Like most writers, I am excited about the advances in digital publishing. In past columns I have detailed the many advantages we currently experience and those we anticipate in the future.
There are, however, some less delightful aspects of the new Indie Publishing revolution, as I have discovered recently.
This article is not about those natural and expected new obstacles, not about increased competition in the market place, nor about virtual shelves overcrowded with works aimed at quantity rather than quality in order to aggregate dollars. It’s not about potential piracy, or even about self marketing (a huge topic in itself).
This piece is about ever increasing responsibility. Specifically, the responsibility of the author to present his/her very best work, period.
Once upon a time, an author could write a book, look it over once or twice, hand it to an editor, and walk away. If any additional editing was needed, the editor or the publisher saw to it. Then it is published and it was done. Done!
That is not the case today. With technological advances it is now possible for the self publisher to return to his book to correct a misspelling, remove a duplicate word, or correct an indent at any time. In fact, the author could in theory change plot lines, remove chapters––in short, make any number of substantial changes to the book. Not just for a limited period of time; it can be done 24 hours a day – forever.
This would seem a tremendous advantage for the author, and in many ways it is. But it can also be a curse.
Editing a novel can be an endless process if one allows it. Each revisit, each change, has a domino effect which ensures that more changes will likely be necessary to reach perfection. The more the author reviews, the more changes suggest themselves. This is the definition of infinity.
Today this Miasma is exacerbated by accessibility. Not so long ago, if a guest at a cocktail party remarked on some perceived inaccuracy in a novel, the author could grin and shrug and move on. No longer. There is now a conscience nag that leads to additional research, and if indeed the guest turns out to be correct, the nag grows into guilt which in turn compels action. The author returns to the book to correct it, not just because he feels he should, but because he can, and he knows that everyone knows he can.
The moral to this tale is not just the standard reminder to edit, edit, edit before publishing a work, but also to learn where to draw that line in the sand. It is about finding the balance between one’s satisfaction with a published work and infinite editing. Know when to stop.