Editing & Rewriting

How to (Potentially) Notify Customers of Book Changes UPDATED

You’ve edited your book and reuploaded it. Maybe there were a lot of typos, maybe you had some bad reviews, maybe it just needed a touch up. No matter the reason, the new version is sitting on Amazon’s servers, all shiny and new, and you wish you could let the people who’ve bought it know. After all, if they bought the old version and haven’t read it yet, when they finally get to it and leave their review, their criticisms may not even apply. Or it could be a nice “hey remember you downloaded me? You might want to read me now,” reminder to people who got your book in a flurry of free day promotions.

If Amazon judges the changes to be significant enough they may actually notify all your customers for you. But first you have to send them an email and let them know you want it done.

I used the “Contact Us” link at the bottom of my KDP dashboard page, and choose the “topic” of “Making Corrections”. Is this necessary?  I have no idea. Then I wrote something like this:

Please fill in the following information:
ASIN or name of book: Shades of Gray / B002RHP5D6

I recently uploaded a second edition of Shades of Gray. Changes include rewriting multiple scenes, correcting information, changing conversations, for instance to better explain character’s motives, to explain how Katelina was able to recover after the fight at Claudius’ etc., and removing roughly 2,000 words (after all the additions). I would appreciate if you could make the new version available to past customers if possible.

Thanks

As I mentioned, the changes must be considered “significant” for them to notify customers, so you want to list them out. Obviously you don’t want to  lie just to make it seem like a huge change so that people will get the notice, but you do want it to seem like they should be notified.

In a day or so you’ll get a reply like this:

Hello,

We received your request to provide updated content to customers who purchased your book. Thanks for providing specific details about the changes made. We’ll perform a review of the changes to determine the most appropriate way to describe the updates to your customers. This review will complete within four weeks, and the possible results of our review are listed below.

1. If the changes made to your content are considered critical, we’ll send an email to all customers who own the book to notify them of the update and improvements made. These customers will be able to choose to opt in to receive the update through the Manage Your Kindle page on Amazon.com. www.amazon.com/gp/digital/fiona/manage

2. If the changes made to your content are considered minor, we won’t be able to notify all customers by email, but we will activate their ability to update the content through the Manage Your Kindle page on Amazon.com.

3. If the changes made to your content have caused unexpected critical issues with the book content, we’ll temporarily remove your book from sale. We’ll notify you of any issues found so you can fix them. Once the improvements are made, just let us know and we’ll then email customers as in case 1.

I hope this helps. Thanks for using Amazon KDP.

And then you wait.  I honestly don’t know how significant your changes need to be for an email notice; I’ve never received one for any of the books on my kindle, however, I do know what it looks like to customers when there is simply an update available (aka the minor changes)

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Have you ever requested that Amazon notify your customers of a new edition? What were the results? Do you know of a way to do this on Barnes and Noble or other retailers? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

UPDATE:

Thanks to a one-click buy mishap a year or two ago, I actually own a copy of my own book, and so since posting this I got the “Updated content” letter from Amazon.

Hello Joleene Naylor,

An updated version of your past Kindle purchase of Shades of Gray (Amaranthine) by Joleene Naylor is now available.

The updated version contains the following changes:

  • Significant editorial changes have been made.

You can receive the improved versions of all your books by opting in to receive book updates automatically. You can do this by going to Manage Your Kindle and clicking on the Manage Your Devices section. You will find the option labeled Automatic Book Update.

Alternatively, you can get the updated version of this book by going to Manage Your Kindle. Find the book in your Kindle Library, click on the “Update Available” link next to the book’s title, and then follow the update prompts. All your devices that have the eBook currently downloaded will be updated automatically the next time they connect to wireless.

We thank you for your business with Amazon.
Sincerely,
Customer Service Department
Amazon.com

 

Now we know.

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Categories: Amazon store, Digital & ePublishing, Editing & Rewriting | Tags: , , ,

The Components For Successful Sequels

So much more common these days!

It’s no understatement to say that Western art and culture is obsessed with sequels these days. Every blockbuster must have at least one or two continuations of their stories, artists of all stripes are naming their albums with the suffix “2.0” or “Part III”, and even literature’s greats are producing series of at least three or more books with more energy than in previous years.

Plenty of cynics would say that this sequel mania is fueled by a drive for profits, and they wouldn’t be wrong, though there are still several writers, artists, and filmmakers out there that produce sequels not out of greed, but out of a love for what they do and whom they share it with. Unfortunately, those same cynics who doubt the existence of these artists, writers and filmmakers also note that there aren’t enough good sequels out there, and sadly there’s a lot of truth in that.

