I published my first book last week, after putting in four months of work and lots of chronic overthinking. It’s version one. Full disclosure: it may never be done, it might be phased out over the next five years. I am okay with both of those possible outcomes.
I can’t claim I would have been okay with that years ago. I am still adjusting to it now.
Coming from an art background, it was hard to let go last Tuesday, admit I was at a stopping place. ‘Was it perfect enough, or pretty darn close? I suspect old school (20th century and prior) artists, writers, creators all struggle with letting their work out into the big, bad world. Each one wants to be original. Each one wants to have thought of everything. Each one fears getting dismissed as sloppy, or reeking “amateur”. The presumption is, when you’ve stopped work, it’s finished, right?It’s ready for release into the marketplace. With artwork, literature, sculpture–if you bought a piece, the original artist doesn’t come to your house and enhance their artwork’s features every three to six months after that. You might pay to have a piece repaired or restored by a professional, but that’s to bring back lost quality, not add features or functionality. To boot, restoration is a one-time visit, not a recurring one.
But then there’s the world of computers, video games and software. Each one really changed how we operate and think about everything that came before, including art, books, and film.
In computer software and hardware, the work is created and recreated. It’s always in progress until it’s ended entirely. Its business operates on a “let’s set goals, meet those goals, reach milestones, release product version, await feedback about bugs and requested changes, use those to set new goals, then repeat process” path. Buyers are expected to provide feedback, not just buy and go away happy.
This presented me with a paradigm shift, and a lot of food for thought when producing my first e-book:
• Why print something on paper when restaurants change hours, websites, menus, etc. all the time?
• Why not make it easier to access a restaurant’s website by linking to it so a potential diner can scope out the place for his or herself?
• Why not have a collective grid of what days the restaurants are open so people don’t drive miles to find out a restaurant (they wanted to try) was not open that day? or that time of day?
• Why not, if a critical mass of changes does arise, create a new version and upload it to the internet in a matter of hours, and notify users of the update?
• Why not use twitter, email and a blog to accept comments and commentary, which can be channeled into the next version? And the next version can be announced on those same platforms so users know you, the author, are listening?
This is a really different way of thinking about creating books, art, music–basically any creative material, than the one I had growing up. Yes, as a student, my peers and teacher would critique my work, but that was different. Once the assignment was due, the collaboration was over.
This book would not, and could not, have happened without my husband. It would be impossible to list all the things, technological and otherwise, I still would not know a darn thing about if it we hadn’t met in 2003, become friends, and then much more. If only I could return the favor. [If you are reading this, I love you with all my heart. Thanks sweetie.]
FOOTNOTE: I looked up the word ‘upgrade’ because I was curious how old it was. According to Dictionary.com‘s listing, that word dates back to the 1870s. Prior to computers, though, it referred to moving up a hill or incline, and being promoted in the military or another organization.