Friday, August 21, 2020

Closing the Barn Door

My Postcards books were published a decade ago, and some of the essays in them are nearly twenty years old. So why did I suddenly, and so belatedly, re-release them?

Am I really that vain? Do I crave riches and glory? Have I run out of things to say?

Okay, I’ll cop to some of that, but the real, honest-to-God reason I began this revision journey was because, incredibly, people are still buying the books.

It remains a source of pride, humility, chagrin and incredulity that every month a dozen or so people, for some reason or other, purchase one or more of my ten-year-old humor books. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased as a puppy in a squeaky-toy factory, but after a time I started feeling like people were paying good money for day-old bread. This was why, some years ago, I dropped the Kindle price to $.99 on all the books. (The paperbacks have always been set to nearly their lowest price, and there’s nothing I can do about that.) Then, in the lull between finishing my latest book and picking up the next one, I thought I’d combine all three books into one so the price could be even lower.

This took a couple of days and the results looked fine and I was about to release it into the wild when a nagging voice from the back of my mind said, “Really, if you’re re-publishing it, you ought to give it another once-over.”

Now, these manuscripts have been read and re-read, and checked and re-checked, and proofed and re-proofed, but I couldn’t shake the notion, so I thought I’d try a new proofing trick I had just learned and…oh…my…lord. There were errors, small ones (mostly), ones readers might not even see, but their numbers were scandalous.

The trick is this: MS Word now has the ability to read your text back to you. Reading your work out loud has always been a basic method of proof-reading, but having a machine read it works a hundred times better than reading it yourself. The robotic voice never reads what it thinks it sees, or glosses over missed words; it says just what is there, exactly as it is written. It even has inflection, so extraneous (or missing) punctuation is also highlighted.

Click for larger image

And so, I spent a few days listening to George as he read through the new tome—all 542 pages of it—interrupting him every few paragraphs to eradicate yet another of the astoundingly frequent boo-boos we found. (Yes, George. The Read Aloud function has three different voices: George, Susan and Hazel. If you are in a document set to UK English, you get David, Zira or Mark.)

This, however, allowed me to put the book up on Amazon with a clear conscience. Then that niggling voice said, “What about the ones already up there?”

And so, I spent a few more days fixing each, individual manuscript and re-loading the updated books to Amazon. They are all up there now—Postcards From Across the Pond, More Postcards From Across the Pond, and Postcards From Ireland—and they are as error-free as is humanly possible. (Well, possible for this human, anyway.) Now, the baker’s dozen of purchasers will, at least, be getting better books. Sucks about all the other people but I can only do so much.

The lesson learned: Never, never, (never) publish anything until you have it read back to you by a machine, and—despite this—there are always, always, (always), ALWAYS more errors.

All of my books are available on Amazon:

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