Since I am about to embark on writing Video Rage, the sequel to my science fiction novel Reborn City, I thought I’d share some of my tips for writing sequels. These tips, though not essential when writing a sequel (or writing any work, for that matter), have been taken from some of the better sequels I’ve seen out there and are categorized into four distinct groups: barest essentials, setting and history, characters, and most important. The right combination of any of these components could help elevate a story from good to great, especially with a sequel.

Barest essentials. If one is to do a sequel, one has to think hard about these components when creating the story. Plenty of sequels have been rocked or bombed depending on their creator’s use of these factors.

1. Is the sequel connected or unconnected to the previous book? This may not seem like a big question, but it actually is. Plenty of series depend on an overarching tale that connects all the books together, and deciding whether or not a sequel connects to the previous book is important to think about. Most writers do answer this question before they even start the first book, but it is still important to think about before you start your sequel.

2. Don’t recycle old material. When we pay for a book on Amazon or a ticket to the latest blockbuster, we hope that it’s worth it, that there’s something new in the story and in the characters, that we won’t be bored in the first five minutes. Of course, we get really annoyed when what we’ve paid for is like Taken 2 or A Good Day To Die Hard, which basically took all that rocked from the previous film or films but not much else. As it turns out, people like something more than what worked in the first film. Yes, it seems like a good idea to use what worked for the last installment for the newest, but in reality there’s much more that is needed to make the story much better, and knowing that is a great start in writing your sequel and utilizing what worked in the last installment correctly, rather than just reusing it.

3. Avoid retcons. If you are unfamiliar with this term, a retroactive continuity, or retcon for short, is the alteration of a previously established fact or facts in the continuity of a fictional work (definition courtesy of Wikipedia). Retcons are popular in long-running comic book or TV shows to help new writers continue the story they want to or to accommodate new information. However fans are easily annoyed by retcons and often are able to point them out upon running across them. They will especially cry foul if they feel the retcon was done because of laziness or forgetfulness. For example, in the vampire novels by Charlaine Harris, one character was introduced as a certain shape-shifter, but in the next book that shape-shifter’s type was changed. Many fans wrote letters pointing this out, causing Mrs. Harris some embarrassment.

So in the interest of avoiding embarrassment, retcons are best avoided if possible.

Setting and history. I wrote in a previous article some ways to set up a great world, especially in science fiction and fantasy. For sequels, taking certain approaches to the world you’ve already built up can make the setting seem more real to readers and help them to fall in love even more with the established world.

4. Expand on the world. So in Book 1 you showed us a fantastical world full of magic and wonder. What do you do? Why not show more of it, in terms of places, history and culture? For example, in the Earth’s Children’s series first book, Clan of the Cave Bear, we see the world strictly through the eyes of a small tribe of Neanderthals and the little Cro-Magnon girl who grows up with them and in their culture. In the second book, The Valley of Horses, author Jean Auel expands on the peoples in Stone Age Europe, including different tribes of Cro-Magnon tribes across the continent and their way of life. This gives the readers more of a look into the fictional world of the characters and makes them want to learn more, at the same time causing them to invest more in the story.

5. Go darker. The first Harry Potter book introduced us to a fantastical world full of mystery and wonder and danger. Readers who read the first book tended to see the Wizarding world as somewhat idyllic, full of literal and metaphorical charm and made them want to go there. However in the second book, Chamber of Secrets, we discover that there’s a dark side to the magical world Harry inhabits, particularly in terms of the importance placed in blood purity and how it is wrapped up in Hogwarts’s history.

Showing the dark side of your world, if you haven’t delved too deeply into that yet, can give the readers a sense that this world could exist. Remember, the readers have to be able to identify with the setting, to believe it could exist. And if the darker parts of a setting can make a world seem all the more real to the reader, why not go there?

6. Shake things up with something new. At some point in her Southern Vampire series, Charlaine Harris added the fairy species, supposedly, because she was bored and wanted to shake things up. Similarly, shaking things up can be a great boon to your sequel. By adding something that has never been seen before in the universe of the story, you add all sorts of potential plot elements and ways to change up the story. And the ways to shake up the story are vast and endless: perhaps you could reveal that a character is related to another character in an unexpected way. Or maybe a new technology is available now that changes the entire world of the characters. Perhaps there’s even a new location whose visit will have new implications for the way your characters live their life.

Like I said, anything’s possible if you wish to shake things up a bit.

Characters. Ultimately, any story relies on its characters and how those characters react to the circumstances around them. In a sequel there are chances to expose characters to new circumstances, not just in terms of the world they live in, but also in terms of the people around them.

7. Introduce or retire a new main/supporting character. We are constantly meeting new people and losing old friendships in life. Why not do the same to our characters? Introducing a new character is a great way to explore the changing dynamics of the relationships between the characters, and if you want to get rid of a character or find reason to put them away for a while, a sequel is a great place to do so. In fact, if you retire a character for one book, you can bring them back in spectacular fashion for another book. Either way, it’s a chance to try something new by writing a story with a new character or without a familiar character.

