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My Journey Through Self-Publishing, from a Rusty Laptop to a Two-Screen Writing Desk

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Last Updated on September 28, 2022 by Ben Oakley

It was way back in 2013, when I’d completed my first novel, that the very concept of self-publishing reared its head.

I was in my early thirties, young-ish, full of bravado, and a passion for storytelling. And yet I had no idea what the hell self-publishing was, nor if it was a viable avenue.

The novel was as abstract as the idea of getting the book into a big publisher. I had no idea what I was doing, and it showed.

The book in question was a bizarre metaphysical horror. It was doomed to fail from the outset, and I was okay with that. I just wanted to hold my book in my hands.

The dream versus reality.

While at the same time dreaming of the story being picked up by a major film studio. You’ve gotta dream, right?

I found a book printer online, sent my files off, and paid a couple of hundred quid for 50 copies of my book.

That was it, the dream was tangible. I held my book in my hands and praised the Lord that good things were going to come of it.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Discovering the new world of self-publishing.

When the hordes of well-wishers and movie producers didn’t come knocking, I threw in the towel.

Then I actually decided to look into publishing. I know, right, after the fact!

My first port of call was a popular little website known as KindleBoards. It had been developed in 2007 for people to discuss Amazon’s new Kindle reader device.

Three years later, in 2010, a section was added to the forum, which became known as the Writer’s Cafe. It was to be a haven for all things author, and more specifically, self-published authors.

Three years after that, I stumbled upon it, an outsider, devoid of knowledge about the new wave of self-publishing.

What was this new self-publishing craze?

What did it mean? Why self-publish? Was anyone really doing this?

Turns out that I was six years too late to the party. Amazon launched Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) in 2007, and the publishing world changed forever.

So, I delved deeper, learned about the industry, made new author friends, and decided self-publishing was the route for me.

Then, well, life got in the way. I put the book to one side, forgot about it, and woke up six years later in 2019.

Resurrection of a writing dream.

By the time I turned 40, I was at a point in my life where I was led to question my life choices, career moves, and goals.

Thus, from 2019 and into early 2020, coincidentally tied into that little global pandemic we had, I made a choice. A choice to resurrect a long-dead dream of becoming a writer.

I returned to the old forum haunts, reinvigorated, refreshed, and more importantly, with a goal in mind.

I wanted to make a living self-publishing my books. First, I looked at that original book from 2013, and laughed into my coffee at how bad it actually was.

I had not stopped writing.

During that dream-like period, I managed to get gigs writing articles for mental health charities, and churning out blog posts elsewhere like there was no tomorrow.

I knew where I had gone wrong before, I simply didn’t have the knowledge or skills to actually become an author, let alone publish a book. And so I learned.

There were a couple of months at the beginning of 2020, where you would have seen me neck deep in writing and publishing courses.

I learned. Practiced. Consumed. And learned again. Since childhood, I had dreamed of, not just becoming a writer, but working as one.

Patience and modesty as a rite of passage.

I realised from my earlier attempt at self-publishing that if I wanted to make a real living as a writer, my patience would be tested.

Self-publishing is NOT passive income. But in my eyes, it was to be a business.

And with that in mind, I dusted off my rusty laptop, and got to work. My first month’s royalties came in three months later, and I pocketed the grand sum of £14.80.

I was over the moon! It was the most I had ever made by myself. I celebrated with a Papa John’s and ginger beer.

It was the start of something I wanted and I knew self-publishing could help me get it.

I knew sincerely that I wanted to be a working writer. That £14.80 proved to me I could do it.

For some authors, £14.80 is a mere blip, and to others, the moon. I learned quickly to appreciate every single book I sold, and every single page read.

Two and a half years, and 34 books later, in the Summer of 2022, I hit royalties of over £3,000 ($3,500).

Things changed quickly. That rusty laptop had turned into a two-screen writing Mecca, and I now own a limited company in the UK, purely to deal with my self-publishing ventures.

My Journey Through Self-Publishing
My two-screen writing Mecca, badly photographed, working on this very post!

I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for readers opting to read my work and I’m grateful for every single one.

What have I learned on my journey through self-publishing?

Work hard and write voluminously!

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Ben Oakley is a bestselling author, researcher, publisher, blogger, and mental health advocate from Camden, England. Usually found on Twitter or in the bars and parks of Camden. Agathokakological is his favourite word!