The Indie Circus – Juggling Manuscripts

Of all the labor-intensive tasks encountered while preparing to indie-publish Pilot Error, a particularly exasperating element of the endgame has proven to be one of the most vexing.

In retrospect, it’s the direct result of misplaced confidence in the quality of my self-editing at the moment I decided to pull the publish trigger and simultaneously offer the novel for sale on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, and Smashwords.

Over the course of the past seven months, I’ve dealt with six different manuscripts:

  1. The original Word DOC file in the standard format for submission to agents that had to be scrubbed of all the “usual suspects” (also known as “troublemakers,” non-printing characters like extra paragraph returns, tabs, spaces, etc.), and re-formatted to look like a book.
  2. Two almost identical DOC files to be converted into eBook formats: a MOBI file (for the Kindle), and and an EPUB file (for the Nook and many of the other ereaders).
  3. A substantially different DOC file to be converted into an EPUB file for any of the Apple iWhatevers that can be used as ereaders. (This had to be a special manuscript because Apple is the only bookseller that requires submitted files to pass an “epubcheck.” I’d explain that, but it would only bore you and make me mad.)
  4. A substantially different .doc file for upload to Smashwords.
  5. And finally, another manuscript formatted specifically for the paperback edition. I could have used a DOC file for this version, but after a trial period with Adobe InDesign, I ultimately decided to take advantage of its additional features.

With all of these manuscripts in final form (or so I thought), I published the novel with multiple outlets and almost immediately discovered what happens when typos that absolutely, positively, no way were there when I decided to publish this book suddenly appeared on a page. I didn’t put in all this time and effort to accept shape-shifting type, so now what?

Returning to the original source file to fix the problems was not an option because it had long since been rendered obsolete. My only choice was to painstakingly edit each manuscript separately and keep track of everything I did, including careful attention to avoid leaving editing “artifacts” to be discovered later, and which would require yet another revision.

Including the proofing period and the two weeks since I published Pilot Error, I’ve been fine-tuning the novel for well over a month, dealing with issues that few readers, especially if the novel has engaged them, will ever notice.

It’s not, however, about what readers will see, but what they might see. And if it’s not there, they can’t see it.

In my book, that’s not a bad philosophy.

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