Columns > Published on January 31st, 2022

What Happened When I Put My Self-Published Books EVERYWHERE

Everyone needs their personal Johnny Appleseed moment.

Apple pie isn’t my thing. Hot, slimy fruit might’ve been a treat in the olden days, but today we’ve got Gushers, thanks.

My thing, the apples I want to grow everywhere, are my own, self-published books.

And I decided to Johnny Appleseed them all over online, every corner of the internet I could find.

Here’s how it went.

The Writing And The Work

My romantic, self-published author life crashed down in all of about three mouse clicks.

The self-pub game is a war of inches. It’s a battle of selling 5 more copies this year.

The fantasies of restoring antique typewriters, rabid fans demanding my latest title, the interviews about how I did it, how I showed the traditional publishing world what it means to be a true Writer, all that burned up before I even finished my first set of uploads.

This is my life now: Me sitting in front of the computer for hours, entering passwords, typing in strings of texted-to-me numbers that verify, Yes, I am Pete. No, this is not some other dumbass trying to put this ridiculously stupid book out into the world. 

Hey? Lady? Lady who works at Penguin Random House, filling out these forms all damn day for book after book after book in preparation for their drop dates? I see you. I don’t know if anyone else sees you, but I see you, and please hit me up, I'll send you some snacks or something.

You Wonder What The Hell Is Going On With These Self-Pub Outlets?

Smashwords: You don’t accept .docx format, only .doc? .docx has been around since 2007. Dude...

Internet Archive: There is so much metadata here I can’t even.

Apple Books: This uploading system was developed by either a genius whose vision just didn't work out as they hoped or in a weird contract work situation with The BTK Killer.

Google: You guys are cool. 

Scribd: What's with this name? “Scrib-D? Scribd?” Wha?

Wattpad: I think I just uploaded my book to an outlet primarily concerned with erotic werewolf fiction. Not a complaint.

The Rage Period

Hours into verifying info and creating passwords, I took a break to wander Twitter. Always a bad choice.

But I guess I fulfilled the goal of Twitter check-ins: pissing myself off.

If you’ve been swinging around the writing scene, you know at least a couple “hustlecore” authors, the ones who talk a lot about how hard they’re working and so on.

Writing isn't hustling. Tweeting isn't hustling. Those things are working.

This thing, this endless form-filling, formatting files, click-clacking and copy/pasting to push maybe one more copy of one book in the next year? This is hustling. 

But then I remembered that the only thing less useful, less in the hustle spirit than writing Tweets is getting pissy about Tweets. So I got back to the work.

The Self-Doubt

Any dumbass can put a book on the Kindle store. I’ve done it, and I’ve seriously contemplated legally changing my name to “Any Dumbass” to drive the point home that if there’s something I can do, it’s something you can do.

What changes when you put your book everywhere, you expect at least ONE outlet to email you and say, "Uh, listen, we're onto you. Nice try with this bullshit. You might be able to fool Amazon, but we have SOME standards."

Let me cheerlead you: If you put in the work to write the thing, edit the thing, get a cover going, and then you put in a full day's work blasting the file out, one way or another, you earned it. You cleared the bar. 

Whether or not your book sucks isn't up to you anymore, and it isn't up to any platform. It's up to readers.

All The... Small Things

You’re 5 hours in, loading shit to Kobo’s store, and you think, “What am I doing? Do I know anyone who’s got a Kobo? Have I ever seen a Kobo?”

Kobo has about 13% of the U.S. eBook market, which isn't huge, but it IS the second-biggest seller of digital books after Amazon. 

But if I sell 13% of the books on Kobo that I have on Amazon...geez, it'd be convenient if I'd sold a hundred books on Amazon. Just for the math...

Look, maybe I only sell a couple on Kobo. Only a couple on Google Play. Only a couple on Apple.

No one act of self-publishing gets you there. 

The self-pub game is a war of inches, man. It’s a battle of selling 5 copies last year, 15 this year, 50 the next.

You Remember Why You Like Writing

Writing is frustrating some days, but it’s way better than navigating forms, linking this shit to that shit, getting the right kind of account on this service and that service, all that bullshit.

Compared to this crap, writing feels like riding a rollercoaster, drunk, after you just took the world’s most satisfying shit, and it’s your birthday, and your cat came back to life.

If writing feels a little boring or it's hard to motivate yourself, spend a couple days just dicking around with this nonsense. You'll be begging for the excitement of writing one of those boring literary short stories where nothing really happens.

Am I Famous Yet?

Today? No.

But this article goes in the queue 5 days before it gets published. You are basically reading this in the future.

I’m not famous today, but 5 whole days from now? Seems certain.

As a character from Chuck Palahniuk's Lullaby said:

When you think about it from a native plant perspective...Johnny Appleseed was a fucking biological terrorist.

That's what I walk away with. Not fame or fortune. A new willingness to terrorize people with my books.

What You Need: A Checklist

You're going to follow in my footsteps? Alright, let's do this:

  • Computer: Do not try and do this on a tablet.
  • Your Book in: PDF, .doc, .docx, and epub. That should cover you just about everywhere.
  • Your cover in: .png, and .jpeg.
  • Photo editing software: You will find an outlet that needs some weird-ass file size, dimensions, whatever.
  • Your book's info at the ready to copy and paste: Pub date, description, full title, professional reviews, price, all that junk.
  • Financial Info: Some spots will force you to link your bank, so get ready.
  • Your phone: a bunch of things have two-factor authentication now, you'll need your phone.
  • Checklist: All your titles and all the places you want to put them, set up in a grid, ready to check off.
  • Subjects, Tags, Categories: Make up a list of 5 or so of each that you can plug in or search when you get your book going.

Get Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk at Bookshop or Amazon

Get Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead at Bookshop or Amazon

About the author

Peter Derk lives, writes, and works in Colorado. Buy him a drink and he'll talk books all day.  Buy him two and he'll be happy to tell you about the horrors of being responsible for a public restroom.

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