Earning Money by Self-Publishing on Amazon
Hey everyone — Welcome to another Side Jam Interview! With this post, you’ll learn more about Jarek, who has self-published books and short stories on Amazon.
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 that exist in your imagination or memories, opening yourself up to share with the world.
I can tell you I have definitely 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.
A myriad of 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.
Because Jarek is about to give us some valuable insight into writing and self-publishing your very own book on Amazon.
Oh hi there — Do YOU have a Side Jam you’d like to share?
Let me know by filling out THIS FORM, and you could be featured on my blog!
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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.
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 allow me to 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. On top of that, you have to format the stories to be published online and then either buy or design a cover.
I outsourced the covers through Fiverr so that took less time than designing them myself. But I still had to pick out the stock photos and some other details. Still, once I got pretty good at the formatting side of things, it didn’t take too long overall. 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.
In fact, I just did my taxes and I made $270 from my stories this past year. Which 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. Personally, 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 also some Crime type stuff as well.
Each genre was written under a different pen name. I also wrote some romance — and *unfortunately* those were my best sellers. I say unfortunately because I personally 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 really enjoy writing them) was a bummer, so I gave up on it.
In fact, I’m approximately 85% done with a nearly 30,000 word novella that I should probably finish someday. I haven’t yet written the ending, and then 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. 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 really 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. Although it wasn’t easy, I was seeing $200 months early on.
However, that gravy train stopped pretty quickly when Amazon changed their pricing model to really 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 Amazon’s algorithms are driven by new releases, 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 actually 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 really 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 off strong, publishing roughly 25 stories in the first few months. But then the pace of writing and editing really got to me and I stopped. I still actually make about $20-$30 per month from stuff I wrote a few years ago, which is cool.
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 actually 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 on a continual basis — 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 kind of a lazy guy. Even though I was making money, I just wanted my free time back and couldn’t really 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 — as mentioned, I actually have a few unfinished stories I’d like to get back to and publish. I figure they’re already partially done, so some additional work might be worthwhile.
The reason I quit was 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 that serves as a creative outlet. But I do plan to self-publish again some day.
Thank you Jarek! Where can my readers find you online?
Jarek’s blog: https://timeinthemarket.com/
The Wrap Up
That was so awesome, and actually makes me want to sit down and write a short story — Maybe I’ll chew on a few ideas, to see if I actually have a decent story in me.
But if any of you have been itching to put a pen to paper and document your personal narrative, here are a few gems I’ve pulled from Jarek’s interview:
- Everyone has a story to tell, whether it’s an imaginary tale or 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 to stay 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.
Also be sure to check back next week, for another installment in the Side Jam Interview Series. And don’t forget — if you have a side jam you’d be interested in sharing, feel free to fill out the questionnaire at the top of my site! I honestly LOVE sharing these stories!!
Reader interaction: Do you think you could write an entire book? How about a short story or novella?
Would you be willing to explore the self-publishing industry?
Do you know anyone who has self-published a book on Amazon? (I actually do — a very good friend of mine has published two books, and they’re fantastic!)
I’d love to know your thoughts — Hit me up in the Comments!
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#6 – Marc’s Selling Products on Amazon
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Feature photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash