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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Why Release Titles from Earlier in My Writing Life?



There are many who will say that you should never release your first book, or your second or even your third. There are some who say, finish your work, do the best you can at it, (including having it professionally edited) and then put it out there, that your work will improve as you practice your craft, improve your craft, and work at continually improving your craft and doing your best work and that your readership will grow as put more work out. And I agree, but, like many writers I always doubt that any piece I do will be good enough, and like all writers who put their work out there, or submit it to a publisher, I have to find enough courage to write and finish and share my stories anyway.
So, why release titles from earlier in my career? Why now? When I have over twenty years’ writing experience, why release something from early on? Why expose work that might be different to what I do now, maybe not as polished—especially on the internet? Why release this work when it will be around forever—when someone trying my writing for the first time, might buy the early versions and not something more polished?
Because I believe in those stories. When I wrote them, I believed in them. In the publishing world that was, they didn’t have a chance, didn’t suit the market, didn’t hit the editor’s desk at the right time, were buried under a slush pile, were too different from the publisher’s target audience, or maybe even not good enough—well, not at the time.
They’re going out there, now, but they’re not going out underdressed. They might be early works, but I have reworked them, giving them the benefit of what I’ve learned in over twenty years of writing, changing them so that they aren’t really ‘early’ works, and yet, remain so. I’ve smoothed the phrasing, corrected continuity, created a digital copy from type-written submission copies, and kept the story I had originally built, and added to it.
I’m working on the theory that I don’t have a following made up from successes in traditional publishing, so this means I’m starting from scratch. As far as the writing world is concerned, I’ve only just appeared—or not, as the case may be.
So, I’m just like any other author beginning their career in this new age of publishing. If an author was just starting out for the first time, they would probably begin by researching all their publishing options. And if they did their research and judged their chances of making a living by comparing independent, traditional or hybrid publishing, they would probably decide to go independent, rather than accept a contract that bought their rights and did not guarantee keeping their work available for the life of those rights. Or they would go independent, if they wanted to maximise their return for effort. Or because traditional contracts are limited by the space on the publishing schedule and work takes over twelve months after acceptance to start earning. Or for any other number of reasons. Or they might go hybrid, submitting work to publishers, while putting out other work independently. It would all depend on what suited them best.
And if they decided to play in the independent sphere, then their earliest work would be the best work they could do at that time, and they’d have it edited or beta read and work it up the highest standard they were able. They would find or purchase their cover art, format and upload it for sale. Once that was done, that modern writer would work on the next book, and the next and the next, and their work would improve, not go backwards.
So, with this in mind, I’m following the path that a post-Amazon-Smashwords-era author would take, if they were starting out today—except I’m doing it with over twenty years’ worth of material in various stages of completion. Like that new author, I’m putting out my earliest work first, while I work on something new, or, unlike that author, while I finish something I started long ago.
And that’s where I’m at. I’m finishing what I’ve started, and what I stopped for any number of perfectly justifiable reasons, including the difficulties faced by publishers, agents and authors in the early 1990s. But, now, the world of publishing has changed, and it has become possible that stories can now readers, when once they could not be published, or were rejected, not because they weren’t good enough, but because they just didn’t fit the market, or because another novel in a similar vein had just been accepted, or because the publishing schedule was full and unknowns weren’t booked that far ahead, or even because the publisher went under before the release date.
Tricky business, this publishing. Being good enough isn’t good enough… and maybe that still hasn’t changed. Maybe, it will never change, but now it’s not up to us, or anyone else, to make that final decision. Now, it’s up to our readers, and the longer our work is available, the more chance those readers have of finding us.
And so I take the risk, the risk that my stories will be read and that they won’t disappoint, that my early work is something worth building on—and I thank the gatekeepers of old, the ones who took the time to encourage a writer whose work was good, but just didn’t quite fit, and I thank those who did accept the work that fit their business requirements and published it.
And I thank the writers who have walked this path, and the traditional path, and who are now finding a path of their own, and sharing what they’ve learned, and for sharing their successes, their failures, their frustrations and their joys. They give encouragement to all who find them.
And so, I start, yet again, down this path to publishing, beginning at the very beginning, along with everyone else, and so I publish my work, from the earliest to latest, just like everyone else. And I hope that there are readers out there who will find it, and like it, and look for more… just like everyone else.

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