A few months ago I received an email from a writer friend.
“I’m going to do it,” she told me, “I’m putting my book on Kindle”.
My friend had acquired a good literary agent over a decade ago. The agent had wooed her with lunches and promised her great things but for one reason or another, the book never got published.
It’s a familiar experience. I too had an agent, I too got taken for lunches and promised great things. I signed up and waiting for the book deal – but it never came.
My book gathered dust and the years went by. So when my friend told me she’d put her book on Kindle it was a wake-up call.
I downloaded her book and enjoyed it thoroughly. Without the advent of ebooks I’d have never had the opportunity to read her book and likewise nor would anyone enjoy mine.
And yet I procrastinated. It’s so much easier to think of a book as ‘the one that got away’ rather than putting it out there for public scrutiny. Besides I’m not very techie – would I figure out how to upload it?
“Is it easy to put the book on Kindle?” I asked my friend.
“Yes very,” she replied.
I downloaded Amazon’s simplified guide to direct publishing and followed the instructions. It did seem straightforward.
I uploaded my book and it was ready. I went to the Amazon store to see how it looked and to my horror discovered another book with the exact same title.
I changed my title to: Sex, Lies and Alka-Seltzer and uploaded it again. It takes 12 hours for changes to register, so I had to wait until the next morning before I could start tweeting that Sex, Lies and Alka-Seltzer was ready.
I waited for the feedback and it came immediately.
“I can’t read your book,” a friend announced, “It is coming out light grey and I can’t see the words.”
Weird – it was fine on my Kindle.
I called a few dead certs that I knew had downloaded the book and discovered that around half had experienced the same problem.
I tried different variations of fonts and formats – each time having to wait a full 12 hours for the upload to take effect. But I received the same complaints.
I scanned the help pages on the direct publishing site but no-one seemed to be having the same problem. I googled the terms ‘self-publishing’ and ‘grey’ and predictably encountered everything I wanted to know about 50 Shades Of the wretched colour.
Eventually after much experimentation I have uploaded my book successfully.
“I had trouble formatting my book,” I said to my trailblazing friend, who had inspired my foray into digital publishing.
“Formatting it is a nightmare,” she conceded.
“Oh! That’s not what you said before.”
“I didn’t want to put you off.”
And I’m pleased she didn’t. Like anything new there will be glitches. But I’m glad I persevered.
At last my book is getting some good reviews – now that it is no longer 50 shades paler.
By Jo Carlowe