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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

THE PERILS OF CONVERTING ELECTRONIC BOOK FILES

Several other bloggers have raised the issue of revising already published books and asked other authors, would you do it? My answer is definitely yes, especially after a recent discovery that a book I thought was safely in the can had been altered without my knowledge.


The Dead Sea Codex, my second novel, was published in 2006. It’s the story of a two young archaeologists who find part of a first century AD codex, part of a Gnostic gospel written by a female disciple of Jesus, in the Dead Sea caves of Israel. Scholars compete with Christian fanatics to find the rest of the codex, either to publish it and or to destroy it. I had fun researching and writing the book because of the subject matter and the setting, the places I lived in and visited as a student in the 1970s.


 Both the print and e-book editions were edited and published, and I was happy with the “finished” book. Then the first publisher went out of business and a second one took over. At some point, the electronic files were converted to new formats, and all the quotation marks around my dialogue were removed. No one at the new company gave me a chance to review the new files, so the book was reposted for sale in two formats with the old cover. I had no reason to think my book might have changed during the switch from one publisher to another.
How did I find out? A comment from a friend and then two bad reviews on Amazon.

Yes, I did use the “Look Inside” feature of Amazon, when the book was published the first time in 2006. It never occurred to me to check again, months and years later.

The good news is, I now have my rights back and am reissuing The Dead Sea Codex with Wings e-Press in December. This decision forced me to re-edit the original manuscript, finding several bits that could be improved, and updating the story slightly because it takes place in politically volatile Israel. My new editor is very savvy, finding still more things that need fixing. The result will be a better book.

I also posted a comment on Amazon, thanking the reviewer who found the errors and informing him a new edition is in the works.

The more things change, the more they don’t stay the same…


7 comments:

Maggie Toussaint said...

You are so brave to reissue an older book. Some of my first romances are still with the publisher because I didn't have the time to update my writing in them. Maybe some day I'll take that particular plunge.

Meanwhile, I congratulate you for the undertaking and for placing it with a house so that you get a second set of eyes looking at everything!

Maggie

Carolyn Mulford said...

A cautionary tale. Thanks for sharing it.

Carolyn

Debra H. Goldstein said...

Hadn't thought about the book changing on reprint from a different publisher. I would have thought the files stayed the same. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

Nancy J. Cohen said...

My earlier series mysteries were published electronically, and I had no input then. More recently, the licensing company consulted me on the covers so we were able to improve the images. However, I am sadly aware that these books need revising. It's 15 years later, and my skills have improved. So I have begun this laborious job on the books for which I have rights reversion. It's gratifying to produce a better version and well worth the effort. I'm glad you're able to do so now, too.

Molly MacRae said...

I look forward to reading the new version!

Susan said...

Wow. I hadn't thought about this either. Thanks, Sarah. I have a book I self-published with a company a few years ago, and I have been thinking about buying the files and putting out a new edition. After seeing your situation, maybe it would be a good thing!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Sarah,

I had a reverse situation. Stacy's Song which is a YA novel was published in 2010, Oct. 27th to be exact, by L&LDreamspell. They did a good editing job and published in both print and ebook formats. Unfortunately on the death of the co-publisher the company went out of business and the novel was quickly orphaned. Oct. 27th of this year, Stacy's Song returns, rewritten by me, updated, and meticulously re-edited by Clean Reads. Is it a better book? The original reviews were quite good, but the new publisher did make changes. I like the new cover art, although neither cover was exactly what I had in mind for the book. One can only hope that publishers do justice to our work. But I do value editors even if I don't always agree with them.