For writers: Manage your digital assets!

When I stumble out into the real world where I might actually interact with writers I am, very occasionally, asked for advice. What should a new writer do about this or that? Do you, based on your experience, have any advice for writer? Normally I don’t have a good answer to that. A lot of the advice any editor, or reader, can give is repeated endlessly from one of end of the web to the other, and it gets fairly dull.

However, something did occur to me yesterday when I was doing a bit of business for Wings of Fire, and it was this. Manage your digital assets. It does not matter whether you are just starting your career, whether you’re in the middle of your career, or whether you feel your career is reaching a conclusion – there is ALWAYS value in having clean, digital copies of your work.

What prompted this was that I briefly was considering asking for permission to reprint Jack Vance’s fine novelette, “The Dragon Masters”, in my book. Time is short, the manuscript is due with the publisher in a couple weeks but I knew, because of the fine efforts of the Vance Integral Edition people, that Vance has clean digital copy of all of his works. If I wanted to include the story and he agreed to it, then it would be a simple matter to do so.

Contrast this to many, many writers who have no digital copies of their work whatsoever. I have contacted writer after writer for many projects, and the number of times that I’ve been amazed to find out that they have no digital copies of their work, despite it only having appeared quite recently, is shocking.

Now, you might say that from a writer’s perspective this is a publisher’s problem. And it is, but it’s not. You see every time someone reprints your work you get paid. It is literally, like the old song says, money for nothing and chicks for free. Someone asks to reprint your story; you say yes, you get paid. However, if your story is unavailable digitally that can be a real disincentive. There’s a cost in scanning, proofing and checking text. Sometimes, when digital copy is unavailable, it’s simply more economical to go elsewhere.

Beyond the financial incentive, making your work easy to reprint can increase the likelihood of it being reprinted. Go check some day how much more of Jack Vance’s work is available, and in clean nice copies, now that the VIE has done its job than was formerly in print. It also means less work for you in the long run. Should your work BE reprinted, there’ll be less checking of proofs and such because your text will be clean.   So, is it a pain to keep digital copies of your fiction, tracking changes through editions and so on, and then keeping it in an accessible format – yes!! Is it in your best interests? Definitely!