Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Do-overs

I have a Kindle and I buy loads of e-books. Like many of you, I often download books to support fellow authors, even if said book is outside my area of interest. The backlog of e-books I own is, well, it's embarrassing.

Amazon sometimes informs me that a new version of an e-book is available. "Significant editorial changes have been made," the notifications usually say. The frequency of these has been increasing, but I rarely take them up on it.

The reason I don't is twofold. Partly, I don't want to lose the original version of the book, and the update is apparently an either-or proposition. If they'd give me the updated copy and also let me keep the first, I'd be more inclined to accept.

The other reason I decline is on principle.



Authors can whittle and buff all they want on a pre-published manuscript, but once they hand it over to the public, that's it. Or that should be it. Shouldn't it? I have no problem with an author making a change if the formatting goes wacky or something. But when it comes to copy- and content editing, the time for that is before publication.

Maybe I'm being harsh and unreasonable, but if a published work is poorly received, I think the author should cut his or her losses and move on. S/he should learn from the experience and do better next time. To me, waiting for the reviews to come in and then changing the book is cheating.

We writers should take the time to polish our work, test the waters with critique partners and beta readers, and then hire an editor to clean up the text. We should refine each story before it's published. And then stand behind it once it is.


(This post refers to works of fiction and does not include new editions that have added 'bonus' material such as glossaries or excerpts from upcoming books.)

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I'm sure I'll take some heat over this, but give me your opinion. Do you think authors should make 'significant editorial changes' to published works?


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35 comments:

  1. I was actually just thinking of adding a character list as reference, which would equate to a major editorial change. But that falls under your caveat.

    I don't know that I've really thought about it. I know I put a lot of effort into Thanmir War, had it professionally edited, and it still came out with five plus instances of wrong or missing words that my co-worker pointed out to me. I haven't fixed them yet, though. When I do, that will be a "significant editorial change". I've also caught a few mistakes in other author's works, which I then emailed them about. I found 4 errors in a book by an author we both respect. *shrug* I don't know if Amazon counts those changes as significant editorial changes.

    I suppose it's a different story if they are changing the content to appease reviewers, rather than taking the initiative to give the public an improved product. Hard to know the intention of the author. Maybe they should've spent more time and focus. Maybe they're being proactive to correct things that slipped by. Maybe both.

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    1. Right-, that's what I mean--changing content to please readers.I'm not talking about fixing a few typos that weren't caught.

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    2. Ah whoops. If not the typos, then yeah, I'm totally on board with what you're saying.

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  2. It's an authors choice, but personally, I feel like you. There are things about my first book that if it was still a WIP, I would tweak. But once it's on the market and on shelves, I'm done and moving on. There is not enough time to keep obsessing over a single book. Like you say, learn from it and keep moving forward. Going forward is the way of the universe.

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    1. Can you imagine a big name author changing content after release? I can't.

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  3. I think it's up to the author and I'm fine with that. But personally it would be extremely unlikely that I would do it when I start publishing my books.

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    1. I'm waiting for someone to argue the benefit of maximizing profits.

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  4. I always thought it was just printing corrections they had made. Many ebooks drive me crackers because of the errors. I have recently been going through some Mercedes Lackey ebooks and they are full of typos which was not the case with the original books.

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    1. Some may be, but the ones I'm referring to changed content. If I recall, one even changed the ending.

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    2. Changed the ending??? Now that's just too much. I agree with you that after publication, that's it. Going back and making major changes to the plot is something that should probably be done before a book is released. Typos and what have you, yes. Go ahead and make those changes. But the ending? After publication? No, ma'am.

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    3. Speaking of endings... I ponder the appeal of books that contain alternate endings. I don't get it. Reading two endings would pull me out of the story and steal the satisfaction of finishing the book, I think.

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    4. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens has two endings . . . one he wrote for himself, and one he wrote for his readership. Although I'm not a fan of that, I found it interesting to read those two very different endings. (one is unhappy, and the other is disturbingly, jarringly happy).

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  5. Cheating - funny!
    My publisher did make one change to my first book when it was noted that a word had been misspelled many times. None of us had caught it. So they did fix the issue. (And now we all know the correct way to spell hangar.)

