In a post on Facebook, an author asked whether he should take down his novel and rewrite parts of it based on the two negative reviews he received. It got me thinking about revising and when is enough is enough.
When a physical book is printed, it's finished. Whatever mistakes there are (forgotten characters, confusing plot lines, no period after every sentence) rests with the author. Yes, an editor reads it, and works with the author to make the book the best it can be. But they can only do so much, they have deadlines to meet and solicitations to make and the book must be published. Once it hits the printing press for mass distribution, it's out of the author's hands and into the reader's.
Ebooks are different. They can uploaded as many times as needed, and the newest version is the one that gets put on the virtual shelves. This allows the author to continually revise their story; fix spelling mistakes, add chapter titles, replace every period with a heart, whatever needs to be done to the novel.
But is this the best thing to do? I don't think so. I do admit that reuploading is sometimes necessary. It happened to me with Adventure Hunters. I admit, when I uploaded it the first time in January, I was too hasty. I didn't have anyone proofread it or hire any beta readers. A friend of mine downloaded it and later emailed me about all of the mistakes and inconsistencies that were in it. I took it down and went through all of his corrections, cursing myself for missing these. I must have read those passages dozens of times, how could I have missed all these mistakes? I was also unhappy with the cover and decided to redo it.
After fixing the mistakes I debated whether to rewrite some passages. I had some worldbuilding ideas I had thought of after the initial publication, but I held off. I added a few lines mentioning the three main religions of DosShell but I decided to save my ideas for the sequel (yes, there will be a sequel to Adventure Hunters). I did this for two reasons: I thought with more time, I could improve my worldbuilding and add more details to my world, and I would have more material for my sequel, possibly making it better than the first one. Also, I felt doing major rewrites would just end up hurting my novel.
Which brings me to: when is enough is enough? At some point, the next draft of your novel is going to make it worse, not better. There comes a point when the author needs to put down his laptop and let the story stand on its own. There will always be parts of a story we don't like; scenes that could be better or characters that could use strengthening, a hundred other things. But eventually you have to send your baby out into the world and let it face reality. I'm not saying you should never fix a novel after it is uploaded. If you catch misspellings or a person's name changes throughout the novel, or the cover isn't good enough, fix it. Slight cosmetic changes are okay. Rewriting large chunks or restructuring the third act shouldn't be done.
What about rewrites based on negative reviews? Again, I don't think so. If you are fortune enough to have an editor or a couple of proofreaders or beta readers, they will hopefully catch any mistakes before it goes to print (real or virtual). However, you can't please all of the people all of the time. What one reviewer hates may be the favorite thing about your book for another reviewer. If you are consistently getting negative comments about the same thing from multiple reviewers, maybe you should look at the problem. They may be right. But if you don't agree, it's a wash and the decision goes to the writer.
I also don't advocate multiple uploads with major revisions because of people who have already bought your book. If they don't like your novel in the first place, they will most likely not buy it again. If two friends are discussing your book and there are differences because they read different versions, it may make them decide not to read you again. Would you trust an author who seemed like he couldn't make up his mind about what he wanted to put in his book? Even though most revised editions are free to download again if you bought the book once, will you read it again just to discover one line was added? Probably not.
If you feel you need to rewrite major portions of the book, I'd suggest uploading it as a different edition. Maybe market it as the "unabridged version" or "expanded and uncut" or something along those lines. "The definitive author's edition" sounds good. In this case, it lets a reader know that substantial changes were made.
As always, thanks for reading.