Ebooks and print-on-demand paper books are changing the reading world in many obvious ways. Indie author Joe Konrath likes to say “an ebook is forever” because, unlike in the past, a book need never go out of print. Many authors are taking their previously out of print books and resurrecting them as indie publications. Some, like two time Books and Pals Readers’ Choice Award winner Donna Fasano, tweak these books first, making minor modifications to things like pop culture references that would seem dated. Other authors change titles or covers, searching for the combination that does best drawing in their target readers.
When I read and reviewed Pete Barber’s book Allah’s Revenge a year and a half ago, I thought it was a darn good read, giving it five stars (look for a reprise of that review next week). Most other reviewers gave it high marks. In this post long-time Pal Pete explains how, in the new book world, a book can always be made better.
Trust your reader.
I spent the past two months rewriting and re-imagining my debut novel, first released August 2012: new cover, new title (NanoStrike), and a new 8,000-word haircut. With such a big commitment of time and dollars, you might assume that the story sucked! But more than twenty strangers were kind enough to post Amazon reviews of the work, and they were overwhelmingly positive.
So the decision to re-launch wasn’t a commentary on the original or a criticism of the excellent professional editor and graphic artist who helped me construct and publish the first time around. Quite simply, the original novel, Allah’s Revenge, was the best I could produce at that time.
A lot has happened since 2012, I’ve read over four-hundred Amazon samples to find the fifty+ novels I’ve reviewed for BigAl. I’ve spent thousands of hours writing fiction, and completed three novels. In the process, I’ve learned that Allah’s Revenge is no longer the best I can do. I’m sure that’s true for every author. This is a journey, and we learn, and I hope, improve en route. I’m not suggesting that a backlist should be re-vamped every couple years. But this was my debut story. My next novel has been picked up by Red Adept Publishing, and I want all my work to reflect, at a minimum, the standard they expect of me,
and more importantly the standard I now expect of myself.
So what changed?
Better mechanics—I tightened the prose. This accounted for an astonishing 5,000 word reduction. Well it astonished me, anyway--same story but 6% fewer words!
The other changes--the major changes--stemmed from learning to trust my reader more. Let me explain:
I cut two full chapters associated with one of my minor characters, Lana. Good chapters, too, compelling, tension-filled chapters that engendered concern and sympathy for a young girl. Her fate is important to the plot, but with hindsight, I realized the reader only needed a few lines of narrative guidance to insinuate and imagine what had happened to Lana. In the original, I laid it out in detail. I didn’t trust the reader to get the connections. I should have. Bub-bye to 3,500 words.
The new title, NanoStrike, and a more dynamic cover, position the story firmly in the techno-thriller genre. I avoided this in 2012 because I felt there was far more to the tale than technology: multi-faceted characters, exotic locations, religion, love and loss and vengeance. But again, my assumption that a techno-thriller reader wouldn’t be interested in a broader canvas underestimated the person turning the pages. I shouldn’t have.
The plot still reflects my fascination with nanotechnology’s ability to grow products from their atoms, mimicking Mother Nature. Of course, any technology can be turned to good or to evil, which is the crux of the story.
An old adage is to write what you know. I spent a number of years as the only gentile in upper management, working for an Israeli software company. My experiences in the Middle East added depth and color to the locations and the players. In particular, a main character’s epiphany whilst on his pilgrimage to Mecca (The Hajj) drives the story arc. As a non-Muslim, I had to rely on research to understand The Hajj, I became absorbed (my wife says obsessed) with the transformative power that spiritual experience must have on a Muslim as he or she struggles through the intricate rites and becomes a haji, writing that section was also transformative for me.
If you decide to check out NanoStrike, I hope you’ll agree that the original reviewers were correct in their positive assessment of the tale, but either way I’ll trust you to use your own judgment because the novel is now the best I can make it.