Changing Your Book Up

Change Up

If you publish a book, chances are you will encounter a variety of reasons to consider making changes:

  • The blurb is quite challenging to write, so we often wonder if we should try to improve it.
  • It’s nearly impossible to edit a hundred thousand words and catch every single typo. Even if you edit extremely well, you usually encounter a couple of stragglers somewhere down the line.
  • As we’re human, occasionally we make a big oopsie. If so, you want to fix that as quickly as possible.
  • Nonfiction material can quickly become outdated. Revisions can help keep it up-to-date.
  • Reviews sometimes provide suggestions that have merit. You’re thinking about applying this helpful feedback.
  • An idea may occur to you, which you hadn’t thought of before. You’re wondering if it would make your book better.

Depending on the occasion, it might be best to make the change right away or it might be best to wait:

  • If you have an embarrassing or significant mistake, you need to take care of that promptly.
  • At Kindle, your present edition will remain available while you’re revised edition is in the process of publishing, so you don’t have to worry about losing sales in the meantime. So once your revision is ready, there is no reason to wait.
  • At CreateSpace, your book will be unavailable for about 12-24 hours while your file is being reviewed. So if the changes can wait, it would be a good idea to pick a day and time where sales may be relatively slow. Study your sales rank history at AuthorCentral for help planning this, and also consider what marketing you have going on and coming soon. Sometimes your book can be back online in less than 12 hours. However, even if you make a minor change to your interior file, your cover file can get changed for the worse (even if you don’t change your cover), and it can take several days to fully resolve this. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst-case scenario.
  • Most things, including your blurb, author photo, biography, and book files probably shouldn’t be changed when sales are going well. If sales start to drop off, that may be a better time to change things up and see if they help or hurt.

I’ve revised several of my books and blurbs in 2013 (and I’m still not finished with it). For me, it has been a year of revisions. I have a few projects that I wanted to complete in 2013, but which I have yet to begin, because I have spent so much time making revisions.

It started with one of my math workbooks. I had a request from a parent that would help one of my math workbooks better meet the needs of parents, so I devoted some time toward this. At about the same time, I also updated a couple of the covers of my math workbooks. Those I was able to improve without making the cover look significantly different. (I have a couple of other math workbooks that I’d like to give a makeover, but I haven’t because I don’t want anyone to accidentally buy the same book twice.)

Next, I made numerous revisions to my conceptual chemistry book. I completely revised thousands of symbols that were originally typeset as equations, realizing that they would format better as text with superscripts and subscripts. This was extremely time-consuming and took several edits. I have about 40 different versions of the eBook file, and dozens more of the paperback editions. I’ve never edited anything this much before, and hope to avoid such extensive editing in the future.

I’ve updated my self-publishing books a few times because every time I make a revision, something new seems to come out. My original (i.e. 2009) self-publishing book needs a major overhaul. I’ve been wanting to do this for a couple of years, but it needs so much work, I generally put it on the backburner and work on something else. I plan to finally do this by the year’s end.

Presently, I’m adding indexes to my new (i.e. 2012/2013) self-publishing books (i.e. Volumes 1 and 2 of the “Detailed Guide”). It’s amazing how much work is involved in making a thorough index. And it’s thorough; it may add another 20 pages (with two columns) to the book. I hope to have the index for Volume 1 finished today or tomorrow. Then I have a list of revisions to make, like mentioning the new Countdown Deal, but this should be quick and painless.

I’ll be combining Volumes 1 and 2 into an omnibus edition. I hope to have it out by Read Tuesday. Then I can get back to the major overhaul of my original self-publishing book.

I have some other minor revisions that I’ve made (correcting a few typos that I’ve discovered here and there), and a couple of covers that have some printing variations that could use a fix.

I’ve changed many of my blurbs extensively this year. In most cases, this had a very significant improvement on sales, often immediately. It’s amazing what boldface, italics, bulleted lists, and splitting a long paragraph up into shorter paragraphs can do.

How about you? Have you had any fun with revisions this year?

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing), Facebook page, Twitter

Check out Read Tuesday (a Black Friday event just for books): website, Facebook page, Twitter

The Publicity Paradox

Double Edged

Do you remember the days when you first applied for a job? Scouring the want ads, preparing resumes and cover letters, going to job interviews.

