I have become alarmed over my short period as a publisher by what seems to be a significant lack of concern on the part of my fellow authors toward their own work. Most of us are good at keeping backups of the work in progress, getting through the edits, and getting a book to print, but what is SORELY lacking is an understanding of the importance of “maintaining” those works. Seriously. You spend all that time – all those hours of your life – creating a novel…and you don’t even have a file copy of it? The only thing you have is some old paperbacks in the garage, or maybe a file on a floppy disk your last two computers wouldn’t even read?
This is important, so listen up – particularly in this new age of digital magic, where old words can come back to life and reach out to new readers. If you don’t keep a copy of your book, no one will. It takes very little time and effort to make an archive copy of your books, and being text, they really take up very little space…here are some things to consider.
Keep only the latest draft of books. Don’t allow for the mistake of an older version making it back into circulation – or bypassing copy-edited versions in the publishing process – unless there is a reason to preserve the earlier draft – like a removed chapter, or a shift in plot required of you by a publisher.
Keep a file copy of every book and story you write on your computer. Get something like a Dropbox.com account and put a copy there too (Tell them I sent you, I’ll get free space). ALWAYS have the words available to you quickly and easily.
When you upgrade or change operating systems or Office products, convert your old files to the new format and save them again. If you wait too many versions, you may lose formatting, or not be able to open the file at all. When you update the copy on your computer, update the backup copy as well. It REALLY won’t take that long.
When you turn in a manuscript, and the publisher comes back to you for edits, and you create that final, clean copy – SAVE IT. Don’t save just your working copy that will have to be copy-edited all over again. Also save .pdf proofs if they are sent to you. This way you have the cleanest manuscript possible if you need it again.
It doesn’t matter if you are writing licensed, work-for-hire fiction, short stories, poetry, lyrics, or the Great American Novel. Make sure that once you do the work, you don’t LOSE the work.
I have become a lot more aware of this as I work to bring back the nearly lost books of a number of Crossroad Press authors. It’s good that technology and an IT background have allowed me to scan, recompile, and resurrect these old manuscripts. I hope that the authors I’ve done it for have taken the files and saved them – but if they haven’t? I have. Other publishers and companies are charging what I consider exorbitant amounts of cash to do what we do for our authors free of charge…if those authors had maintained their books and files and stories, there would be no such service necessary.
If you are an out-of-print author, and looking to get your old books back into the hands of readers…drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org – drop by our store, http://store.crossroadpress.com and see what we’ve already done…
Care for your words…