8. Shift the focus onto another character. In the sequel to the 1991 Addams Family movie, Addams Family Values, the movie focused on Uncle Fester. Just one problem: so did the first film, and a sub-story about Wednesday’s first love couldn’t resurrect AFV from the Fester-centric plot that critics ultimately had the biggest issue with.

If you have a story that focuses on a tightly-knit group of characters and no one character is considered the main character or the most important character, it helps to shift the focus from the growth and development of one character to another. After all, no one member of an ensemble cast is more important than the other (or should be, anyway). So juggle the focus every now and then. Every character has a story behind them, and seeing where that story takes them can make for a great story.

9. Change the nature of a relationship. When James Marsters first played the character Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 1997, Spike was a formidable villain throughout most of the season. However in subsequent seasons Spike’s role, becoming a reluctant ally over time and then an essential part of the main cast. Eventually Spike became attracted to Buffy, and later a hero and her lover.

Changing one character’s relationship to another and vice versa can be an excellent way to explore new territory. If you could think of two characters that might warrant having their relationship changed, go ahead and try it. You never know what might arise from such a story.

10. Conflict in a group is always interesting. This is basically the equivalent to Component #5. In the first book, the group usually learns to gel together and work with each other. What would happen if there was friction with the group in the second book? What if two characters were a couple but their friend was attracted to one of them? Or perhaps one of the characters was forced to spy on the group for the enemy, and nobody knew who that character doing the spying was. Sowing the seeds of conflict between two characters, while painful to read and possibly more painful to write (or very fun, depending on what sort of person you are), keeps readers interested and wondering how it will be resolved. I’m planning on trying it in my own sequel. Should be a fun experiment.

The Most Important Of All. There’s only one component in this category, but it’s probably the one you should keep in mind whether or not you decide to use any of the other components.

11. What would you like to see or read in a sequel? One of the best parts of self-publishing is that the author decides what they want to write and can put it out there, rather than having to put out what the publisher feels will sell. It’s the same with sequels. What would you like to see in the sequel you want to write?  New enemies? A torrid love affair? Your favorite character moving from the big city to a small town in Idaho? A new species of magical creature? It’s all up to you, and you can do whatever you want.

It’ll probably be better than whatever they’re cooking up in Hollywood right about now.

Categories: Characters & Viewpoints, Editing & Rewriting, General Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Those Pesky Commas

When and where do you put them?

The answer, of course, is it all depends. However, never forget the old adage:  When in doubt, leave out.

But there are some hard and fast rules, you need to keep in mind. One is the use of connecting conjunctions, such as and, but, or, nor, for and yet, with independent and dependent clauses.

Independent clauses stand alone and include subjects and verbs. We are visiting Washington. We also plan a side trip to Williamsburg. If put together, they need a comma. We are visiting Washington, and we also plan a side trip to Williamsburg.

Though, a comma is not required if the independent clauses are short and joined by one of the conjunctions. I’ll go this way and you go that way.

However, when an independent clause is joined with a dependent clause, such as a clause with an understood subject (we as in this sentence), no comma is necessary. We are visiting Washington and plan to see the White House.

Non-essential clauses (not essential to the meaning of the sentence according to the author’s intent) are set off by commas. Example: Reporters, who do not read the stylebook, should not criticize their editors.

Long introductory clauses or phrases, need commas. (Remember a phrase is a group of words without a subject or verb.) Above the sidewalk and around the bend, there sits a thicket of trees.

Introductory words – yes and no – require commas. Yes, I will be there. In addition, use commas after a direct address like Mother, I …

Commas in a simple series are disputed. Some grammar books suggest a comma before the last conjunction. My Associated Press Stylebook requires none. The flag is red, white and blue.

A comma is needed after an introductory direct quote. Wallace said, “She spent …” But a direct quote of more than one sentence, a colon is required. And, place a comma after dialogue tags. “Say,” she added, “wouldn’t you like to have your picture taken?” Note: Commas always go inside quotation marks, according to my stylebook.

Place commas after an individual’s age. Maude Findlay, 48, … Use commas also after hometowns and states. Omaha, Nebraska. AP guidelines use abbreviations for states in journalist writing and require a comma after them. Example:  Maude Findlay, 48, Omaha, Neb., arrived today.

Well, one more thing. Two adjectives before a noun of equal weight require a comma. Thoughtful, precise person … Otherwise, hyphen the adjectives before the noun, such as an easy-remembered rule, except these really are not easily remembered. My suggestion is have several grammar books at your workplace and always have someone versed in grammar proofread your manuscript.

Also, don’t forget to place commas in numbers. When you make your first 200,000 sales, thank the Lord for your success and as always God bless.

Categories: Editing & Rewriting, General Writing, Grammar | Tags: , , ,

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