I have recently concluded a review of all of my novels. It started because I asked my wife what she thought of my latest book, The Devil Within Us. She admitted that she had not read it yet. Obviously, she knew that this would be a disappointing revelation to me and claimed the good old ‘I have been too busy’ excuse for her defence. A couple of days later she suggested that instead of her trying to find the time to read the book why didn’t I read it to her?
So I did!
I have to admit that I first I found reading my own work out to someone else a bit strange. I had a tendency to read too fast to begin with. I put this down to the fact that I knew what was coming next and that my mind was already jumping ahead, faster than my mouth! My wife asked me to slow down and take my time, which proved very useful; I spotted a terrifying number of typographical errors!!
I hate seeing errors of this nature in my work. I really do try to catch them all before the book goes to print, but, obviously, I am not as successful as I thought I was. However, always the optimist, I decided to put this revelation to good use. I started to review all of my manuscripts. First, I needed to do some organisation. I was not even sure where the most current manuscript for that book was?! This prompted me to get copies of all my current manuscripts together and put them into some kind of order. Once that was done, I started reading them.
Reviewing a manuscript that runs to over 100,000 words is not something that can or should be rushed. I disciplined myself to read slowly and look for errors, whether they were spelling mistakes, grammar that could be improved, or just a bit of writing that could be reworked to produce something better. I realised that my way of writing had evolved since I started work on The War Wolf back in 2010. As I have a lot more experience as a writer now than I did 10 years ago I also decided to apply that acquired knowledge. This did not lead to me making any fundamental changes to any of the manuscripts. I did expand on some scenes and, in a couple of cases, reworked dialogue so as to present an argument better. I definitely corrected a lot of typographical errors, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I did not capture them all. Well, I have written nearly a million published words!
Technically, my style of working was very simple. I took a copy of a current manuscript and saved it as ‘War Wolf V3 Universal Copy’ for example. I needed 3 different formats for each manuscript so working with a universal copy made sense. It meant that once I had completed the review itself, I could then format the universal copy to meet the needs of an ebook and a paperback. I should point out that Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) prefer a certain style of formatting and other publishers, like Smashwords, have a different requirement also. So, that is 2 ebook formats and 1 paperback format.
To be honest, there is not that much difference between them, which is what makes using a universal copy logical. I work principally with the KDP format, which uses Word’s Table of Contents (TOC) for navigation in an ereader. Smashwords do not use TOC, they prefer bookmarks and hyperlinks to the various chapters. Paperbacks generally do not bother with a contents page anyway. When I am finished with the review of the universal copy, I save it as a ‘KDP’ copy and then insert the TOC. I then do the same for Smashwords, saving it as a ‘SMW’ copy and adding a contents list using bookmarks. Finally, I save a ‘PBK’ copy, for paperback, and remove the contents page altogether, but putting in the page format the is required for printing a hardcopy of the book. They all then get uploaded to the relevant website and, if I did not make a stupid mistake, get published as new and improved versions of my books.
I know of some authors who never look back at their older work. Personally, I find it to be quite a valuable exercise. Yes, it takes time and not a little dedication, but I think that it is worth it. My books read better for it. I like the idea that someone who has not heard of me as an author might download one of my books and think that it is well written. If they do then I hope that they might tell at least one other person. That is how an author’s readership grows.
My wife recently told my sister-in-law that I am her personal audio-book now!