One of the things I like best about self-publishing in general – and digital publishing in particular – is the amount of control it gives me. Okay, that sounds a little sinister, but you know what I mean. Like many writers, I have a streak of the rabid, wild-eyed perfectionist in me. I cringe at typos (especially my won) and spend hours staring at the screen, trying to find exactly the right word to express what I mean. Most of the time, it turns out the word doesn’t even exist in the English language,
but you can’t really argue with the OED. It’s bigger than I am, and the price tag alone packs enough of a wallop.
A printed story is a stagnant being. Once it’s out there, you can’t go messing around with it. It’s not like the old days (the really, really old days) when stories were living things, constantly repeated by different people and embellished and customized to keep listeners interested and involved. I like that notion of story telling. Instead of skilled bards around the hearth, though, we’ve got to content ourselves with fanfic writers.
But in these modern, technologically driven times, writing a book doesn’t have to be like taking a photograph, as the title of this post so cleverly implies. And self-publishing, whatever its faults, is an excellent training ground for people who aren’t sure they want to put their darling baby manuscripts into someone else’s hands, to be poked and prodded and freeze-dried into a commercially acceptable form.
You do have to let go eventually, and push that “publish” button, and you do have to let people read it without being able to say “well, but what I really meant here was this,” which is the hardest part. You can master that without a traditional book deal, however, and for me, at least, I think I prefer it that way. One step at a time.
And at least with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, which is what I’m using, the editing process can easily continue after listing your work, albeit in a sort of clumsy and annoying way. Updates to your book don’t get transferred to people who already bought it, despite the vaunted Whispernet syncing tool. And you still have to wait up to 12 hours for revisions to go through (although it’s never taken more than 6 for me).
I know this because I’ve made several changes in the couple of days since I released my story on a total whim. I had done a last round of editing a few months ago, anticipating some agent queries, and I thought that was sufficient. Five typos and a million run-on sentences later, after all my close friends and family had already bought their copies, I realized I was wrong. Oh well. I said I was a perfectionist. I didn’t say I was any good at it.
I did an incredibly speedy re-edit (480 pages in six hours), chopping up sentences, making paragraphs smaller and easier to read on electronic devices, and making some of my language understandable for people who don’t know what I sound like in real life. If you buy a copy now, that’s the version you’ll get.
You’ll also get the new cover, which is a product of a 3AM burst of discontent. I’m not a graphic designer, and although I have a serviceable knowledge of Photoshop (and its totally free substitute, GIMP) and an idea of how I want things to look, I can’t always translate that perfectly into reality. Having an eye-catching cover is important, of course, as is having a presentable website. But that, as Alton Brown says, is another show.
I hope to be able to give my work over to a professional editor and publisher some day. I hope to see copies of my books in print, and I hope to be happy with the final version, without feeling a need for all the tweaking. But until then, the update button is still my friend, and I’ll happily take advantage of that if I need to.