Sunday, March 27, 2022

Spring Cleaning - by Kathleen Cook

Spring again! YAY! And with it comes SPRING CLEANING! Oh no … not the dust bunnies behind that huge armoire that you never move, or the attic and garage mess. I'm talking about SPRING CLEANING YOUR OLD BOOKS!

I wrote a book back in 2008 that I rushed to put up on Amazon. It was dismal. When Amazon visitors previewed that one, they didn't care to read my other works. If you are like me, once you put a book up on Amazon it stays there, whether it sells or not (usually not). But what are these books saying about you as a writer? How much have you grown, learned, expanded since then? Has your grammar, syntax, use of passive language, use of clichés, etc., changed since you first published your works? What are passing book browsers learning about you if they only glance at your early works? Believe me, it happens!

I decided last year to review that 2008 work. UGH! The premise and plot were good. The characters needed a facelift but were mostly solid. But by the third chapter, I was screaming at my book, "IF YOU SAY THE WORD "UNFORTUNATELY" ONE MORE TIME, I'LL THROW YOU IN THE WOOD STOVE!!! I opened chapter four and read, "Paul laughed when he heard what he thought was a joke. Unfortunately, Marion's icy stare corrected his error a moment too late." ARRRGGGHHH!

There are a lot of people who believe that once a book is self-published, the author has no right to go in and quietly fix minor mistakes. Baloney. If you are using Amazon's free ISBN instead of your own, then you can upload a new edit any time you wish to revamp your work. You can even make major changes, if necessary. No labeling as a new version is required, and no new ISBN is needed. Even so, you may wish to retire your old book and replace it with a new version. I revised The Sun Always Trumps last year and extended it, so I republished it as a new edition.

If you are using a purchased ISBN number to sell anywhere, then yes, you'll need a new ISBN to change any part of the book. But even so, it may be worth it to retire that old version and publish anew. If an Amazon (or any) passerby judges you by your old works, you want them to see the best you have to offer, not the embarrassing follies of your youth.

You may not have read your old works in years. It's time to do so. Every writer should read their own books again every five years, at least. If those books need a good spring cleaning, then do it before others see the cobwebs they've gathered in too many passive clichés, tired or outdated language patterns, or just too many repeats of that darned, “unfortunately.” 

If you're unpublished, bring out those old manuscripts that you've been meaning to edit. View them with a new eye and the courage to chop them to pieces. As an editor, I've often seen a 600-page bad novel turn into a 300-page great one. If you're an unpublished but inevitable author, get cracking on those old works gathering dust in that armoire, you know, the heavy one you never move.

Spring is a time of renewal, regrowth, and for peeking out from behind the lethargy of winter. Let's face it, we all get lazy over the holidays and winter in general. A cozy fire and a hot cocoa promote inactivity, a time to take in and absorb the year, process it, and turn over a new chapter in your life. But winter is over, and we've already absorbed, processed, and planned our resolutions for the year ahead. Spring is the time to implement those resolutions. 

While I'll be broadforking the garden every morning this spring, the afternoons will be spent with a good old book … my own! What did I get right? What did I get wrong? Time to find out and fix! Happy spring to all of my fellow authors, published or inevitable!

Kathleen Cook is a retired editor and the author of more than twenty books. A former copy writer/editor for Demand Studios, she also served as the Fictional Religion Editor for the ODP (Open Directory Project) in the internet’s early days. She spent twenty years before retirement as a freelance editor, and is currently the Arizona Authors Association editor and website technician. Find out more about Kathleen HERE

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