It seemed like everybody wanted you to have experience. The only problem was that you didn’t have any. You may have thought, “How will I ever get experience if I need experience just to get hired?”

Publicity suffers from a similar seeming paradox: You may feel that publishers, agents, publicists, editors, bookstores, reviewers, and even the media want you to have publicity before they will help you get more publicity. That’s great if you’re a celebrity.

Breaking through as a new author is a challenge. You’re an unknown. There are too many uncertainties. How will people react to your storytelling, characterization, and writing? How good is your idea? How will you handle the pressure? How effectively will your market your book? How well will you follow through with your commitments? How much help do you need? How professional or amateurish are you? How much do you need to learn about writing, editing, formatting, marketing, publicizing, social media, and making connections? And most importantly, how will you go from being a nobody to becoming an author with much publicity? Ah, if you only had that publicity (among your target audience) to begin with, that would help to make the risk so much more worthwhile.

How do you get publicity when you don’t have it to begin with?

If you had publicity, it would lend you credibility as an author; it would lend your book credibility, too.

If you credibility, it would help you gain publicity.

If you could lay an egg, you could make a chicken out of it.

If you could make a chicken, it could lay an egg for you.

It’s like you’re on a deserted island with no chickens or eggs, but you desperately need one or the other.

Baaak! Baak, baak, baaak!

I see a similar hurdle for Read Tuesday, a Black Friday type of event just for books.

If we had authors with more name recognition, it would greatly improve the publicity that we could receive from the media, internal promotions, paid advertisements, etc.

If we had more publicity, it would help us attract authors with greater name recognition.

However, Read Tuesday has a big advantage. There are many indie authors who are experiencing the challenges of marketing their books firsthand who have been very supportive of the Read Tuesday event. This has helped to give Read Tuesday much initial support, and we are fortunate to have the participation of some authors who have achieved some modest levels of success (e.g. top books in their categories at one time, or ranking at around a thousand on Amazon for a limited time in paid sales). We also have a couple of small publishers who will be participating.

(We are fortunate to have every author who has agreed to participate, no matter how big or small—everybody is vital to our success, all participation is valuable, and each author is much appreciated. I wish for every author to have a successful Read Tuesday.)

Read Tuesday also has something to offer. An author with name recognition could gain increased exposure from the Read Tuesday promotional efforts, as the Read Tuesday publicity and promotions would feature this author’s name.

On the other hand, would the author who has risen to the top want to come back down and play with the small fish? Would he or she remember his or her roots? Would he or she support his or her fellow indie authors? Surely, it’s much easier to say what you would do if you get there than it is to do it when you’re sitting at the top.

The thing is, all indies have the same advantage that Read Tuesday has. There is a very large readership that supports indie authors. Why? Because there are hundreds of thousands of indie authors and hundreds of indie publishers, and their friends, family members, acquaintances, and coworkers raise this number to the millions.

Although some people try to paint a poor image of self-publishing, there are millions of people who support it. “This book was published with CreateSpace, was it? My niece published a book through them.” The books that have serious issues aren’t hurting anyone, while the large number of very good indie books and the growing number of successful indie authors show that indie publishing has much potential.

Ultimately, what the reader wants is a professional book. Whether or not the book is traditionally or indie published is secondary. A book that looks professional, pleases the target audience, and is discovered by the target audience can gain much support.

Read Tuesday also has the opportunity to help indie authors promote their own books. The event itself is far more popular than any single participating author. By promoting Read Tuesday in addition to the author’s own book, Read Tuesday has the potential to help authors market their books.

It can be a win-win situation for any author, tiny name or big name. Every author’s participation helps to improve the credibility and success of the event, and the event can help any author promote his or her own book in conjunction with the event.

Back to the publicity paradox. What you have to do to break out of the paradox is start small, work hard, be wise, be patient, market effectively and diligently, keep writing, and spread outward.

You gradually build a following, increase your number of connections, gain a little exposure, and build a little publicity. Continue writing and you’ll have a few books out.

The better your books are from cover to cover, the more they will help you grow your following, connections, exposure, and publicity. The better your marketing efforts, the more they will help you grow your sales.

Eventually, you may achieve some small measure of credibility and publicity. Once you finally get your foot in the door, you have the chance to run with it. Once you have a little credibility, it will help you gain publicity, and once you have a little publicity (with your specific target audience), it will lend you credibility.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing), Facebook, Twitter

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