Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I Promise You This

It seems like ages ago that my freshman novel, Letters from Linc, received a poor review on Amazon with the reader’s main complaint being she couldn’t get past all of the typos. If you’ve been reading my blog for some time, you’re no stranger to this story. If this is your first time hearing about it, here’s a short recap:

A few months ago, I stumbled across a review of Letters from Linc giving the book only three stars and saying the multitude of typos made it difficult to read. Even worse, the reader returned the book for a refund, costing me a sale. Initially, I ignored the review, but I just couldn’t get it out of my head. I downloaded a free sample of the novel, convinced I wouldn’t find anything wrong with it, and was shocked when I found the e-book riddled with errors that did not appear in the printed version.

When I first brought this to the publishers’ attention, they requested I review the book and identify all errors. I was charged with not only finding the mistakes, but providing the corrections. It quickly became clear this was a bigger task than the publisher understood so I contacted them again. A little more research on their part uncovered the problem was with their software and not with my spelling, grammar and punctuation. E-readers didn’t exist when the novel was first published. The first e-reader came out the following year, and the printed book was scanned for conversion to an e-book. Apparently, there was an issue with character or text recognition during this process which resulted in the errors the reader pointed out. The publisher is now working on correcting this.

While I’m happy the issue is being rectified, something else is bothering me. As much as it pains me to admit this, I don’t think Letters from Linc is my best work.  I love the characters, and I think the storyline is sound. I’m just concerned with the mechanics. In looking at the novel all these years later, I can see a lot of things I’d like to change. There are a number of instances in the story where I told readers what was going on instead of showing them. There were also some scenes which I felt needed to be expanded on.  I also used far too many adverbs.

Looking at all of these things now, I can honestly admit if this wasn’t my own novel, I probably would have been turned off by the writing style. Likely, I would have rewritten it in my head as I went. In fact, I find myself doing that now when I read the story.

Seven years ago, I sent this novel to as many agents as I could and was crushed by one rejection after the other. It was that experience that prompted me to pursue releasing it on my own. Now, I’m a little ashamed to admit I think those agents made the right decision. I get it, but I promise you I’m going to fix it! I owe my readers that much.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Saga Continues

Last we talked, I shared with you the fact that the e-book version of my freshman novel, Letters from Linc, was riddled with errors. This fact was pointed out by a reader in her Amazon review in which she professed disappointment over the fact that a novel filled with potential was likewise filled with errors. Besides posting this poor review, the reader also returned the novel for a refund. Not only did this cost me a sale, but this reader isn’t likely to read any of my work again and has published a review that may deter other readers.

My initial reaction to the news of these errors was to file them under the old adage of ‘you can’t please everyone’.  Several months later, still plagued by this, I downloaded a free sample of the book. There I discovered the errors the reader was talking about. Concerned there could be more mistakes, I paid for the book and set about skimming the rest of it. Sadly, my search yielded a number of mistakes early on. Dismayed, I contacted the publisher to ask what could be done.

You see, when Letters from Linc was released in 2006 the e-reading device was still a thing of the future. The novel was offered in an electronic format. When purchased, the reader was emailed a PDF of the novel which mirrored the printed version.  One year after Letters from Linc was released, the first version of the Kindle hit the market, which is where the problems with my novel began.

Naturally, I contacted the publisher to ask how this could be resolved. I was sent a book block proof form so that I could identity all of the errors as well as the correction needed. In this case, that was a lot easier said than done.  It didn’t take long for me to realize this wasn’t the correct solution to my problem.  Frustrated, I contacted the publisher once again and got a more detailed explanation of the issue.

Letters from Linc, along with other titles offered by the publisher, were converted to e-books that fit the Kindle formatting guidelines. As other e-readers were released, the Kindle formatted version was offered in those sites as well.  The intent was good, but the final product was not. It seems that there were some major issues with the conversion. The text in the original document wasn't recognized by the conversion software used. The publisher blames this on the fact that they no longer had the MS Word version when they sent the book for Kindle formatting. Instead, they had to convert the PDF back to word and then send it to be converted to the e-book. The result was an overwhelming number of errors that made the book unreadable and something I never knew. I was never notified of any of this or given an opportunity to review it prior to being released to the e-reader.  It all took place behind the scenes. Had the reader not posted her review, I might never have known any of this.

The publisher has assured me they are going to do what they can to resolve the problem. Of course, they haven’t specified what that entails, which means the saga continues.  In the meantime, if you were thinking about purchasing the e-book version of Letters from Linc, I’m begging you to wait until this is resolved.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

That was Close

If you’re one of my Twitter followers you’ve already heard what happened with my new novel, This Time, while I was working on it this weekend. If you’re not one of my Twitter followers, you really should be! Seriously, I put a lot of important information there. Not to mention, it inflates my ego to see the number of followers grow every day and makes me feel like maybe I’m not wasting my time with social media.

Okay, so what happened this weekend? A near disaster, that’s what. It didn’t start out that way. With my husband out with one of our kids and the other child hanging out with a friend and me at my desk working on my newest novel, it was a pretty typical weekend day. Then it happened.

