Of my seven published novels over the last thirty years, five are out of print, only two remaining in print and easily available. It has been often suggested that I convert the out of print books into e-book format, which certainly makes a lot of sense financially, as well as the possibility of acquiring a wider readership.
I haven’t pursued this until now because it would require more time and effort than I could give, while at the same time continuing to work on new writing.
All my writing begins with a pen on paper, which is later typed into a word processor for editing, the edited pages handwritten again (the words feel better to me when they appear as ink on paper, and from the pressure and pattern of my own writing hand), then retyped into the word processor for more editing, then finally printed out for submission — although virtually all submitting these days is done with electronic file transfers, I still print a copy for myself.
The problem with those five out of print novels is that they were written before I began using a computer word processor. There are no electronic versions of those five books; they exist in three forms: the handwritten version, the typed (on a manual typewriter) version, and the published book itself. Which means that for each of those five books, I have to type them into a word processor in order to produce the format required for the various e-book readers.
Yes, I could send the books away somewhere to be scanned (using my primitive scanner would take almost as long to do as simply typing the pages again), but it occurred to me that this would be an opportunity to fix some things that have bothered me about those books over the years. These would be “edited for the Kindle edition” versions.
These books already have cover art, so all I have to do is scan the covers into a file to go along with the manuscript file.
I am a pretty fast typist; touch typing was the most useful class I took in high school, and following that with a few years as a journalist (using manual typewriters), then two decades writing novels on a typewriter, I got good with the keyboard. I haven’t bothered to test myself lately, but a while back I averaged about 130 a minute when simply transcribing.
I’m starting with my first novel, One Easy Piece, 1982. It is 288 pages in print. I plan to allot about two hours a day for the retyping. In three days I have reached page 50. (Because it is single-spaced with no formatting, those 50 pages are 29 pages in Word. Already I have found two mistakes in the book: a dropped word from a sentence, and a missing letter in a word. Shows you that no matter how many times you read something, no matter how many times your editor reads it, and even after the copy editor is finished, and you’ve finally proofed the galleys, still in 50 pages there are two major mistakes.
I am doing far less editing than I imagined before starting to read this old book again; I have not looked into it at all for nearly thirty years. I still like the distant, objective, narrator’s tone, even the plethora of passive verbs work within the context of the plot. A few times I’ve cut out what seemed to be a redundant word, a couple of times I’ve changed a word, and more often added a clarifying line to an image I thought too vague. So far.
This is the test e-book. If it works all right and doesn’t cause me a lot of wasted time, then I’ll consider the others.
One thing I would like to do — and since all rights to the Hatch trilogy reverted to me, I can do anything I like — is return that trilogy to the original concept, the original version Bantam bought in 1984. Then it was one book, not three, and the story line less convoluted and, I think, hyped. I wrote an ode to Conrad and Greene; Bantam published Rambo Revived. That project is worth the trouble over and above any potential e-books sales.
So there it is. I’m in secretarial mode a few hours each day.
But I am also still trying to find any hope of saving Danika and Tomáško. That fills the rest of the day, and all of my thoughts.