Electronic publishing: ‘Eye Tech’

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    If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears, is there any sound? And if a digital novel is self-published on Amazon and nobody knows, are there any sales?

    Well, you’ve come to the right man if you’re looking for an answer to the second question.

    Several weeks ago, I uploaded my novel London Eye to The Kindle Store at Amazon. The book had nearly been published in the UK a couple of years back, only to fall at the final hurdle. But I am fond of it and believed that justice had not been done to my tale of three men in a pub heading towards their fiftieth birthdays as their lives collapse around them.

    It didn’t look too complicated. You simply write your book, most obviously as a Word document, select your price – 99p in my case – type in your name and the title and upload the material. Presto! Twenty-four hours later, there it was, complete with my publisher’s description of the contents. You could buy it on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.de – though not, for some reason, on Amazon.fr or Amazon.it.

    The problem was that after I proudly downloaded a copy onto my own Kindle, I immediately discovered all kinds of formatting errors. Some paragraphs appeared without indents; others came out with double-indents. In instances where I had changed the font to indicate that a particular passage represented a personal communication or official document, the selected fonts had been ignored.

    There were also, of course, typos and occasional misspellings that I should have corrected earlier but had failed to notice.

    Putting things right was a nightmare. Twenty-four hours went by before version two came up online, only to reveal that most of the original errors remained stubbornly in place.

    And every time I made another repair, another day went by.

    In the end, I got it just about right. At any rate, I gave up trying. That was when the cone of silence, or cloak of invisibility, descended. At least when a tree falls in the forest, there is a chance it will be made into a book. When an eBook goes up on Kindle, there is virtually no chance of a sale.

    To date, I have sold precisely 24 copies, earning royalties of 35% of the retail price totalling some €10.

    The philosophy of self-publishing is that it levels the pitch, equalising the availability of the books of Dan Brown and Joe Nobody. The truth is that everybody knows who Brown is and is keen to read everything he produces, while nobody (but nobody) knows Nobody.

    Well, I am not Nobody. I am Walter Ellis, and my novel, London Eye, deserves its place in the sun. So go for it. Make me a bestseller. My pension could yet depend on it.