Have you ever thought that maybe you had a story to tell?
Words of advice or wisdom to share with the world? Or a cautionary tale to help others avoid some mistakes you’ve made?
Maybe a story of joy, gratitude, forgiveness and healing. Or even still – a fictitious story from a far-off land, a castle or kingdom, or even an alternate universe.
All things exist in your imagination or memories, opening yourself up to share with the world.
I can tell you I have thought of such things.
Because my world exists mainly in bullet points and summations, I enjoy making lists, prioritizing, and then crossing each item off one by one. It’s a sense of completion that gives me extreme gratification.
I’ve never felt the pull toward creative writing. But you never know. Some day I may decide I have a book in me.
What about you?
Do you think self-publishing a book might be a bit outside of your comfort zone and level of expertise?
Well, think again.
Many online publishers have made it a lot easier to produce that tome you’ve envisioned in your mind.
So get ready to put your author’s hat on and start making some mental notes.
Jarek is about to give us some valuable insight into writing and self-publishing your very own book on Amazon.
And now, here is more about Jarek:
Hey, I’m Jarek, and I’m a 34-year-old finance professional who is working towards early retirement. I blog for fun at https://timeinthemarket.com/, and enjoy sharing my story with others.
Related: Is Your Side Hustle Worth It?
The Interview Questions
Tell Us About a Fun, Unique, or Interesting Side Jam You’ve Tried:
A few years ago, I tried out self-publishing when it first really began to take off on Amazon.
What made you decide to get started with self-publishing on Amazon?
I heard about people publishing their own short stories and wanted to get my creative juices flowing. It sounded like an easy way to make some extra cash and be creative while doing it.
I always liked writing and felt self-publishing on Amazon would get some exposure and feedback on my work.
On Average, How Much Time Do You Think You Spent per Month Publishing Short Stories?
I was writing and editing every day for an hour. That means roughly 30 hours per month of just writing. Then, you have to format the stories to be published online and buy or design a cover.
I outsourced the covers through Fiverr, which took less time than designing them myself. But I still had to pick out the stock photos and other details. Still, it didn’t take too long overall once I got pretty good at the formatting side of things.
So I’d say I spent about 32 hours each month in total. And I think for the level of effort, the payoff wasn’t too bad at all.
I just did my taxes, and I made $270 from my stories this past year. This isn’t terrible, given it was all residual income from stuff I wrote years ago.
What Topics Did You Write About? Would Certain Topics or Genres Sell Better Than Others?
I tried a variety of genres to see what would stick. I prefer writing Sci-Fi or Fantasy — but the reality is those genres don’t sell very well in short story form. I wrote a few Fantasy stories, a few Sci-Fi/Space stories, and some Crime-type stuff.
I wrote each genre under a different pen name. I also wrote some romance — and *unfortunately,* those were my best sellers. I say that because I don’t care for that genre. That’s one reason I stopped this side hustle.
In addition, the time commitment was a bit of a drag since I had just started dating my now wife. With competing priorities, committing to an hour a day of writing was draining on my social life.
Toward the end of my short writing “career,” I was producing more novella-type stories versus short stories. They were in the 15,000+ word range, which sells relatively well in the romance genre.
However, pumping out super long romance novellas (when I didn’t enjoy writing them) was a bummer, so I gave up on it.
I’m approximately 85% done with a nearly 30,000-word novella that I should probably finish someday. Unfortunately, I haven’t written the ending yet and will need to edit. But maybe that’s something I can plan to do this year.
It might be nice to get back on that horse and finish it up. But, right now, I’m more focused on my blog, so we will see.
It’s so easy to get burned out, especially if you’re forcing yourself to do something you’re not passionate about anymore. (This is true on so many levels)
In general, how profitable was it to publish your own stories on Amazon?
Early on, it was pretty profitable. Amazon’s pricing mechanisms were designed so that short stories could make you a decent amount of money, as long as you pumped out a lot.
That meant 5+ stories a month in the 10,000-word count area. So although it wasn’t easy, I saw $200 months early on.
However, that gravy train stopped quickly when Amazon changed its pricing model to reward longer works. What was seen as “easy money” then resulted in a ton of crap being published.
Once the short story arena became saturated, the money stopped flowing as people were turned off by overall low quality.
My work kept selling — but at that point, I was burned out on the writing process as a whole. And since new releases drive Amazon’s algorithms, the money started to dry up.
What type of research or learning curve is required for self-publishing on Amazon?
I just did some Googling to figure out how to format and publish stories on Amazon and other websites. Smashwords, another self-publishing platform, has a great style guide that helps you figure out the details.
All you need is Microsoft Word and some knowledge of formatting. The learning curve isn’t too bad since I already had a decent writing style. But the amount of work required is high.
I started strong, publishing roughly 25 stories in the first few months. But then the pace of writing and editing got to me, and I stopped. I still make about $20-$30 per month from stuff I wrote a few years ago, which is fantastic.
What Tips Would You Have for Someone Who Wants To Get Started Publishing Their Own Books or Stories on Amazon?
Be realistic with the time you have available to commit.
If you have a full-time job, a spouse, or a family, then it’s easy to get burned out with all of these commitments. If you expect too much out of it and/or spend too much time, it may not be worth it in the long run.
Time is just as valuable as money.
Overall, what have you learned through Amazon’s self-publishing process?
I learned that doing anything continually — even if it’s something you like — will eventually feel like a job.
Combine that feeling with the actual work involved, and it’s easy to burn out on that side hustle.
I also learned I’m a lazy guy. Even though I was making money, I just wanted my free time back and couldn’t commit fully.
However, it was a great experience, and I did get a lot out of it. Plus, I still make $20-30 passively each month and made over $2,000 overall from the stories I published.
Is this something you would ever do again? Why or why not?
I think so. I have a few unfinished stories I’d like to get back to and publish. However, I figure they’re already partially done, and the additional work might be worthwhile.
I quit mainly because it took up so much of my time. I was writing over an hour a day, plus the time spent editing and publishing, on top of my regular day job. So I barely had time for hobbies or my girlfriend (now my wife).
Since I still love writing, I now have my blog as a creative outlet. But I do plan to self-publish again someday.
Related: Not All Side Hustles Are Created Equal
The Wrap Up
That was so awesome and makes me want to sit down and write a short story — Maybe I’ll chew on a few ideas to see if I have a decent story in me.
But if any of you have been itching to put pen to paper and document your narrative, here are a few gems I’ve pulled from Jarek’s interview:
- Everyone has a story to tell, whether an imaginary tale or a fact-based memoir.
- Sometimes it’s easier to succeed when you cut out the middleman and do it yourself.
- A lot of hard work on the front end can yield profitable results on the backend.
- Romance sells. (Although I’m also not a fan of that genre)
- Pushing yourself to do something that doesn’t bring you joy will eventually become a tiresome chore.
- Follow your passion for staying motivated in the long term.
Well, that about sums it up for this week. A huge thanks again to Jarek for taking the time to complete my interview & answer my follow-up questions.