Saturday, 29 April 2017

Stuffing things up

Well, this is a pretty embarrassing blog article to be writing, but it's an important public service announcement. I stuffed up.

Here's the executive summary of how it affects people who want to read Shadow Hunt (vol 3 in The Leeth Dossier): please wait an extra day before you start reading it. If you pre-ordered it, please wait for an email from Amazon telling you that a new version is available.

Here's why….

I made Shadow Hunt available for pre-order on Amazon (April 30th, 2017), uploading the draft I had a month earlier (March 26th), while I was working through my editor's 2nd and final critique. (Or 3rd, or 4th, if you include the two earlier book splits!) I thought five weeks would give me a comfortable period — comfortable enough to even allow me to attend the sci-fi/fantasy convention SwanCon, in Perth, and spend a couple of days extra seeing the sights.

Which would have been all well and good if I hadn't made a couple of other errors. The first was not checking the details of when I needed to upload the final version of the book: I assumed the day before. In hindsight this was remarkably stupid, because naturally Amazon needs extra time to check the book carefully before launch. (In fact, they need 72 hours.) My second big mistake was a really stupid failure of basic arithmetic: 30 minus 3 = 27, not 28, right? Yeah, well my brain did the sum this way instead "Let's see: 30, 29, 28: that's three days. So, April 28 is the deadline."

Don't ask. Even I don't see how I could have made that error. Partly it was wishful thinking that the time counted from the end of April 30th, not the start of the day! D'oh!

Maybe by this time I was getting tired, too, because my editing of vol 3 was taking longer than I had expected. Anyway, I completed all my edits and did my 1st polish of the new parts, and then the 2nd polish (a bit rushed, I admit), and sat down one hour before the deadline (I thought) to convert the book to Amazon's format and upload it. I finished that with ten minutes to spare (again: I thought) and then tried to upload. Bzzt: "locked for pre-order release checks."

Uh oh.

It was only then that I realised my stuff-up. I contacted Amazon, but there was nothing they could do: my choices were either to cancel the pre-order at the last minute (and thus prove I couldn't be trusted with the ability to manage a pre-order for a period of 12 months), or upload the revised version with the usual detailed description of changes, and request Amazon to push out an offer to all existing purchasers that a new version is available.

So I chose that 2nd option. This means that the draft copy will only be there for a short period after the pre-order date (a day, I hope), and that people who pre-ordered will soon get the updated version.

The draft version that ‘escaped' can be distinguished from the final version in many ways:

  • At the end of the table of contents, the release version is noted as "pre-4" — not "1".
  • The Prologue is inside Part I — instead of coming just before it.
  • The book is 141,854 words long — not 149,450. (Yes, this is despite cutting about 10k words, too.)
  • The draft version has 79 chapters (+epilogue) — not 82 (+epilogue).
  • Something like 2,000 other changes, big and small. I won't enumerate them here, but one small example in the prologue is the changing of the sentence that begins "Yet thanks to it, no one would expect to find human remains" to "Yet thanks to it, with no bodies to be found".
  • I'm not going to mention any of the bigger changes, because they'd be spoilers, but for the 30 days or so following my upload of my late draft version to Amazon, I think I averaged about 9-10 hours per day working on improving the book. The changes were based on Dave's critique and some extra Q&A with him, an early beta read by a friend as those changes neared completion (thanks, Jon!), and feedback from two beta readers (Sandra, AndyK) to try to resolve a key point. So parts of the plot are strengthened, there are fewer errors and questionable parts (it all makes more sense), and is just generally vastly improved, thanks to all the feedback.

    At this point I should also add that on one point, Dave and I couldn't agree (but neither of us were sure any more who was right). I also couldn't reach consensus by the beta readers. I vacillated for a while, but in the end, trusted my gut. So don't blame Dave if there's some thing (or things) about the book which you feel could have been improved: you've no doubt found a place where I didn't follow his advice!

    1 comment:

    Barb said...

    This is a good post. Things happen and I like the matter of fact way you state things and then move on to solutions.