After finishing a rather intense scene which included a major argument between the main characters and resulted in a key turning point in the story, I was ready for a break. I thought I’d take the time to empty the dishwasher while simultaneously thinking about what my next move with the story would be. Not wanting to be irresponsible, I clicked the save icon on my tool bar and stood up from my desk. That’s when it happened.

My jump drive caught on my clothes and was ripped from the computer mid-save. How did this happen? Well, the drive is attached to a lanyard that I wear around my neck and take almost everywhere I go when I’m not working on my stories. That lanyard caught on my clothes and came free from the computer while it was trying to perform the save operation which caused my computer to have a meltdown. Rather than recognizing the drive I was trying to save the file to was no longer enabled and offering me the chance to save it somewhere else, my computer had the nerve to shut the entire program down which resulted in the loss of the entire story which up to that point was hovering around 480 double-spaced type-written pages.

My first instinct was to panic, but I rebelled against the urge to puke and began combing through my computer files hoping there was a recovered version of the document. There was, but it was in a TXT form. I converted that to word and was able to retrieve the last few pages of what I’d written. The rest was gone, including the argument scene I was so proud of. Out of ideas as to how to get my document back, I sent my version of a restrained text message to my husband asking when I could expect him home. When he gave me the time, my reply was something to the effect of ‘Thank God because I just lost my whole story’. My husband reminded me that the story was backed up on his computer and could be retrieved from there.

So, if it was backed up on another computer what was the problem? I only have my work backed up once a week, usually Monday or Tuesday. Everything I’d spent the weekend working on wouldn’t be there. I tried to take comfort in the fact that at least I was only out 30 pages rather than almost 500, but it was of little comfort.

A short time later, my husband came home to try and save my story and my day. When I told him what happened, I could tell by that grim look that all hope was pretty much lost. Still, he gave it a try and set about doing an in-depth search with his recovery program. In the meantime, I went through all of the stages of grief. I was just about to the acceptance of the loss stage when my husband announced a version had been found and asked me to look at it. To my utter joy, he managed to recover the story up to what I’d done the day before. Add that to the portion I recovered, which was what I worked on that day, and I had my complete story again.

Words cannot describe the immense relief I felt, and still feel, at having my story back. All I can say is; whew, that was close!  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Lessons Painfully Learned

Some time back, I told you about a rather disappointing review my first novel, Letters from Linc, received on Amazon.  The reviewer took issue with a number of typos in my novel, so many in fact that she returned the book for a refund thus causing me the loss of the sale. In posting that review, she also created the possibility that it would deter others from purchasing the work.

Although I was disappointed with the review and in myself for producing such a poor product, I didn’t question it. I typically don’t respond to reviews of my work. Some writers take exception to criticism of their work and go to great lengths to defend it. Making your work available to the public means you’re agreeing to open yourself up to their commentary of said work. I’ve always been a firm believer in taking the good with the bad. Even award winning, best-selling authors are going to have people who don’t like their work and don’t have a problem saying so.

At the time I received this negative review of my freshman novel, something didn’t sound right to me. One of the things the reviewer took issue with was the fact that I often misspelled the name of the hero, calling him Line instead of Linc. Despite the fact that I’d read this novel numerous times and couldn’t recall seeing that error, I didn’t question it. I did share the review with my husband who also had read the book. Like me, he couldn’t remember it being chock full of the errors this particular reviewer alleged she found. Still, neither one of us questioned it.

Since then, several months have passed and subsequent reviews have been good. Even though I haven’t forgotten the sting of that review, I’ve moved on. I’ve also become more focused on my editing; doing my best to make sure I give the readers the polished product they deserve. In the spirit of moving on, my first young adult novel, Like You Mean It, was recently released as an e-book. Since its release, I’ve been anxiously awaiting its availability through the Kindle store. It can be found in Nook and Apple iBooks stores, but still hasn’t been uploaded to the Kindle store. I know because I’ve been checking every day, sometimes twice a day.

It was in checking the Kindle store so obsessively that I made the decision to download a free sample of Letters from Linc, and it was a decision I’m glad I made. I’m sure you can imagine my shock when there, right on the title page, my book title was listed as Letters from Line! Of course that sent me running for my paperback version of the book. I couldn’t believe I’d missed something like that and in the front of the book no less.

Well, guess what? I didn’t miss it! The paperback version doesn’t have this or any of the other errors the Amazon reviewer found. Instead, I suspect there was an issue in the conversion to the e-book format. When I first published Letters from Linc, e-readers didn’t exist. There was an e-book version available, but it was emailed to customers to read as a PDF. Now, it’s purchased from e-reading stores, and the errors abound which leads me to suspect the problem arose when it was converted by the publisher to these new formats.

I think there are some valuable lessons here. First, if you publish your book in both a print and an electronic format, check the copy on both post-publication. Don’t take it for granted that both formats are correct or identical. Second, do this post-publication check immediately after publication. Don’t wait the seven years that I did. Finally, don’t ignore that inner voice when it tells you something isn’t right. After reading that negative review, I kept telling myself it had to be wrong and I hadn’t made those mistakes. I told myself this, but I didn’t listen to myself, and I should have.  Let’s just hope it’s not too late to do something about it. If not, lesson most painfully learned.