Thursday, 1 March 2012

Changes - Three Lessons in Self Publishing

The international editions of Olives have changed. I have made a number of edits to the original book as a result of reader feedback. A few typos did, indeed, make it through the editing process (editor Robb  Grindstaff isn’t to blame, they had all crept in when I had made subsequent revisions. Lesson to be learned here? Don’t send it for editing until you’re quite done with it and don’t tinker with the MS after editing!). Travel writer Matthew Teller contributed a number of critical updates – the Jordan of Olives includes places I haven’t been to in a while which have changed and Matthew kindly updated them for me. And there are a couple of silly errors in place names that crept into the book, too.

None of the changes are ‘life or death’, but they can be made easily and almost instantly to the Kindle edition of the book, as well as to the International print edition (the one you’d buy from or The Book Depository and the versions available for other readers like the Nook and iBook. Depending on the distribution channel, changes can take a few weeks to filter all the way down but the e-editions are updated as of today.

One problem I had made for myself when I originally published Olives was to go at it too fast and 'spin out' the various formats before I was quite done with the text. Different platforms require different file formats, for instance the Kindle edition is HTML, while Smashwords (which supports the Nook and other types of e-reader) requires a PDF file with some very specific formatting requirements in order to comply with Smashwords' 'Meatgrinder' file processing technology. Createspace is, of course, a fully formatted book with slightly different margins than the printed 'booky book' that is the Middle East edition. The Middle East edition being the only edition that can't change dynamically as it has been conventionally printed and distributed.

Having 'spun out' the different files from the core manuscript, I found errors and so edited each of the files - it felt as if it would be less work than re-doing each file format. I was wrong. So lesson two was don't spin out your different files until you are absolutely certain you have the last, most corrected version you can possibly have on your hands.

 I do think it’s interesting that, because of the way Olives has been published, the book is ‘alive’ – it can be changed in a way a traditionally printed and published book could never be. But that doesn't mean errors in the text are any more acceptable than they would have been in a traditional publishing context. And there's lesson three - quality control in self-publishing is, if anything, even more critical than in traditional publishing. Even if you can put it right at any time.

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