by Jodie Renner, fiction editor and craft-of-fiction writer
If you’re an indie author with e-books on Amazon, have you revised and re-uploaded any of your e-books, in response to negative reviews or other feedback? Or even just to add improvements or additions you thought of yourself? I do, quite regularly. And it seems to me that many authors, including high-profile ones, who are receiving similar negative reviews for a book should be considering doing this. What do you think?
With more and more authors publishing their own books as e-books, and even publishers releasing increasing numbers of e-books, which can be updated as often as the author/publisher chooses, how does that impact the content of the books? I’m thinking that using this privilege can’t help but improve the book, and the overall quality of e-books available.
Can and should we use reviews and other feedback to constantly (or occasionally) update or revise our books? Why or why not?
Would you or do you alter/tweak/revise/change your book because of many similar reviews?
And if you do revise your book because of negative reviews, what do you do about the fact that the reviews are still there, even though the issues have been addressed and hopefully fixed? Would you respond to the well-thought-out ones you felt had a good point and tell them you’ve made some changes based on their review?
And will more and more traditional publishers with digital imprints start tweaking their books based on informative, thoughtful reviews? Or on many negative reviews with basically the same objections? Will individual e-books then be in a constant state of flux, based on feedback and current trends?
I’ve heard of authors changing the ending to please a majority of readers who objected to the way their book ended. What about changing other aspects of a book that would require more extensive revisions? What if a lot of faithful followers found one of your protagonists too hard-edged or whiny or sarcastic or whatever? Would you go back to that book and tweak your characterization and their dialogue, etc. to make them more sympathetic and appealing? Or what if lots of readers complained about a major plot hole? Would you go in and fix it, in hopes of stopping the flood of bad reviews?
If your novel is solely an e-book at this stage, it’s quick and easy to upload a newer, better version after making the revisions. But then you have some people who have the original version and others who are buying the improved product.
I’ve published two craft-of-fiction e-books on Amazon-Kindle (with more to come) and have updated and expanded both of them several times, which is a wonderful feature and option/privilege, I think, especially for writers who are still honing their craft and learning from their mistakes.
Since I published my first e-book, Writing a Killer Thriller, in July 2012, I’ve added two chapters
and revised the whole thing. In the last few days, I added another chapter and deleted one near the end that was too repetitive, a summary that basically reiterated points made in the rest of the book. I just republished this most recent version, and a new cover, and am working on two more new chapters for the book. This approach would have been unheard of ten years ago, but I’m grateful to have the control to be able to do this with my “learning” first book.
Then I’ll ask Amazon to notify earlier buyers so they can upgrade for free. I’m also publishing the new chapters on the blog of my new, author website, so people who’ve bought earlier versions of the e-book can just read the new chapters there. And I’m planning to publish the new, expanded version in print soon. And I assume I can keep the same title...?
(As an aside, when I first published this e-book, I enabled Digital Rights Management and have since been told that was a mistake so I didn’t do it with my second book. Does anyone know if there’s a way I can disable that? It doesn’t seem possible.)
And what about if your book is already in print? Say you’ve published with a POD house like CreateSpace, like I did, for my Style That Sizzles & Pacing for Power book (available as an e-book, too). Do you consider re-issuing a second edition? All my comments for Style that Sizzles have been positive (29 reviews to date, with an overall rating of 4.9 stars out of 5), but I’m considering publishing a newer, improved second edition. Am I getting carried away here? When do you say, “Enough, already,” and move on?
*Update, February 2014: I updated Style That Sizzles and retitled it Fire up Your Fiction.*
Writers - Do you revise your e-books to address issues that readers feel detract from the overall positive impact of the book?
Should we embrace increased reader involvement/interaction? Or would that just be opening a can of worms?
Readers & Reviewers - Do you appreciate it when writers revise based on your input? Do you enjoy the extra involvement of being a beta reader or active reviewer?
Do you even check back occasionally to see if writers have revised their book based on similar negative reviews by you and others? Would you like to see authors comment under your review if they've addressed your concerns?
Jodie Renner has published two books to date in her series, An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: Writing a Killer Thriller and Fire up Your Fiction (Style That Sizzles & Pacing for Power), which has won two book awards so far. Look for the third book in the series, out soon. For more info, please visit Jodie’s author website or editor website, her other blogs, The Kill Zone and Resources for Writers, or find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. And sign up for her newsletter.