There was a time not too long ago when the term self-published author was frowned upon by readers and the publishing industry. Vanity presses were seen as a scam because they preyed on the hopes and dreams of would-be writers. The notion was, individuals would never have a chance of signing with the six major publishers if they went this route.
For Black writers, there was a period that saw a boost in authors being signed. Our stories had become trendy. But over the past ten years, those contracts began to expire with no renewals.
Technology has made many advancements in different industries. Publishing is no exception. With rebranding, self-published is now independent. Vanity presses, although they still exist, have new competition by way of Print-on-demand (POD).
The stigma of self-publishing has diminished significantly, allowing writers to control their own destinies.
My journey as an independent author has taught me a lot over the past 13 years. One of the biggest lessons has been never to be afraid to revisit my earlier works.
Keep reading to learn five reasons why an independent author should revisit and revise (if needed) their earlier books.
1. Being an Indie Author Gives You Creative Control
One of the most significant benefits of publishing as an independent author is you have complete control over your book. You get to make the final decision on everything from the book cover to the word count. To some writers, this is the ultimate challenge. For others, it’s a bit intimidating.
It took me almost ten years to self-publish my first novel. In the midst of it all, there was a stack of rejection letters. I wasted a lot of money on so-called editors and a lot of time doubting myself.
Navigating through the publishing process required a lot of research.
how to format the book
These bullet points are the basics. You’ll have much more to learn—things like when to do it yourself and when to hand the task off to a professional.
Limited funds to publish your book like a trade book publisher shouldn’t stop you from fulfilling your dream. Just keep in mind that first impressions still matter.
2. You Can Never Edit Enough
If you’ve ever taken a composition or writing class, you know you can never edit enough. You spend hours writing and rewriting, editing, and more editing. Still, when you turn your paper in, the instructor returns it with red marks.
Now imagine being an independent author who has written a 250-page novel. This is far different than a 15-page term paper. Rereading the entire book takes time, and you’re anxious to get it into the hands of readers.
Plus, every time you read your manuscript, you’re more inclined to make changes. With each change comes the possibility of more errors.
The benefit of signing with a publishing company is getting an editing team to clean up and polish your manuscript. These teams can consist of several editing roles.
Types of Editors
acquisition editor – a person who scouts for new work
content editors – this person goes over the entire book for ways to strengthen the overall story
copy or line editor – edits for grammatical and formatting errors
chief editor – in charge of the editing process and will give the book a final read
developmental editor – works with the writer to help develop and strengthen the manuscript
Indie authors most likely will not have access to that type of talent. Instead, we’re more likely to rely on the following:
beta readers – avid readers you ask to read your manuscript and provide feedback
critique partner – often part of writing groups, they provide critiques on your story
online editor – a person who offers editing services as a freelancer
proofreader – someone who reads your finished manuscript for obvious grammatical errors
When I wrote my first novel, He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not! I used beta readers, online editors, and proofreaders.
Asking for honest feedback from people who are not in the publishing industry seems like a good idea. In reality, the average person who has never published a book can’t give you the professional feedback you need. Instead, they will share the perspective as a reader, which is also a valuable tool.
The downside to freelance editors is they cost a lot of money. Unless you have access to reviews of their work, you can waste a lot of money and time on the wrong person. In the end, your book is still not edited correctly.
Why I Decided to Write This Article
I hit a roadblock in my writing after having professors point out grammatical errors in my term papers. It made me wonder about my published books. Later, I started writing blogs for businesses that prompted me to invest in professional editing software.
To my horror, I saw just how bad my writing was from a technical aspect. I knew me and commas were not friends, but there was so much I was missing.
With a slowdown in work during COVID19, I decided to revisit my manuscripts. Wow! I am so glad I did. It was such an eye-opener, but I have no regrets because my readers deserve better.
3. A Bad Book Cover Can Cost You Sells
When it comes to your book cover, look at it as the first impression. As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a good one. Fortunately for authors, a new cover can breathe new life into an older book. If you plan on revisiting your earlier works, follow the lead of traditional publishers and change the cover.
One of the biggest challenges I found in the earlier years was learning about copyrights when it came to images. Even some fonts come with copyright usage demands.
As an independent author, you must understand the difference in usage rights.
fair use – allows someone to bypass copyrights under certain circumstances, including criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research
royalty-free – the copyright owner allows the use of their work for non-commercial purposes
limited rights – the copyright owner has specific rules of the use of the work
standard rights – works can get used for commercial purposes but with restrictions
extended rights – usually apply to high-production commercial work that's sold for a profit
Indie authors can subscribe to stock image/video services to find great images for their upcoming books. Another option is to hire a photographer to create the perfect book cover image. If you go this route, negotiate rights for the footage. Without this, the photographer is the automatic copyright holder.
4. Expansion of Digital Marketing
Digital marketing has made advertising books more accessible. However, independent authors still need a marketing strategy.
Create a brand for your publishing and author names
Build an e-commerce website to sell your books
Go social on multiple platforms to connect with target audiences
Invest in online advertising
Today, many apps on the market provide marketing techniques that easily create ads for your book. If you don’t feel creative, consider hiring a freelance graphic designer. Remember, people can’t buy your book if they don’t know it exists.
5. Your Writing Has Improved Over the Years
Since publishing my first novel, I’ve earned a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a
Masters in Liberal Arts. Both were personal goals. However, the disciplines I studied have improved my writing. Plus, I’ve gained new insights into what it means to be a writer and an independent author.
If you published books five or ten years ago, I challenge you to go back and read your first work. Compare it to your most recent manuscript. I guarantee you’ll notice distinct growth in your storytelling.
It may also motivate you to do some rework and rewrites to make the story stronger.
No Book is an Old Book if it Hasn’t Been Read Before!
I’ve been thinking about starting a YouTube channel to turn my old book reviews into vlogs. My catchphrase “no book is an old book if you’ve never read it.” Indie authors can use this as motivation to either pull out an old manuscript to get it print-ready. Or revisit their earlier works for republishing.
Books are still hot commodities. There are millions of readers searching for a story like yours. Breathe new life into older works with fresh eyes and a new book cover.
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Tracy L. Darity is the author of He Me Loves Me He Loves Me Not!, Love…Like Snow in Florida On a Hot Summer Day, and The Red Bear Society. Her much-anticipated non-fiction work When Sunday Comes Will I Still Believe God will be released in the summer of 2021.