Revisions for Out of Print Books

I have the pleasure of featuring author and writing instructor Kelly McClymer today, and her topic is tweaking books for digital publishing. This is something many of us authors are thinking of doing and should do.

Revisions for Out of Print Books
By Kelly McClymer

I've been a writing instructor for over a decade now. One quote I offer students early on is "Writing is revising." This is an oft-repeated quote and I cannot find an original attribution for it. Nevertheless, I offer it because I believe it.

However, it used to be that there was an end to that revision. It was called publication. Sure, some famous authors like Stephen King could go back and release an uncut version of The Stand, after he had amassed a lot of clout. But the typical authors received their box of printed books with awe and joy for two reasons: cradling the finished book; and knowing they could not "fix just one more sentence."

E-publishing changed all that, as I discovered when I began to re-release my out-of-print historical romance series in e-book form. The books had to be scanned, edited, proofed, and formatted. And, oh, by the way, while I was fixing the scan errors, why didn't I just tweak a word or two here that sounded off to me. And hadn't a reviewer complained about this scene? Didn't I think she was right? Long story short: I've been working on these five backlist books for a year. Only two are out, although three more are shortly to follow and all five will be available by the end of May.

What took me so long? In short: Book Two of the five in the series. Readers and reviewers had pointed out that my hero was, well, wimpy.

I begged to differ, but when I read the book, I saw their point. As this was back when published meant "done." I had just suffered a bad case of "wish I had."

I happily tweaked the books that didn't need too much tweaking. The stories I loved, Miranda and her duke in The Fairy Tale Bride; Hero and Arthur in The Unintended Bride; Romeo and Juliet (yes, really) in The Infamous Bride; and especially my favorite, Helena and Rand in The Next-Best Bride. But when it came to Valentine and Emily, I did not know how to approach Valentine.

Then my daughter got engaged and I started a 50 day promotion to help pay for wedding costs. It became important not to have The Fairy Tale Bride up there all alone, looking forlorn. So I finally tackled Valentine and his wimpiness.

To be clear, he isn't wimpy. He's perfectly happy to put his life on the line for his Lady Emily. He just knows he can't provide a luxurious life for her, and that's a problem because he's seen what living hand-to-mouth has done to his mother.

How to show that, though, when I had an opening like this:

Emily woke as the carriage slowed. "Must we stop?"

Valentine shook away the doubts that had assailed him in the gloom of their long night's run for the border. "The horses cannot go on much farther unless they are fed and watered‚ and I cannot let you starve."

She pressed her lips together a moment, then flashed him a brave smile. "I wish it were done."

"It will be soon enough." He kept his voice firm as he asked, for the hundredth time, "Are you certain of this, Emily? I am willing to wait until your father sees reason."


Don't you just want to shake that wimpy ditherer? Right. Not a good way to start. However, it is also not a great idea to shovel a bunch of back story into the midst of an elopement. Explanation slows the story. The end.

What to do? I dithered for a year (yes, this is probably why I didn't notice that it was unwise to open with a hero in mid-dither). At last, I had an epiphany: change the point of view from Valentine to Emily. After all, she knows what he is worried about, and it is part of why she loves him -- he puts her welfare above his own. Gratifying, except when it keeps a couple apart, right?

So I made a relatively simple change in the opening (and in many other spots in the book, to be fair), and suddenly the hero's spine that I always saw became clearer on the page.

Can you see it better, through Emily's perspective?


He sat forward and looked into her eyes, as if he would look through to her very soul. "Are you certain you can bear the gossip you will suffer when society hears of our elopement?"

Silly man. How could he not see the truth in her eyes. She touched his cheek. "It will be for the briefest of times, as you well know. And once we have settled and begun our family, we shall become yesterday's news and quite too boring to gossip about."


If it still seems unclear to readers, though, I can always go back and revise. After all, "writing is revising." Right? Oh dear.

Kelly McClymer is hoping that fate is sending her a message by allowing her to release her out-of-print Once Upon a Wedding series in e-book form just in time to earn a little money to pay for her daughter's wedding. Read all 50 reasons she owes her daughter a nice wedding on her website in the "Confessions of a Turtle Mom" series. Not to mention, if her daughter hadn't gotten engaged, Kelly might still be revising "just one more thing."

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children's author and children’s ghostwriter as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move. You can find out more about writing for children and her services at: Karen Cioffi Writing for Children.

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Karen Cioffi said...

Kelly, it's a pleasure to have you here on Writers on the Move today. And, revising books for digital use is a great topic.

Vivian Zabel said...

Oh, how true. Thanks for sharing with us.

Vivian Zabel

Kelly McClymer said...

Epublishing definitely put a whole new spin on the question of when a book is done, didn't it?

Thanks so much for giving me space to dither, Karen!

J.Q. Rose said...

Writing and re-writing. Yep, that's the truth. I am happy to hear how much you care that readers do not get the wrong impression of your main character. Good for you to dither about it so you can get it right. Best wishes on your e-books releases and congrats to the new bride and groom!

Nancy Famolari said...

I agree, ebooks are great you can keep revising. You don't have to worry that you've missed something important and it will always be that way. I've done the revision for published books. It's a great convenience.

Magdalena Ball said...

Thanks for posting that Kelly. I've been noticing how many back titles are just starting to be revised and re-released and a practical working example is very helpful. It's a great way to re-invogorate the old catalog.

Cheryl said...

What a great post, ladies. I have some clients who have released past titles in e-Book format. I think it's wonderful.

Best of luck,


Kate Dolan said...

I'm glad to read someone else's account of the "I know something's wrong but have no idea what to do about it" syndrome. And yes, now books are never "finished!" It's inspiring to read how you plunged in and got the job done.

Dallas said...

I loved this post! Kelly thanks so much for sharing with us -- the examples you gave were particularly helpful. And I love your sense of humor -- something I think every writer could use when approaching revision!

All best,

V.R. Leavitt said...

Good luck, Kelly! E-Books are definitely becoming more and more prevalent and are a wonderful way to release new versions of older works.


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