Tuesday, August 20, 2013

If it doesn't fit, get a hammer

In today’s world of author branding and one liner sales pitches, I ran across a dilemma when I decided to make a Kindle version of an out of print book.  My problem wasn't the mechanics of getting a Kindle version because I have a cousin who works for a publishing company and knows all about getting books into electronic form.  She's also a wonderful artist.  Check.  She can even do the cover!

The difficulty is with branding.  All my recent books fit into a nice little package:  Nancy Oswald: "Writer of historical fiction for the young and young at heart…  All my recent books and the ones I am intending to write, for the time being anyway, fit into this genre.  So I’ve been struggling to decide what to do with a baseball story that involves a math-challenged base-ball-loving fifth grader and his science-geek sister who disrupts the harmony of the family by bringing home an insect collection.

The original publication date of this book was 1985, but I’d say the story setting is more of the late 70’s.  That’s pretty much historical to some folks, but to others it doesn’t seem that long ago.  Not that things haven’t changed.  My husband and I purchased our first computer with the royalties from this book. And now, several computers later, I get the jitters when I can’t check my email daily.  

But the big question is can I legitimately call this a work of historical fiction?
I think not.  Neither is it contemporary.  When I re-read it, the absence of cell phones, ipods, laptops and other modern paraphernalia dates the content.  It was set in small town Anyplace…in this case Canada where the book was first published by Scholastic.

So besides the “branding” issue, getting this book Kindle-ready has offered some other challenges and decisions. When I started on this project I thought, the book’s done, it’s in a publishable form, I own the rights, and without much more work it can be reissued on Kindle...

Wrong, wrong, wrong. 

First I needed a digital copy.  I had one, I was sure, because years ago I paid someone to retype it and get it on a disk. When I found that copy in a file on my computer, it came up as gibberish.  The good news is, I had started a revision of this book in 2004, and that copy was saved and  was only half gibberish—I could delete the sections that came up as numbers and symbols and go forward.

I re-formatted, deleted the extraneous data, and started in.  As I perused the first page my first thought was, “I don’t remember writing this.”   The revisions I’d started in on at some unknown time introduced the main character in an entirely different way.  

Yikes.  Unless I wanted to go back and re-type the original version myself or have an old copy scanned, it wasn’t going to be as simple as a read-through + cover art = Kindle version.

One of the things I realized quickly is that I am not the same writer today as I was all those years ago.  My style has changed, my characters have more depth, and of course there’s the genre problem.

What started out as a few simple changes became a battle with myself.  How much to leave, how much to change, what to do about the time and setting. Leave it?  Modernize the whole thing? Scrap it?  And that nasty little thread that I started at the beginning during the partial rewrite.  What should I do with it?

La la la.

In the end I decided to keep it—both the new thread and the original 70’s venue. This meant re-arranging and adding chapters, and A LOT of blending. Not the simple task I set out to accomplish. The book ended up with a complete face-lift.  And after I did all that, I thought why not do a POD issue while I was at it?  

Well, why not?

Stay tuned for adventures with Create Space…