As an indie author, you have a slew of advantages that the traditionally published author can only dream of, including: full creative control; self-made deadlines; the ability to release your work rapidly or once a decade; the comfort of knowing your publications will live immortally on shelves for as long as you so desire . . .
And the list goes on. But there's another rarely talked about advantage that I feel compelled to discuss today—not only because I predict it being something I do myself, but because it's happening more and more frequently.
I'm talking about revising an already-published book. And I'm not talking small adjustments, either, though that is preferred (making too many adjustments legally requires republishing it as a new edition, but we'll get into that shortly) and easier to pull off. What I'm talking about is the overarching reality that we get to *change our already-published work whenever and however we feel so inclined* and I'll be damned if that isn't one hell of a perk! Not only does this alleviate the stress of publishing, it also can be preventative.
Let's use WHEN STARS BURN OUT as an example: I didn't have a marketing plan in place for this book. Hell, I didn't even promote it. I quietly uploaded the book to Amazon, pressed the "publish" button while sitting in a café with a lukewarm coffee, and shipped my book out into the world without a word.
At the time, I had fewer than 150 followers on Instagram. I didn't have an author platform or a social "reach" of any kind. And honestly, at the time, I was still licking the wounds of having my goals for traditional publication doused by a market so oversaturated with my genre that agents would pass on my query letter then second they saw "YA Sci-Fi."
I didn't know the first thing about marketing my book. So, I simply didn't market it. I also was strangely terrified of people reading my story, which is a another story for another day, but is very important to mention, because: Marking one's book requires having confidence in one's book and without that, one's promotional efforts will be a joke.
So, long story short—I didn't know what the hell I was doing. As a result, it's flabbergasting that I have any readers at all, frankly. But now that I'm a little less "green" as an indie author, with a semi-comatose following on Instagram, I have been completely reassessing the launch of my sequel, A DARK SKY OPENS.
And by that I mean, I have always foreseen this launch as being for WHEN STARS BURN OUT as much as it is for A DARK SKY OPENS. One's first book is the one tasked with hooking new readers, reeling them in, and therefore is the most important.
There aren't a lot of things that I'd like to change about WHEN STARS BURN OUT, but there are definitely a few places that I feel could use tightening up. Three of my fellow indie author friends have recently done just this—and, coincidentally enough, I was just hired to copyedit an already-published manuscript by an independent publishing platform.
These instances brought this "perk" to the forefront of my mind. I've been working diligently to get WHEN STARS BURN OUT and A DARK SKY OPENS in hardcover, which means I have a lot of reformatting to do, and you know what?
Perhaps I'll tighten WHEN STARS BURN OUT up a bit while I'm at it. Very lightly, of course, because I really am happy with the story as it currently is. But there are a few logistics (really as it pertains to the handling of firearms, etc.) that lessens the believability of the story that I could very easily, and very quietly, adjust without altering the whole story, and I do feel that's worth my time.
Now, again, there are legalities involved in this: Adjusting over 20% of the book (or enough to alter the original page count) will spur Amazon to republish the title as a separate book to the one you've currently got released. Upon request, your previous title can be removed and replaced by your new edition, but this would mean eliminating every review you've received for the original first edition. Now, if your title has one too many negative reviews—this could once again be a big advantage for you! This is your best way to undo that damage, release a new edition with adjustments, and hope future readers are satisfied.
Now, obviously, this is extreme—and, frankly, if you have a large readership, you'll never be able to get away with this. This is a perk exclusive to the indie author with a readership that's on the smaller side, and even then, it's an action that should be handled with care. The LAST thing we need, as indie authors, is to perpetuate the stigma of indie = low quality, rushed, or unedited work. If you publish only to rewrite and republish more than once, you are going to very rapidly lose the trust of your readers, which isn't easily regained.
So, my advice is this: If you're considering making adjustments to an already-published work, do so as lightly and discretely as possible. But know that you do, as an indie author, have at least one get-out-of-jail-free card if everything blows up in your face. This an advantage our traditionally published counterparts don't have, and honestly, there's a reason for that. So do keep that in mind, if you're considering this.
My goal for WHEN STARS BURN OUT is to finally give it the marketing it's always deserved by advertising it just as vehemently as its sequel, A DARK SKY OPENS. This means combing through the book once more, fighting off every single typo that still lingers in the book, and potentially tightening up a few of the elements that aren't realistic while I'm at it. I personally feel so liberated by having the ability to do this! I certainly will not be abusing the privilege, but wow, the peace of mind is unexpectedly relieving.
If you're an indie author, would you ever consider doing this? Why or why not?