Brutal author honesty ahead – on a topic that I think many, many authors are now facing. I got the rights back on my first book. Not just my first published book, but the first book I wrote. I stress that because I freely admit it was a learning vehicle. I mean, when I wrote it I was convinced it was destined to hit a list. I wrote Carolina Heat in the same serious mode that matched all the romantic suspense I read. But here’s the thing…in my second book, I found my voice. My funny, sassy, snarky voice. That was a game changer for me.
After the publication of my second book, I never once looked back. I didn’t ever push Carolina Heat. Never even mentioned it. Because in my head, it wasn’t in my voice and therefore was anathema. My writing got better with every subsequent book. And then my rights reverted. In today’s publishing landscape, it was a no-brainer that I’d slap a new, sexier cover on it and self-pub it. I even corralled a group of authors to do a box set, to give it more traction. However…..I didn’t think I liked it. I knew I’d have to take a look at it before pubbing. Would I need to literally rewrite the entire thing to put it squarely in the Christi Barth brand? But I have contracted books to rewrite. Zero time for a full rewrite.
With my stomach literally in knots, I opened the manuscript for the first time in five years. And…breathed. Because you know what? There was a reason it got published in the first place. No, it isn’t the same as what I write now. But it’s still a darn good story. The characters are engaging and likeable, the suspense plot keeps things moving….I actually enjoyed going back through it! Especially once I went through and stripped out around fifty exclamation marks. It held up far, far better than expected. Which meant I could include it in the box set without embarrassment.
As writers, i think we hold ourselves to a higher standard than anyone else. We tinker with things over and over and over again, polishing to perfection, and then going back to do it again. Which is good for the reader. But we also need to have faith in ourselves and the process. Yes, (hopefully) every single book we churn out will be better than the one that came before it. Doesn’t make the earlier books any less readable. I promise.