you exactly which days were missed (yes, I still have a notebook with word counts from 3 years ago), but it’s in a box somewhere between Montana and China.
The reason I’ve been thinking about it is because I just the novel for free this month during the Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale, which I wrote about here.
Since that time, about 11 days, 15 people or so have downloaded the book. That’s not much, but it’s more than the sales I’ve had on that book in the past couple of months. It’s also the first time it’s been available on Smashwords for 3 months, or since it was enrolled in the Amazon KDP Select program.
And I wonder if those 15 people are getting the best novel they could be from me, at this point. I’ve become such a better writer in the 3 years since I’ve written The Jongurian Mission, and I think to myself, Do I owe it to my readers to make that novel better by going over it again?
And it’s for that reason that I’m now brainstorming rationales for editing a self-published novel after it’s been out there for awhile.
I Just Published It (Yesterday, Last Week, Last Month)
Now, I want to make clear right here and now that I’m addressing this article to self-published authors who are relatively new. More established authors, or at least just those that have been around the block, will most likely have invested more time in their novel’s editing process. The reason for this is that they’ve probably embarked upon a pre-publishing marketing campaign. That marketing campaign would have begun as soon as they started writing the novel, and likely even before they new which novel they were going to write.
No, I’m addressing those that are putting their first, second, or third novel out there and who aren’t undertaking any significant marketing campaigns. In other words, they’re putting their novel out there and hoping it sells. Hey, just like I was with The Jongurian Mission!
- Mistakes: It’s easy to get excited about publishing a novel. Oftentimes, however, this causes a novel to get rushed. Perhaps you’ve just finished writing it, gave it a good once over, and now can’t wait to put it out there. The best thing you can do at this point is to just stop. Let it rest for a few days and come back to it. Chances are you’ll think of or find a few mistakes. If you’ve published and now notice a few mistakes, go back and correct them. I’d even go over the whole document again; after all, if you’ve missed one or two mistakes chances are there are others out there. Now is the best time to spot them, before readers do.
- Not Ready: Perhaps you’ve published your novel but now find that it just wasn’t ready. Maybe one or two chapters aren’t quite as good as they could be. Perhaps you’ve got a few formatting errors. There could even be some changes you could make to your title page, contents page, or about the author page to make the book even better. Now’s the time to do that, so pull your document up and go through it again. More than likely no one’s really read it yet so you’ll be in the clear.
- Could Be Better: What if you waited a month before publishing your finished novel? How about two months? The more time you let a finished novel rest, the more time you’ll have to think about it, and what you could do better. Are those plot problems from chapter 17 still giving you pause? How about that unrealistic plot device you used in Chapter 7 to get things moving again? And do you really want that cliffhanger at the end when you haven’t even started brainstorming ideas for the second novel? There are plenty of things you could do to make your novel better, and now would be the time to do it.
It’s Been Published For Awhile Now (6 Months, 1 Year, Longer)
I’ve seen novels listed as version 1, 1.1, and 2 before. This isn’t a bad option and it tells readers, perhaps even those that have read the novel before, that this is a somewhat new version. I’ve also heard of authors sending out their updated or re-edited novel to everyone who’s bought it before. Both are options that you might want to follow.
The thing is, the book’s finished, it’s out there on the shelf, and you’ve long ago moved on to your next project. Does that mean you should go back? Let’s take a look at a few things that might help you make that decision.
- Mistakes: Have you gone over your novel lately and found some mistakes? Maybe some readers have pointed out several spelling and grammar mistakes to you. Does this mean you should go back and fix those? Absolutely! The last thing you want is for readers to keep finding mistakes that you’re aware of and could have fixed. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people promoting their books, only to go to the “Look Inside” and see that there are several errors. I’ve even seen these errors pointed out to authors and they’re still not fixed. This is just sloppy self-publishing, pure and simple, and you should under no circumstances engage in this slap-dash editing.
- It’s Better: This is something I ran into with The Jongurian Mission. It was the first book in a trilogy, and by the time I finished the trilogy I had more insight upon the first book. You never really know when or how your story is going to end until it finally does, and when it does end you have a much better perspective on the whole. Perhaps that means you should go back and make a few changes here and there, putting in plot devices that hint at what’s to come. Your story is now better, so why not make that first novel reflect this? This is an approach authors could take, and I’m not going to say you should or shouldn’t; it’s really up to each author on that one. However, if you think you can do a better job for your readers, I’d seriously consider it.
- I’m Better: Everyday that you write you get better. Every book that you finish makes you a better writer, and editor as well hopefully. So by the time you’ve finished 11 books, as in my case, should you go back and make your first book better? After all, those rather juvenile pursuits can seem just that in the light of all the experience you’ve gained. No doubt you could go over your entire novel and change whole paragraphs on each page so they sound better, read better, and generally flow like magic. It’s very tempting, and again, I’m not sure if this should be done. Some authors will want to do this, others won’t. It’s a lot of work, and perhaps you should save your energy for your new works. After all, many of the most famous authors’ early works are not quite as good as the works they’re more known for. Are you any different?
So what do you think? Should published novels be re-edited? Give me your thoughts and let’s get a discussion going!