August 21, 2011

Not as simple as it sounds

For the last few weeks I've been juggling several projects, one of which is the eBook release of my 2006 Arabesque romance, One on One.  This is a story of a love affair that blossoms four years after the heroine lost her husband in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  Here's a look at the eBook cover:

You can click HERE to read an excerpt.  If the layout reminds you of the cover for the recently re-released A Love of Her Own, it's no accident.  I thought it would make for a nice sense of continuity if all my backlist titles had a similar look to them, even if the storylines themselves are not related.  What do you think?

Readers have contacted me, asking what's taking so long for me to get my backlist available as eBooks.  Sure, it might sound simple:  Get your rights back from the publisher (that alone can take months).  Write new copy for the sales page.  Get a new cover designed.  Upload the story, and voila!  The copyright is already in my name and doesn't have to be re-registered unless the story has changed significantly, and even with that authors have, I believe, three months from the time of publication to register with the Library of Congress.

Well, it's not as simple as it sounds.  For one thing, the manuscript has to be re-formatted for eReaders.  I've found a format that pretty much works for all (and I have checked random pages of all in the sample views that each eReader provides for authors) and have created a template, into which I drop the text and apply the correct formatting for chapter headings, text, breaks, etc.  That part is pretty easy, or at least it was once I had it figured out.

The biggest issue is that of the content, and there are several reasons for this.  First, it's not a good idea for writers to simply format their original manuscripts and put them up for sale.  The biggest reason for this is because the manuscript they wrote is not going to be the same as the book that was originally printed, because of edits done before it went to press.  As writers, we don't have the edited book as a saved document file; the edits are done on paper and entered into the documents within the publishing house (and even if we could get our hands on the press-ready edited document, it is the property of the publisher, and author use of it is prohibited).

Second, tastes are different now than they were just a few short years ago.  Readers, at least some of them, want to see less sexual tension and more sex.  This can be tricky.  In One on One I moved up the intimacy between the hero and heroine from two-thirds of the way through the story to one-third.  Even this will be not be soon enough for some readers, but I know better than try to please everyone and frankly have to be more concerned with what works best for the story.  But changing even the teensiest bit of the plot can render much of what is said later irrelevant or downright incorrect, so the entire text has to be gone over thoroughly to keep the story flowing smoothly.

Third, most of our skills are continuing to evolve, and a story retold by the same writer later in their career will probably be a story told better. Because it is our story and we are publishing it, we are free to make any changes to it that we fell will enhance it.

We also need to allow time for edits. Freelance editors are often quite busy and won't always be able to get to our projects as soon as we send it to them. This can take several weeks.  Then we have to decide which of the edits we want to use.  Input of corrections can be tedious, so it's equally important that we make sure we don't miss anything.  I know for a fact that in the past I managed to miss some corrections I specifically remember my editor telling me about. Readers are pretty good when it comes to forgiving a few mistakes, but make too many and they might think twice about buying more of our work.

So that's the process.  It can easily run several months from start to finish, and we are often trying to juggle re-releases with producing new work.

A writer's work is never done...