My Self Publishing Story

I was inspired to self publish my work by this conversation on Reddit. To summarise: an amateur author was making up to $1,000 a day by publishing stories through Amazon's Kindle store, and a few other places. They wrote in a range of genres, from children's books to adult-only material. At the time I read it, the author had 88 stories of various lengths out, from 3,000 words up to full novels.

I was very intrigued by this news. I'd heard about e-readers, where people could download books from Amazon and read them on a Kindle, and knew other e-readers existed from Sony and other manufacturers. But I never realised it was such a big industry. I read the conversation several times, catching up as the author left more replies to people's comments, and read posts on forums linking across to it.

It's fair to say some people were very skeptical. They didn't believe it was possible to be making such a large amount, so simply. I say simply, but it seemed the author had certainly put in a lot of hours - evenings and weekends for almost a year, building up a library of published, or rather self published, material.

Personally, I wasn't too skeptical. It seemed an odd thing to lie about. Admittedly, it's an odd thing to post about anyway, but that's less strange to me than posting a complete fabrication about your self publishing career, which wasn't such a known career choice at the time. The author was working under a pseudonym, and there are strange people out there who would lie about their earnings, but it seemed like there was some truth behind their tale.

I've always wanted to be a writer. I had some old stories squirrelled away on my PC. I could give this a go, I thought. Well, I could after various messing about and procrastination.

I hadn't shown anyone my writing for years, and I didn't know how good it was. Then there was another problem - the best selling genre of e-books? Erotica. Now, that wasn't a problem in so far as I'm not bothered by that, and I had some stories stored away that would fit in the genre. But it was a problem in that I didn't want to admit to my friends or family that I'd been writing these sorts of stories, so I had to find out if I could write a story other people would like.

A couple of months after reading the Reddit information, I sat down and wrote a short story and submitted it to a fiction site for the genre - cross dressing. It got published the next day, which made me pleased, but I'd read some pretty ropy stories on the site so this didn't mean too much.

I obsessively checked the reviews page to see if anyone had liked it enough, or hated it enough to leave a review. For authors, the website was very basic - no way to see how many people had read the story, just a review page where interested readers could leave their thoughts and suggestions.

Within a couple of days I had three reviews, all friendly and positive, one of them glowing.

I had thought I'd write a few stories for the fiction site, but after the positive feedback I rushed to learn how to publish the story within Amazon, where I could charge for it. This meant learning about Kindle Direct Publishing - Amazon's system for publishing your work in to their Kindle store.

Having read up on the process, I hit a problem - I wasn't supposed to re-publish anything that had been published for free somewhere else.

After a bit of thought and research around the topic, I re-wrote parts of the story so it was not identical to the already published version. I thought this would be enough to get past any automated filter that Amazon might be using to find other work that matched what I'd published. Still, it was a risk, and not one I'd repeat - all of my work after this was published within Amazon and only excerpts put on places like my website, which came much later than the publishing anyway.

Creating a cover for the book was the hardest part of the publishing process. I only have a small amount of artistic talent, but I found an image I thought suitable for the book cover on iStockphoto, a stock photography selling website. Then I put a top and bottom banner on the image, chose a font for my name and the book title, and made it all the right size.

After a couple of false starts, I registered for a Kindle Direct Publishing account and submitted my first book. I was very nervous, but it was all quite easy. Fill in a couple of forms and upload the file with the book, and the file with the image. Then download a preview copy of the book and view it in the free Kindle software on my computer and double check it all looked OK. When it was, I filled in another form to do with prices and I received a message saying the book would be assessed and published in 12-48 hours.

It was very frustrating to wait, but about 12 hours later, there was the book, up on Amazon. All over the world, on the different regional Amazons. Amazing!

Even more amazing, I made some sales. Not huge numbers. Nine sales in the first week, across and the UK site. This gave me a push. I looked up the old stories on my computer, found the best ones, and re-wrote some of the others to be good too. Within a month, I had five ebooks out, all short stories, all in the same sub-genre of cross dressing.

I'd heard anthologies did well, so I compiled all of the stories in to one file, learnt how to set up a contents page to jump between them, and published that a few weeks later. Of everything I've published, that's been the most successful - a few hundred copies sold, over the last two years.

I know that's not Dan Brown numbers, there are many more successful authors than I am. But it made me happy. It was a creative outlet, and some people liked my stories, the sound of my stories enough to put down their hard earned money on them.

A few months later, I had eleven stories out, some under a pen name as they were in a different genre, and the sales kept coming in. Not huge numbers, but a steady amount. I had found a friend of a friend who helped me get a website set up so I could tell people about it - if you're interested. Then life intervened, I got busy at work and with other things, and didn't have much time for writing. Sales gradually tailed off, and lots more people published many, many books in the store. Although they've reduced to a trickle, I still get some sales a month, and occasionally a nice review for a book, which brings me great joy.

In all, I've earned just over $4,000 from my self publishing experiment, so far. That's taken a couple of years, but most of the work was up front, and not onerous. It's been much more fun than an extra job would have been.

Recently, I've started writing and publishing again, again through the Kindle Store. It's harder to get sales due to the huge amount being published now, and I wish I'd kept up my writing more, but I can't change history so I can only keep going from now to the future. I'm going to try other online retailers, I've converted a pair of my books for the Barnes & Noble 'Nook' Store so far and will do more. I'm going to publish more, and try to push my own website as well.

I don't expect to become a millionaire, but I do expect to do something I find fun, and make some money out of it. And that's a nice position to be in. If you have some stories in you, or hidden away on your computer, I recommend giving self publishing a try. It's fun, quite easy, and is much more interesting than getting an evening job.

Penny Walloon is a happy self-published author living near the West Coast of the UK. She may or may not write mildly naughty stories at work when times are slack.