This month’s Insecure Writers’ Support Group gives me a chance to talk about pulling a published book and revising it.  Not necessarily the technical side of it – more the emotional bit.  That is what the IWSG is all about really, giving each other support, and maybe others can learn from your own mistakes.  If you’d like to join up, or just visit other people in the group who post on the first Wednesday on the month just nip across here; Insecure Writer’s Support Group sign-up.

I’m sure most writers will agree that you don’t want to publish something that’s ‘okay’.  You want it to be the best it can possibly be.  You’ve slaved over it, redrafted it, edited it, re-edited it, and hopefully had good feedback from your beta readers as well as your editor.  Well, I thought I’d done all that.  Okay, my editor’s comments weren’t as helpful as they might have been, but I damped down my ego and set to work revising it as I thought she’d indicated.  I confess I didn’t like the opening chapter any more, but… that seemed to be what she advised.  I may have misinterpreted.

I suppose what I really should have done is ask her to look at it again.  I got the impression that she simply didn’t like the book.  And there we have the problem, really.  I didn’t like the changes I’d made, and she didn’t get a chance to comment on them.

The people who gave me the most comments were the people who gave me two-star reviews on Goodreads (but fairly, with useful comments).  Which, by Goodreads’ ratings, means ‘it’s okay’.  Yeah, well.  It’s not, is it? And from a steady add-to-reading-list daily, it dropped dead.  I went back to my beta readers, I went back to the comments; I tried it on a Read2Review programme and asked for direct feedback if they would give it less than four stars, and I got good feedback.  Thank you, all of you who gave me clear guidance.

It took me about an hour to get over the disappointment and pull the book from all its retail outlets.

I’ve nearly finished the first redraft.  One of my beta readers has the first chapter to review for me.

And, you know, I’m quite enjoying it.  It’s funny, because I’ve already written book 2 in the series, but I know these characters so much better now.  And all that extra world-building I’ve done! (that was the theme of my A to Z Challenge, in case you missed it.) I can add nuances they didn’t have before.  And really, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to launch books one and two more or less together next time.

The big question is – should I change the title and bring it out as a new book to lose those two star reviews?  Or should I stick with it, which would ensure that all the people who liked the sound of it will be able to get the second edition free because they bought the first?  Maybe I’ll just change the cover to draw attention to it.  It doesn’t seem right to bring it out as a whole new book.  And there aren’t that many poor reviews to overcome.

Anything like this ever happen to you?  What did you do?

PS And the day this all happened a glitch on the website meant I lost my mailing list for the book.  Still working on restoring it. 🙁

#IWSG – is ‘it’s okay’ good enough?

18 thoughts on “#IWSG – is ‘it’s okay’ good enough?

  • 1 June, 2016 at 6:39 am

    We had a similar situation when we released the first book in our Short Scrolls series, The Dragon Slayer. A three-star Amazon review said they couldn’t get past the first couple of chapters. As we re-read it, we realized we didn’t like them either. We made the hard decision to pull and rework the book. Since we made some substantial changes, we released it as a second edition. A tweak to the cover distinguished from the first edition. We like it so much better!

    We learned a lot from this mistake. First, we won’t rush to release future books. Setting it aside for a couple of months would’ve opened our eyes to the flaws before the initial publishing. Second, the first couple of chapters of our future books will have to earn their right to stay there. It’s seems logical but we forget this important step in our haste. Finally, anything we don’t love won’t stay on future books. There were several things I didn’t like but left in because it was okay and we had given ourselves a deadline. All of those things are gone in the second edition.

    Knowing that a fair number of readers’ first impressions are based on our less than stellar first edition is a hard pill to swallow. We can only hope we’ve learned our lesson and will redeem ourselves on all future books.

    • 1 June, 2016 at 6:28 pm

      That’s really helpful, Stephanie, thanks. I’m sorry it happened to you – but I wouldn’t have known from The Golden Wizard!

      • 2 June, 2016 at 6:16 pm

        Thanks! That’s made my day to read that. The difference with Golden Wizard vs. Dragon Slayer is that our oldest daughter read our rough draft of Golden Wizard and told us the first two chapters stunk. We were able to take them out before we published. Harsh but true words. 🙂 In our rush to publish Golden Wizard, we didn’t get enough feedback.

        I sat in on a panel of best selling authors last year. One of them gave the advice that a book (and each chapter and each scene) is like a party where we need to arrive late and leave early, meaning give readers the meat of the scene and ditch the rest out. Great advice that would save the need for many second editions if followed.

