In this age of minimalism, do you ever wonder what things as a writer you should trash and what things you should keep? This dilemma became very real to me recently when my publisher announced they had decided to reissue all the books in my Daughters of the Faith series, with new covers. The first two books were written over twenty years ago! When the editor asked for visual story details for all eight books, I felt a moment of panic. Had I kept that information? Would I have to reread each book and redo setting info and character details? Happily, when I went to my computer files, there were all the original reference photos and descriptions. I’m surprised that in my obsessive need to keep my stuff minimal, I hadn’t decided to delete those files once the books had been covered and published. *huge sigh of relief*
It made me reconsider, what should we trash once a book has been published and what should we keep? I don’t have the answer, but I thought I’d take a stab at this.
Research notes on your book– trash or keep? Keep these. Just as I found out, they may come in handy in the future. For me it was new covers. One of my authors, Tessa Afshar, was asked to do a special anniversary issue of her book, Pearl in the Sand, for the tenth anniversary, with all new information and a rewrite. I’m guessing her original material was priceless.
Reference photos– trash or keep? Again, keep these. Had I not had those photos it would have taken me days to amass all that information again.
Permissions– trash or keep? This is a big KEEP! These are legal documents, giving you permission to use someone’s story in your nonfiction book. If that person ever decided he changed his mind and wanted to come after you, these will be your defense. Yes, the publisher has copies as well but you must keep these as a failsafe.
Correspondence from editors– trash or keep? This one is up to you. Most of it is everyday stuff and can be tossed once the book is published but some might need to go in the keep pile.
Correspondence from the marketing team– trash or keep? Probably trash except the actual marketing plan, once the publicity period is over. However some of this is such fun, like memes and ads. Keepsake stuff.
Important reviews—- trash or keep? Keep. These belong with the book.
Letters from readers– trash or keep? This one is up to you. After you’ve answered them (and put the contact information in your reader database) there is no pressing need to keep them, but you’ll probably want to choose a few to treasure.
Edits– trash or keep? Keep! When books go out-of-print, many authors seek a return of rights so they can indie-publish the book. These edits will help with that task.
Rights reversal letter– trash or keep? Absolutely keep! This is also a legal document and you have the only original. Send a copy to your agent but you are now owner of the rights to your book.
There is so much more, but I think those will get you started. Don’t just be lucky, like I was. Plan ahead for what you might need in the future. Be intentional in what you decide to trash or keep.