Barring an alien invasion, in which Martians coordinate their ships to fire bolts of plasma energy upon the world’s sources of electricity thereby destroying life as we know it, tomorrow should see the release of Particular Stupidities (Romney and Marsh File #5).
Two days ago I received an email from Amazon informing me that there were some formatting issues with the book that needed my attention. I can’t speak for other self-publishers but when I get an email from Amazon telling me to do something I feel the need to drop everything, sprint home, fire up the aging laptop, do it, then email them back to let them know how happy I was to respond to their wishes in full. No trouble at all. I regard Amazon as my employers these days and I don’t want to disappoint them and face consequences, sanctions: banishment to the self-publishing wilderness temporary or otherwise, for example. ( I can be a bit dramatic on occasion.)
I looked at my employer’s suggestions and decided that I was happy with my way of doing things but because they are Amazon I was going to comply. In any case, earlier this week I made the mistake of opening up the word document of this book and reading the first few chapters, just to see how it still grabbed me. I found a couple of words that I’d repeated close to each other (that irritates me in a text when there are usually so many synonyms available to choose from) and I thought I might as well take the opportunity to change those while I was carrying out Amazon’s instructions. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t make any changes. The book’s editing option was locked. I was locked out of my own book. My bowels made themselves known to me.
I double-checked the date. OK. No problem. I could email Amazon and they could sort things out. They are always very good at communication – friendly, helpful and prompt. I emailed them. They emailed me back – friendly and promptly – letting me know that there was nothing to be done. Apparently, Amazon’s policy is that when a book is on pre-order it is locked down, protected from all influence and interference, for the three days prior to its release date. My sweat ran cold and freely from every pore followed by the threat of things hot and messy running freely from other places I was struggling to maintain control of.
When I recovered from my swoon my first thought, after exhausting my extensive repertoire of Anglo-Saxon swear words and checking my underwear, was why would they email me with things that need to be done at a time when I can’t do them? My mind was then immediately filled with ‘what if’ scenarios. What if I’d found something very wrong on a final, final check that I hadn’t been able to resist? A wrong name, a missing paragraph, a ‘proper’ formatting issue? I would not have been able to gain access to my book and make the necessary changes. All those pre-orders would go out across the world carrying the errors and the damage to my reputation would be cataclysmic, a bit like what those alien invaders could do to the world. Only worse.
As I said above, I’m happy with the way the book looks (apart from those two words that I really do want to change). But hang on… what if there are other issues? I didn’t read past the first five chapters. Did I thoroughly, thoroughly check everything before I uploaded it? I think I did. I’m sure I did. Didn’t I? Did I? I can’t look now. To find something else, something significantly disastrous, something that I could not rectify because my book is locked down would probably finish me as a fully functioning human being.
My current state of unease exists because I’ve gone the pre-order route with this book. It’s the first time I’ve done that. It’s worth repeating that Amazon insists on having the final copy submitted ten days before publication date. I fully understand why. But for self-publishers like me – mind like a sieve, memory of a goldfish, total responsibility for everything mine – the experience can become quite… agonizing. Anxiety levels quickly move up the scale towards panic attack when the eleventh hour approaches and the doubts and worries stampede in.
Of course, the answer is quite simple and obvious: do everything properly, thoroughly, in good time and then check, check and check again before pressing upload. And I’m sure I did. Except that did I?
Still available for the special pre-order price of only 99p (or the US $ equivalent). This will increase to £1.99 the day after publication.