I’ve always loved writing, from a young age I would carry a notebook with me and jot down ideas for stories and poems. I would use my computer to type up my work, print it out, and give it a title — like my own little publishing factory.
Although I never wanted to have a career out of writng, the idea of publishing my own book always stayed in the back of my mind. Of course, I knew how difficult it was to get a book published and I’d read all the stories of how hard it was for famous writers such as J.K. Rowling to get their work accepted, but nevertheless, the idea never left my mind.
Then, a few months back, I saw an article shared by one of my friends on Facebook all about how to self-publish a book in 2021. Intrigued, I clicked on the link and read it.
It took me through the whole process of how to publish your very own book on Amazon and how easy it was to do. Literally anyone with some written content can submit their work and turn it into a book, and the best part, it was completely free.
I have to admit I was sceptical at first. How could it be so difficult for professional writers to get published but somehow I would be able to do it in a few clicks? There was only one solution — I had to try it out.
First, I had to come up with an idea. I didn’t want to spend too long at this in case there were some hidden T&C’s which would prevent me from publishing, so I did some research and found a couple of quick ideas which I thought would work well.
I first thought to write a poetry book, but I thought that if I wanted it to be successful, I would need a lot of poems and that would take a good couple of weeks to plan and write.
However, that’s when an idea popped into my head; instead of actually writing serious poems, I could just find content that I had already written and compile it all into a short book. Even better, what if it was a mixture of content from both me and my friends? That would work.
Armed with this new motivation, I got to work. I delved deep into the documents folder on my old computer and found a couple of pieces I’d written when I was younger. Obviously, they weren’t very good but I wasn’t trying to write a best seller and just wanted to see if the Amazon method worked.
After completing that ‘chapter’ of the book, I moved on to my friends and asked them to send me some of the work they had done over the years from English class that we went to together. They were more than happy to oblige and, after two days of editing, I had all the content I needed.
The book was complete and I was ready to publish. It was only 30 pages long (a poem or short story on each page) and the content wasn’t of the high standard that a typical publishing house would expect, but regardless, it was finished.
Now that my book was edited and formatted correctly, it was ready to be submitted to Amazon to check whether it met their publishing guidelines. The whole process was as simple as it could be, and it only took a couple of clicks to complete.
It asked me to give my book a title and some cover art, so I quickly named it, ‘A Collection of Poems Through the Ages’ — remember I was just experimenting, so I came up with this title in approximately two seconds! For the cover art, I simply took a photo of the view from outside my window, which happened to be a lovely sunny day, and uploaded that.
The next morning, I received an email from Amazon telling me my book had successfully been published and was now live on the Kindle store. Later that day, I received a second email letting me know that the paperback version was now also available for purchase and was live on the Amazon website.
I couldn’t believe how quick the whole process was, and I was still amazed at the fact I didn’t have to spend a single penny. Amazon waits for an order to come in and deduct the cost of printing from your profits, just like drop shipping.
As I said before, publishing my first poetry book was just an experiment to see if the process worked before I actually put effort into writing a proper book. However, a few days later, my mindset changed slightly, when I received my first order out of the blue.
I hadn’t told anyone to buy my book, and none of my friends or family knew that I had even published it, so I had no idea where this order had come from. However, this one single sale had resulted in my book being added to the best seller list for the poetry niche.
You see, Amazon’s best seller lists are some of the most specific out there. They have categories for every niche, from cooking utensils to wizardry, self-help books to meditation, and every individual category has its own best seller list.
What’s even more fascinating is that the lists are updated every hour, so in order to get a book into the top spot, all you have to do is get more people to buy your book than anyone else in that niche for 60 minutes. After seeing how my one sale had got me onto the list (albeit at spot 87), I decided to see how far I could take this experiment and have a bit of fun.
I sent a message to all my friends and most of my colleagues, I posted on Facebook and shared the link to my Instagram story, asking everyone to purchase a copy of the book between 7 and 8 p.m.
I wasn’t looking to make a profit so I made the book cost as little as possible while still leaving enough to cover the production costs. This came to £0.62 for the e-book, and £1.99 for the paperback. After spreading the word as much as I could, I sat back and waited for 7 p.m.
As expected, results didn’t happen instantly. Amazon is a big company and I doubt it would be realistic for them to update their lists and verify them for every sub-category every single hour. However, when I woke up the next morning, I was amazed to find my book at number 1.
Incredibly, my book that I had put zero effort into writing was the best selling poetry book on Amazon. What’s even more incredible is that I had only sold 28 copies, yes, 28. Not 2,000 or 28,000, just 28.
This wasn’t even the highlight of the experiment either, because when I checked the top 100 bestsellers list for all categories, I saw my book sitting proudly at spot #93. It was the ninety-third best selling book of all of Amazon. I couldn’t believe it.
Even though this wasn’t a serious endeavor, I was still amazed to see what such little effort can achieve. Before, I thought that bestseller lists were difficult to get on to and they were only for the professional, full-time authors, but now I have proved that they can be for anybody.
In terms of profit, I didn’t make a lot of money; as I mentioned before I didn’t think it was fair to ask my family and friends to buy my book just so that I could make money off it, so in the end, I only made £2.59 in profit, but I really didn’t mind.
The fact that I had been able to not only get onto the poetry bestseller list but also the top 100 across all niches was achievement enough for me.
In the future, I hope to use this newfound information to give my genuine book the best possible chance of success, and hopefully I will be able to replicate my experience when the time comes.