Why I Rewrote an Already Published Book...
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If life is a journey, my life as an author has been a meandering one full of wrong exits, unintended pit-stops, and wrong turns. I should have bought a map.
Progeny was my debut effort as a novelist. When I first released it in December 2010 as an indie author, I believed I had created a wonderful tale worthy of sharing with the world. To this day, that belief holds true. However, my ability to weave a story far outpaced my skill as a writer. I might have told a good story, but I had not written a good book.
Close to a year after I published, a series of events opened my eyes to many of my shortcomings as a writer and helped spur me to improve.
In November of 2011, I had a wonderful opportunity presented to me. Someone in the traditional publishing industry wanted to read Progeny. Someone who could make things happen for this book. Naturally, I was quite excited and off the manuscript went.
All through the holiday season, I anxiously awaited a reply. And in mid-December, I received one: a polite ‘No, thank you.’
The individual and two of his readers had read the book and had a list of concerns. While they liked much of what was there, the criticisms offered were more than legitimate. They were spot on. Things about story structure. Things about character arcs. Things about trying to jam too much into one book.
Criticism, even when it is honest and good, stings. However, I did not get angry. I trusted what they had to say. They know the business. They know what sells. And Progeny, as it was in that form, would not advance beyond the group of loyal readers I had garnered.
But I wanted more than that.
I chose to treat the rejection as another opportunity. Few writers get such great feedback from experts this early in their career. So, I thanked the person for the constructive criticism and I shared that I was planning to do a true re-evaluation and rewrite of Progeny. Not just a touch-up, but a true rip-it-apart-into-tiny-pieces-and-put-it-back-together rewrite. I would axe chunks that did not work and write new ones that did. I would fix what I needed to fix.
I sent off the email without expecting to hear a response, so I was quite surprised when I received one. The individual sent me all of the notes taken on the book and asked to read the rewrite once done, cautioning me that this was not something typically done in the industry. Gracious, I thanked them and got to work.
Which brings me to now.
Massive changes have been made to the book. While the guts of the plot remain the same, much of the book is very, very different. Readers of the original will certainly notice the changes—some might be jarring at first—but I promise this: I have not changed what so many of you have told me you loved. In fact, I have added a bit more of that while extracting what bogged down the story.
The original 40 chapters, 308k words is now 72 chapters, but at 285k words. Chapters are shorter, crisper chunks. I ended cutting about 45-50k of fluff, but added about 25k of new scenes to allow better character development. I do not miss what is gone and love what is there now. There are even five new chapters sprinkled throughout the tale.
The pacing is infinitely better. No more action scenes or conversations interrupted by three pages of background history. Story structure—something that I, as a novice, never considered—was a major focus of my rewrite. Dialogue is quicker and snappier where appropriate, but slower and deliberate when it needs to be.
Why am I sharing this with you?
Well, I want this letter to be a ‘thank you’ to the readers who have been on this journey with me from the beginning, and I want to promise you that the new version of Progeny is every bit the book you enjoyed the first go around, and more. To new readers…well, consider this a nice “behind the curtains” look at an indie author’s journey as he tries to make a name for himself.
While I am having the book professionally edited before I resubmit, I wanted the new edition—in its current state—available to the public now. Too much has changed for me to leave the old out there. A few trusted readers (some of them are Green Dragon folk!) have re-read it this edition for me, proofing as they went. I feel comfortable the typos and dropped words (my bane) are at a minimum. I am ready to turn the page on the old edition.
Anyone who has already read Progeny and would like a new ebook copy, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your email address as well as the answer to this question: What is Nundle’s last name? If you are right, I will send you a new copy (let me know if you prefer Kindle or Nook).
I have received quite a few inquiries about the state of the second book in the series, so let me give you a short update there. I am currently re-editing all of the short stories to line up with the changes in the book, and then I move into editing book two’s manuscript. It has been complete for six months, but I need to apply what I have recently learned to it.
One last note before I go.
As I was editing the re-write, I happened to glance back at the acknowledgments I wrote in the original edition. When I read the last few lines, I chuckled aloud, amused by the prophetic nature of my words.
“Thank you to anyone reading this book. I hope you enjoy reading the story as much as I did writing it. Let us see where our travels go.”
I am still traveling. Thanks for coming with me.
Good days ahead.
PS - Yes, this is a repost of my blog at GoodReads, but as many of the Green Dragon community was so helpful to me early on, I wanted to give you a heads up and a special thanks.
Criticism, even when it is honest and good, stings.
Very true. One of the things I struggled to learn during my doctorate was how to take constructive criticism in the spirit it's meant, and not as an attempt to undermine my sense of self-worth.
I did buy your original book and read it but I can't remember the answer to your question. But that's okay - I just want to wish you well, and I admire your gumption to work at your creation. I'll catch your book later.
I bought Progeny last year from you personally at Origins in Columbus and I have to say that it was the first book I read after I got home. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and would love to read the re-write. As soon as I have a moment to look up the answer, you'll be hearing fom me.
What a wonderful opportunity you've been given, to both improve your craft and possibly expand your professional connections. Use it well, and good luck to you. Thanks for keeping us updated, and for the generous offer.
