Sometimes Whether Or Not To Revise Your Book Might Not Be Obvious
When it comes to revising a book, there are some reasons for and against it. In this short blog I will explain why it might be beneficial to revise an existing version of your book. I will also explain why revising a current work might be doing the wrong thing for the right reason.
Two Decades of Experience
As much as it ails me to say it, I started writing the first book I actually sent to publishers in 2003. Although the nostalgia might be enough to interest the reader, I think it is as a good a place as any to jump off and talk about why we should consider revising a published work.
Technology Upgrades And Compatibility
The transition of written communication from the cuneiform tablet to papyrus, the printing press, and finally to the digital printing platforms we use today allows us for the first time to revise our manuscript for the first time ever without massive amounts of labor involved.
However, in my first experience the technology that made it so easy to write, edit and publish, also affected my ability to publish a properly formatted transcript.
Arabic to English
My first two books, My Year in Oman: An American Experience in Arabia During The War On Terror and Another Year in Oman Between Iraq and a Hard Place were both written or edited in some way on computers at the college where I worked in the Sultanate of Oman. Because the language of Oman is Arabic and not English, the Word program installed on our computers was meant primarily for Arabic users and was compatible with an Arabic keyboard.
The Gift That Keeps On Giving
I published My Year in Oman in 2005 through a company that went out of business shortly thereafter called Stafford out of British Columbia. Once I paid my thousands in publishing costs, I still had to find a way to print my books. That was when I and everyone else heard about Createspace on Amazon just as I was getting ready to publish Another Year in Oman.
That was when the editing nightmares started. I won’t go into all of them, but let me say the result of using an Arabic computer on an English manuscript left all kinds of little artifacts. These kept showing up as I continued to try to get the necessary revisions in my manuscript because they were embedded into the document itself.
Of course, these artifacts became most apparent during the formatting stage of the book, when old artifacts showed up in text, justification of paragraphs, page numbering and other opportune times during your book editing process.
More Reasons To Consider Revising Your Manuscript
Naturally, everyone will not have the experience I had with my first books. As every author who has self-published a book knows, formatting your book is not easy. And I will bet more people than are willing to admit it, made the other mistakes I made with my first books. I had a very good reason for not using the specialized font. I was not aware of the specialized font or how it worked.
For example, I once went through My Year in Oman while my wife went through Another Year in Oman hitting return and the space bar three times at the beginning of every paragraph too ensure the indentation was correct. Had I known about the specialized fonts, I would have saved myself a whole lot of needless work.
Therefore, it is obvious. As the technology for writing improves or changes your ability to produce a higher quality manuscript, you may want to consider upping your manuscript as well. Especially if you made writing or editing choices based on the lack of familiarity with the software or the editing process.
The Wrong Manuscript
Computer technology is amazing, to be sure. But the ability to produce multiple copies of a document and move those copies to different places can be problematic, too. For example, you move a document to the desktop for editing, then when you grab the file, you don’t pay attention inadvertently upload the unedited version from someplace other than your desktop. Sometimes just forgetting to save changes can cause not only a lot of extra work but frustration and embarrassment as well.
Common Reasons To Revise A Manuscript
- Grammar mistakes. One mistake new writers often make is to listen to the advice of the Word program when it comes to grammar. Because it is now a mistake the program doesn’t recognize as a mistake, it might end up in your finished product.
- Spelling and Punctuation Errors. Naturally, spelling mistakes or punctuation errors you either made or missed, can end up in a final version of a manuscript. The process of finding them in the final published version can be not only frustrating but embarrassing as well.
- Plot or name discrepancies. Without a doubt, the more pages a fiction book has, the more difficult it is to keep track of who is doing what and when.
- Updating or correcting facts for non-fiction books. As we all know, facts are changing all the time as new information comes to light. In the past, it was acceptable to attribute the error to the information available at the time. With modern technology, the writer who consciously decides to leave erroneous facts or details in their works is going to be judged harshly by readers and history.
Some Reasons To Avoid A Manuscript Revision
It goes without saying, there are some situations where a manuscript revision is not only not called for, it could be a bad idea.
It Changes The Story
According to the ISBN Agency Bowker, if a book’s revisions change the book enough to motivate the readers to complain, the title could get into trouble with its ISBN and therefore, bookstores.
Another reason you should avoid changes in your manuscript is if you change your viewpoint on a certain topic and you don’t want to appear saying the wrong things in a new political climate. Of course, it would be at least acceptable to offset the idea with a disclaimer that pointed out you had changed your stance or viewpoint.
If you don’t, you run the risk of someone with an older version of your work coming forward to demonstrate your lack of credibility.
Decisions, Decisions and More Decisions
Anyone who has experience editing a book of any length understands the process of editing cannot be done at 50%, 60%, or even 90% concentration. If an editor is not focused completely on the editing process. If he or she does not have the project occupying one hundred percent of focus of the editor’s mind, well, let’s say that is how mistakes appear on manuscripts.
That’s also how mistakes stay on manuscripts.
The Golden Rule of Self-Publishing
If you are a new author, you must learn one fact quickly. Writing the book was the easy part.
Once you are finished with your book and you have published, your job begins.
What most authors, myself included, was the marketing aspect of the book took precedence once the book was published. I soon found out it didn’t matter how good the book was. If no one knew about it, no one would ever know if it was good, or not.
Looking for a return on my time and substantial investment, I became solely occupied with the sales of the book and not the quality of the product.
In other words, once I finished my editing, I published the books in the condition they were in after their third and final editing, regardless of their actual state.
And so, over the course of the years, as my first books become aged in decades and my latest books change to a variety of new topics, I finally every one of my books to the ultimate editing test.
It took me three months of non-stop editing and a million and a half pages. So, I did what will surely be my final revisions of my books, starting in November and finishing in January.
The Best Reason Of All
Finally, let me give my last and most important reasons for revising your books – your readers. The author and reader relationship is like no other in the world. If the author is good, and uses his words effectively, they have the undivided attention of the reader. Your reader’s brain is actively creating a world, situation or device based upon your words. That power is sacred. That relationship is powerful.
If you feel a need to revise for any of the reasons listed above, or for reasons not listed, just remember one thing. You are doing the right thing if you are revising your work to make it a better experience for your reader. Ultimately, there should be no other reason for revising a manuscript.