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    1. That's different. I don't consider fixing a few typos that were missed to be a significant change.

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  6. I'm so far behind on my Kindle TBR list, I suspect there will be multiple edits on some of those books before I get around to them. I don't really mind the author going back and editing, but those edits probably should have been done before releasing it in the first place.

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  7. I would be nice it they would be more specific. I have fixed typos in some of my cookbooks and one book I add a recipe to the back that felt was missing. I created a new edition for that book, but the ebook I didn't. I did note the changes on my site though and add a printable pdf for those who had the old version of the print book.

    But I have not idea how the people who purchased the ebook were notified.

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    1. Yes, it would. Although some of the more notable changes were blogged about, etc.

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  8. I would have agreed with you until a year ago. Then, when an embarrassing typo or three appeared in the book (ones the editors missed), it killed me until I could convince my publisher to upload a correction.

    The issue with not allowing corrections is, what if there is a big error that was made after the editorial process? We all want our best work out there, right? If someone wants to fix their book, I'm totally fine with that, but they won't get away from the initial reviews, no matter how much fixing they do.

    Unleashing the Dreamworld

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    1. I guess I should have been more specific in my post. I'm not opposed to making some minor changes, like a few typos that got missed. I'm referring to getting the work properly edited for the first time after release or making significant changes to the story.

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  9. I don't really mind the idea of updates, and frankly, I've seen books that could seriously use it. Also, lately I've been reading a book that's serial web fiction and the author has gone back and changed earlier chapters a few times (although this is different from changing a fully published work). I guess it's all a result of being able to hit "Update" instead of ordering a thousand more print copies.

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    1. Did it make you feel strange when earlier parts of the story changed after you read them?

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  10. Significant editorial changes? No. I'd prefer the original version myself. I understand cover and lay-out changes, but the rest should stay the same.

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  11. I agree with you on this one. I think that once you release a work, that means you're done with that story, and it's time to let it go. I'd hate to read a book and really enjoy something only to later find out that the author changed the book and now my favorite moment never happened. -_-

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  12. If it's a major content revision, then I think an author should wait several years to do a "re-do" - something like when Stephen King comes out with a different "unedited author's version" of one of his books - on a five year or ten year anniversary of said book.

    If it's something minor, then I think the author should make the changes and get it out there again - the reality is that there are mistakes made in every book. I have had copies of books that are professionally published with double chapters (chapter 7 twice?), and others that have had missing pages . . . and those authors and their publishers put out make-overs and charge full price for them. So . . . although I get what you're saying and I mostly agree, I think that some changes are ok.

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  13. My Kindle is embarrassingly the same. I honestly have no idea what's on it anymore.

    "Waiting for the reviews and then changing it is like cheating." I feel the same. All that BS should have been done pre-pub. It's part of the process.

    Getting back into life after everything has been difficult, but I think I'm finally present again. Good post, Mel.

    Mike

    M.L. Swift, Writer

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  14. Hi human, Melissa,

    Sorry my alleged human hasn't delighted you with one of his comments lately. It seems he's still somewhat out of the loopy loop. This means, you get a comment from me.

    Once my writing is pawblised, that's it. No changes and nothing to be redone when I've already done pawfection!

    Have a lovely weekend, my human friend.

    Pawsitive wishes,

    Penny :)

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  15. I haven't thought about it like that before, but it does make sense. Finding out how people perceive the book can be done before publication, too, with beta readers and critique partners. It doesn't have to wait until afterward. That said, I can see how it would be SO tempting to make changes afterward if you could. It might be hard to move on, especially when the reviews come in.

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  16. I agree with you, except I'm sure there are exceptions where I would be like, 'oh, I get that'. Right now I can't think what those might be, but they probably do certainly exist.

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  17. One problem is when a publisher goes belly up and a writer takes back all rights and has to put the book out again. There may not be any changes (except the publishing information) but it has to be done.

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  18. I'm with you.I think once a piece of art is out in the world, it has to stand, warts and all. Also it's a bit galling to pay again for a book to get the apparently "improved" product. Reviewers aren't beta readers!

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  19. I totally agree with your arguments, Melissa. Well said.

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  20. I'm with you...I wouldn't want to do it either.

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