I know the answer! I've already read the rewrite and it is a good one. I fully intend to buy the physical book when it is republished. :) I want it on my shelves.
I've been following all the comments about your book here in the Green Dragon, and am looking forward to reading it eventually! Good luck with it!
Looking forward to read the updated version.
Progeny is the most expensive pocket I have ever bought (partly due to shiping cost to Norway), but it was more than worth it. I will probably do as MrsLee and buy the physical book at a later time (probably as I order the second book).
Got a note back from the editor today. She finished the book in less than a week. Said she couldn't put it down and is starting on the critique now. She had originally given me a six week time frame (50k words/week), but it looks like that's not going to be necessary. :)
Any Green Dragon member who wants a Kindle/Nook edition, send me a message by February 22, and I'll send you a copy.
ONLY for GD folk, please. Preview available here: http://www.rtkaelin.com/Prologue.html
That sounds interesting - I (sadly) don't have any eBook abilities, or I would ask if the offer was good for GD members who weren't involved with your earlier version, but I'll have to wait for the dead-tree version anyway.
Please update the thread about publication info when it becomes available - I bet there will be a lot of interest.
I wish you the best, and your site is on my favorites list now!
I downloaded "Nook" for free for PC on http://www.barnesandnoble.com/u/nook-for-pc/379002322/ (thought I give it a try)
I did not find a similar option with the "kindle" (they got for mobile phones but I could't find anything for PC)
Still, I would like to buy a "deadwood" version as well for my collection.
For those of you looking for a paper copy of the new edition... well, it's not available yet. I'm waiting on the feedback from the editor before I put the effort into doing the layout for the print again. For now, the paper edition is the old version... I'm contemplating just taking it down for the time being. But as 95% of sales are ebooks, I'm not sure if I will.
Besides, here's to hoping with the rewrite, I'll have to take it all down as a trad-pub will pick it up. :)
I just received my gift (thank you R.T. Kaelin), but there seems to be some issue due to my placement on earth.
As I redeemed my gift I got to a page that said: "We have exchanged your gift for a $4.99 B&N eGift card" and continues "The NOOK book (eBook) you have been gifted is not available in your location."
I think I'll send them an e-mail to try to fix this so I get the book and not the eGift card.
Well, that's certainly crummy. I surprised it's restricted in Canada like that...
PS - Got the notes back from the editor (weeks ahead of schedule, she liked the book a lot). I'm now making adjustments accordingly.
That's awesome, R.T.! I definitely think the story is worth being published widely/traditionally.
Alright, GD. Send me some positive vibes.
I'm sending the manuscript back to the agent tonight. I'm waiting on few more line edits from one of our very own (thanks, RowanTribe), and then... off it goes.
After the editor's feedback in early February, I made more changes. And cut more words. Another 20k, in fact. I've cut more than 22% from the original now.
For those of you who read the original...you will NOT recognize Jhaell. Not at all. In fact, you might even sympathize a little with the guy...
As proof: http://rtkaelin.com/Prologue.html
Infinite thanks to MrsLee who proofed both the version I sent to the editor, and then the one I am sending to the agent.
Wish me luck.
PS - The updated version is making its way through Amazon's digital publishing process. It will be available shortly.
PPS - Thanks to another GD'er (whom I can't figure out which user name goes with the real name now, but thanks Nora!) for proofing the revised two bundles of short stories. They too are being published for Kindle now. I'll be able to make them available for free for five days once they're through.
I had the pleasure of re-reading the earlier rewrite. Loved the story - and I hope it takes off!
I'll second Dr Neutron -- and look forward to seeing antiquarian booksellers asking inflated prices for
"Progeny (R.T. Kaelin) -- the early, privately-published version. Pb, clean copy ($$$$$$$$$$$$)"
23 - hfglen...
I still have 35 paperback copies of the original edition sitting in boxes. They will never, ever see the light of day. Too much has changed in content and style. I'm slightly embarassed of that version, to be honest. Story was good, the writing...was...um...well...
Live and learn, right?
Doh. I should have looked at the file names a little closer...
Merchant (or the 'Nundle Bundle') will be available for free tomorrow-Tuesday for the Kindle:
"Merchant contains the first three stories of The Terrene Chronicles and follow Nundle Babblebrook, a hapless merchant who has inherited his great-uncle’s company only to prove he is a terrible businessman. A chance encounter with a trader from the Commonwealth of Cartu and the result of their negotiations will change Nundle’s life forever. Follow one of the fans' favorite characters from Progeny on his journey from a simple merchant to something much more."
(proofed by Morphidae!)
As the Merchant giveaway was such a success (ended up hitting #31 on free Kindle for epic fantasy), I decided to do the same for Family, #2 in the Terrene Chronicles.
So, if you have a Kindle... hey! Free stories!
PS - For Progeny readers, these three stories follow the story of Thaddeus and Marie's meeting years before the book and have a few hints as to the events of book 2.
Ryann, when I tried to get the new version of the Merchant, Amazon didn't give it to me because they said I had "already purchased it." Do you know any way around this?
Yup. You have to go into managing your account (via the website) and you can remove a book from your library. Then get the new one.
Sort of a pain. Not sure why they can't just give you a 'hey, this was updated, do you want the new version?' option.
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