Thursday, December 17, 2015

Revisions: Where Does it End?

You've written your manuscript
You've had beta readers pick it apart
You've fixed all your plot holes
Your proofreader sends your manuscript back
You conjure a cover
You publish
And then...

As a published author, I know all about revisions. You make your work as perfect as possible, hit publish, and then wait in hope for a positive response from readers. 

And then... dread. 

Since your eyes are so tired from seeing the same words for weeks or months, you don't notice the little inconsistencies: your protagonists dress was red in the beginning, so why is it suddenly black in the middle of your story? Is that supposed to be "personal" and not "person"? OMG... Tell me I didn't use "your" instead of "you're"!

It happens. Even in traditionally published work that goes through the scrutiny of multiple eyes. 

But what demands revision? How many errors in a story is too many? What's a good reason to go back and modify your already published work?

From my experience, there are really only three good reasons to modify/revise an already published manuscript:

1) You failed in the necessary steps of publication
  • Your finished story lacks the basics: organization, plot... It sucks
  • You had no beta readers or asked people with poor experience (i.e. friends who feed you the bullshit you want to hear because they're afraid the'll personally kill your dream of becoming the next great novelist) 
  • You skimped on the proofreading and editing, leaving a manuscript filled with incomplete sentences, missed words, missing words, typos, and improper grammar
2) You find a new publisher
  • Sometimes you self publish a story, have miserable sales, and then decide to see what happens if you give it to a publisher. Sometimes you publish a story with a publisher, have the rights returned to you for whatever reason, and find a second publisher. In these cases, your new publisher is going to want a say in story structure and language to fit their already established guidelines. 
3) You decide a story you've written actually belongs somewhere else
  • You write several short stories and self publish, only to decide later that what you've written actually belongs together in one publication. You squish your stories together, revamp/polish them, and hit the "publish" button again
If your work doesn't fall into one of the above three categories, leave your published work alone. Only the poorly executed story or new circumstances merits revision. 


  1. If you fall in the first category, when is the best time to republish? ASAP or after you've spent enough effort perfecting it? Does it go through the process of edit/proofread/revision all over again?

  2. Interesting topic Angora. I would like to encourage every writer to hold on to their voice, and don't let anyone take that away when they edit your work. I worked very hard and vetted my first book with Beta readers and an editor. Paid over $1500 for editor and guess what - there were errors. I had sales but they were low, so I went back & revamped my work, assuming it was the work that needed attention. I hired another editor whom I thought would be a better fit based on the experience she had and spent over $3000. After I republished, guess what happened... The results were less sales than from the earlier book version. My take on the experience is that EDITING is good but a book will never be perfect, so don't lose sleep. What sells books is MARKETING. So now I am re-educating myself on marketing concepts and strategy. I've dealt with marketing before, however much has changed in the past few years and we can't count on giving away free books, or lean on Amazon to boost our sales and ranking. We have to work at it ourselves, one reader at a time OR pay for the help. I am wary, just like not all editors or book covers are equal, so not all advertisements and marketing campaigns on same playing field. The name of the game is testing the waters, learn from mistakes, and using what works.