Editing Published Books

Coffee and cookies on table with book in the background and the post's title, "Editing Published Books" superimposed on the front.

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

One of my favorite things about self-publishing is the ability to go back into a published book and make changes.

There have been, unfortunately, a few things that I would like to correct in some of my published Penguin books. Naturally, I don’t have the ability to make those because they’re not in my KDP dashboard.

But with my self-published books, I’ve made quite a few changes to the text.

One reason I might go back in is what you’d expect…correcting typos or small formatting issues.

Another is updating my back matter, especially my list of published books. I’ll update the book titles and link each title to a page on my website (this prevents problems later. Linking to Amazon, for instance, will cause the title to be rejected by Apple and other retailers). Sometimes my bio requires a tweak. Sometimes I’ll add a new social media channel, like Instagram, or end my presence on another. All of those things would make me want to update a book’s back matter.

As formatting options for the self-published author improve, I’ll also return to a book to change the book’s style (more on how I do that in this post). Wanting small flourishes like drop-caps or styled chapter headings may make me update a book file.

Sometimes I’ll add links to new things that I’m doing for promo: maybe a link to my Etsy store or to Patreon.  Once I started a newsletter, I quickly added a link to the signup page in backlist books.

As far as updating the file goes, I’ve done my best to keep it simple.  In the past, I tried editing the mobi and epub files themselves.  I used a program called Calibre. It worked, but it was definitely a hassle. A lot of tech-savvy writers use Sigil with good results. For me, I simply updated the original Word file and then converted it to mobi and epub through Draft2Digital.

It’s worth noting that if you’re making extensive revisions to a published book (for example, updating a technical nonfiction book) that change more than 10% of the content, you should consider getting a new ISBN and changing the edition number of the book. (Version 1.1, for example).

Although I try to make each book as perfect as I (and a team of helpers) can make it, sometimes corrections and additions need to be made. It’s great that, in this digital age, we can continue making our books better.

For more reading on this subject:
Jodie Renner on whether we should make extensive revisions of an older book
Joel Friedlander on updating an ebook after publication. 

Do you ever change previously-published books?  What prompts you to make changes…and how do you make them?

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photo via VisualHunt

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20 thoughts on “Editing Published Books

  1. I haven’t self-published or published anyway yet, so haven’t done this. I can see how adding new books and social media sites you are would be good marketing reasons to go back and revise a book.

  2. My publisher offered me the chance to updated my first book, specifically the print version. Yes, there were some content changes. (I write so much better now.) I think they also update the front and back content of the eBooks now and then.

  3. I recently updated five of our eBooks, adding links and other material. I have a couple more on the list to do, too. I also have one print book I need to update (my own) and that one will cost me to do so.

    1. The only bad thing about this is that it’s a never-ending chore, although not one that has to be done too often.

      I update my own print books (not the ones for Penguin, of course)…again, uploading the updated Word file to Draft2Digital and choosing their PDF option.

  4. I couldn’t possibly agree with you more about the ability to go back and edit self-published work, Elizabeth! I’ve done that a few times with some of my stuff, and it’s great. Not only does one get the chance to correct mistakes, but one also can add in new information, a new author ‘photo, and so on. It’s straightforward to do it, too, if a bit time-consuming.

    1. There are never enough hours in the day, are there? You’re right–easy to do. Takes a bit of focused time. And I *do* have to focus, because if I lose my place, it takes that much longer to get it done.

    1. It is. It helps to keep back matter in a special folder in your computer and then just update it with every book. Then it’s a simple copy-paste (at least, for *that* part of the updating. Typos, etc., still have to be searched out).

  5. I’ve fantasized about having my new editor take a pass at my first book, but just the thought of it makes me freeze :-) Backmatter I know I have to address, but it’s something that’s made me fantasize about some kind of plug-and-play widget we could put into the file and then update in one place for all books.

    1. I would *love* such a widget. In a way, Draft2Digital has something similar: https://www.draft2digital.com/faq/

      “What is Automated End-matter?

      A book’s end-matter is a powerful tool for aiding authors in discoverability and even marketing. As an author’s catalog of books continues to grow, it can become challenging to keep end-matter up to date. Draft2Digital’s automated end-matter will update content such as the author bio, publisher bio, copyright information, and useful marketing tools such as book Teasers and Also By pages. By opting into automated end-matter, you only have to enter information once, and it can be included in all of your books automatically, and updated every time you make a change.”

      But do I use this option? No. I like to make things complicated. :) But also, I distribute my books through a variety of different aggregators and so I just put the back matter in, myself, to be consistent. I wish *all* the aggregators had this option.

  6. hi Elizabeth, I think many of us can relate. My revisions to my four books are finished although the Breakthrough series could use a more professional formatting.

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