I have, in the past, referred to activities such as a ‘series rewrite.’ Full confession: I rewrite constantly. I rewrite between new projects, or when current projects have worn me out, or when I’m too anxious to address a current project. It’s so much easier to rewrite than to come up with something new. My ever-growing backlist is a great source of displacement activity.
My first novella - GETTING OFF - appeared in 2012 as, essentially, a first draft. Had I not published that - simply thrown it up on the then-relatively-new Kindle self-publishing platform - it is fairly likely that I wouldn’t have published anything else by way of ‘new fiction.’ But something magical happened, which was: nothing.
Specifically, nothing bad. Nobody standing off to the side going ‘OMG that’s so stupid’ or ‘wow what a piece of crap’ or ‘why did she bother’ or any of the other 10,000 things people can say to make you feel like you’ve completely wasted your time and should go play in traffic. Nobody noticed! At all! Except for a couple of people who actually read it and told me they didn’t hate it. That was enough.
The first eleven L.A. Stories were all - I admit it - published as first drafts. All of them were written to a word and page count consistent with a conventional feature-film screenplay. In my head, I see each one as a movie, and try to structure it that way. They got progressively better, because practice does generally foster improvement, and I am trying to get better. Novellas twelve through twenty-five have all been written since May 2018. They are also progressively getting better. They still could be readily adapted to the screen, but there is more going on plot-wise. Also, I am allowing myself to write more emotional stories now. It’s not all romantic comedy (with occasional dancing) anymore.
Frankly I think The L.A. Stories would make an outstanding streaming series. It’s the series I want to watch, and since nobody else is doing it, I am writing this stuff instead of watching TV. At 25 and counting (to say nothing of the connected novels), I have source material for several seasons. Diverse and sexy cast! Interweaving yet distinct stories! Primary characters in ages ranging from 22 to 65! Song and dance numbers! Occasional mayhem! R-rated jokes!
Plus, oh yes: Rights available!
The only novella - so far - that has outgrown ‘ready to adapt’ is EXPOSURE. There is a non-zero chance that I will simply cave in to my love affair with the protagonists and turn it into a full-length novel. It’s a good thing that I don’t actually number the novellas, except for internal reference. Turning this one from novella #13 into novel #13 (I’ve finished novels #8, #9, #10, and #12. #11 is well underway but #12 is about these same people and they JUST WILL NOT SHUT UP and I had to write that first) would really screw up the numbering.
Anyway, I am trying not to waste this improvement. I didn’t simply dump and run with those early stories; I’ve gone back to each of them. First to put them into conventional narrative format, then to expand on hero (or heroine) or secondary characters, then to deepen or clarify the links between the stories as the universe and its corresponding Sequence of Events expanded. I clean up spacing, I look for typos, I improve word choices. I have worked on character, on plot, on dialogue. The few people who have bought the earlier versions can always go back to them and find the improved version thanks to the automatic (free) Update feature. And anybody who buys one of these for the first time now (or later) will get both a better story and more of it.
The current round of rewrites involved a fairly minor formatting tweak (a matter of paragraph indentation and spacing). As the stories have evolved and gotten longer (they have all gotten longer, some significantly so) I’ve wanted to make them easier to read. I did the same thing with the e-book versions of the full-length novels. My beta reader identified a particular verbal tic that I’ve been laboriously stripping out of all the older material. The paperbacks will be updated and relaunched relatively soon.
I’ve only ever tried self-publishing on the Kindle platform, so I can’t speak to every writer’s experience. I know this platform has its problems. The low barrier to entry is a problem, because there is SO MUCH stuff out there, which makes it hard to compete for eyeballs. On the other hand, the low barrier to entry is why I tried it myself in the first place. It doesn’t cost much to publish an e-book, and nothing but time to write one.
On another note, if it costs ‘not much’ to publish an e-book, why do I charge more than a nickel for them? Well. ‘Not much’ is not the same as ‘nothing.’ At the moment, writing is my full-time job; I’m putting in more than sixty hours a week on it. From May 2018 to March 2019, writing was an almost-full-time second job.
My beta reader (now also my designer) and I have invested in some graphics media, including stock photos, to create better-looking covers that we hope will eventually help attract readers. ‘Invested in’ means ‘spent money on.’ I’m also now buying ads in a very limited way; even though I am still very much in the red it seems like my best chance of getting my work into the hands of readers. They can’t read it if they don’t know it’s out there.
Ultimately pricing comes down to Time. Each of the novellas took at least two weeks to write, and that’s the first draft. Since I’m constantly rewriting, and since there is now a lot of off-the-page work involved (the timeline, the character charts, the compilation of songs used in the playlists, etc) you can safely assume that I’ve put in a solid month on each one. Add in the real costs of the graphics, and my designer’s time. To ask $1.49 for something that took a month to produce is not, I hope, unreasonable. Especially since what I actually get is 52 cents.
With the latest series rewrite we made the decision to enroll all this material in Kindle Select. That means people can read via Kindle Unlimited and not have to buy each distinct property. We’re hoping this draws some eyeballs, and maybe a dollar or two.