        • 3 June, 2016 at 9:32 am

          Yes, but it can also leave readers feeling lost if you do that – and I’d overdone it, I think!

          • 3 June, 2016 at 6:06 pm

            Agreed. The true challenge for any author is to find the perfect mix of just the right amount of information.

  • 1 June, 2016 at 8:30 am

    Yes, been there, working on it – one of our first releases, Sacrifice of An Angel, my sis and I have decided needs a bit of work to take it from okay to where it should be. The opening chapter – there seems to be a theme here – definitely needs work, it needs to be more gripping to draw the reader in. Plus I’ve learned so much since the book was published, that there are other odd bits being addressed. It will be a second edition release and we’re re-aiming it from the police thriller genre to Cozy Mystery, where it sits much better, because the thriller market doesn’t really go in for cops with magic ;P.

    • 1 June, 2016 at 6:32 pm

      Thanks for confessing all, Tasha! I remember completely rewriting the first three chapters of the first Princelings book, now I come to think of it. I seem to remember in my Creative Writing class our tutor saying some people could start, some people could finish, but it was rare to be able to do both. 🙂

      Cops with magic, eh? I’m in!

  • 1 June, 2016 at 10:43 am

    Jemima, such an honest and open post. Well done. I can imagine how hard it was to do, but if it breathes new life into the book, then perhaps it was meant to happen. I know that I’m constantly fighting myself from going through my released books and refreshing them with everything I’ve learned since I wrote them. I’d love to do it, maybe one day.
    You mentioned your cover. I’m more than happy to help you out there if you need it, no obligation, but the offer is there 😃

    • 1 June, 2016 at 6:36 pm

      Thanks, Steve. I’ll think about the offer 😀

  • 1 June, 2016 at 3:56 pm

    I’ve already said that I think it was a courageous decision, and from what I’ve seen of the re-writes, a smart one. And as one of the original beta readers, I’m trying to think about how I could have helped you see that and fix it the first time.

    It also reminds me that if this ability to revise and reissue and adjust is one of the great strengths of on-demand publishing, then we should have the guts and the smarts to take advantage of it!

    And yes, opening chapters are the hardest! I did two major re-writes of the opening of my next book before even sending it to beta readers. And I’m still not sure…which may mean it needs more. I’ll try to learn from you and do it before publishing!

    • 1 June, 2016 at 6:38 pm

      There is a possibility that we know each other’s writing too well to spot problems. Although I started reading ‘Peggy’ and saw immediately what was wrong with my book! So in a way, it helps both of us 🙂

  • 1 June, 2016 at 11:48 pm

    Jemima, one of the things that has impressed me about your writing and your world-building is you know where you are going. I’ve never published anything, but in my opinion, you should trust your instinct on this. If it just felt ‘okay’ then it wasn’t up to your usual stellar standards.

    To answer your big question, I’m for renaming the book and bringing it out as a new title, and giving it to the folks who read the first one (unless this is a financial hardship for you; I know you publish your own work). But the idea of having the two side-by-side would be interesting, I think.

    I’m sorry you and your editor just missed the connections; it happens, but reading all of the other comments, it sounds like your beta readers had it right on the money. So, when it comes to doubt, think about it. I know that sounds amorphous, but it’s the only advice I can give you, because your writing is so clear and beautifully limned. Great post and great insights from everyone. Thank you!

    I too would love to see cops ‘n’ magic; especially around my ‘hood!

    • 2 June, 2016 at 12:26 pm

      Mmm, it’s tempting to rename it, but then, I don’t like the idea of having a substandard book on my list. Thanks for the ideas and support, Mary.

      • 15 June, 2016 at 5:57 pm

        I understand not wanting to have a sub-standard book on your list. Be like Brahms, then. The only things that survived him (he destroyed all his works that he thought were not up to his very high standards, and there is no “bad” Brahms, while as much as I revere Beethoven, there are a few pieces where I have a “what was he thinking? moment) were of such surpassing excellence, no one ever complains about the paucity of his output! Go for what you know is your best! 😉

  • 2 June, 2016 at 12:35 am

    You could always see about contacting those reviewers who gave it 2 stars and say you did some revising and why then ask if they’d review the new edition.

    I’ve pulled a book and did a reedit, too. It also got a new cover. I didn’t worry too much about reviews because the book didn’t have many and the original release day was a disaster due to a stupid typo on my part.

    • 2 June, 2016 at 12:28 pm

      Yes, I think that’s a good idea. In fact I asked one to join my beta-readers, since we worked together on the A2Z one year 🙂 It seems a lot of us have been through this, after all.

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