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How Not to Self Publish

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Who said the young waste time in front of computer screens and TV screens and cinema screens and phone screens? Wait, my Mum did. But we the tireless teenagers born into the 90s and its hand-me-down clothes and boy-band ballads have better things to do then sit dumb struck watching another really, really, really interesting Channel 5 documentary.

For instance I self published my own eBook of poems. It's a weird alternative to messing around at bus stops (something I've yet to do convincingly) or going to parties, (see last bracketed comment) but I had to fill the time between my last A-Level exam and leaving for university somehow. But this meant drafting, sorting and writing new poems and tie them all up in an eBook- something I've never done.

Poetry in 2012 feels more like a government secret (really, governments have secrets?) that only five people know about. Yes, there are underground movements and regular poetry meets in pubs, clubs and cellars around the country, but if you don't go looking for it you won't discover, enjoy and celebrate it. I started writing seriously in the past year and only set up my poetry blog at the beginning of June, merely as a procrastination tool away from much needed revision.

Traffic to the blog mostly, I guess, comes from friends who politely click on the links I Tweet furiously, but some come from the US or Germany and further afield, but the general consensus is that poetry isn't cool. Prostitutes And New York: The Chasm Between Cold Feet and Experience, the book I published, has sold little over 20 virtual copies and 150 free versions, amazing right? No. But that's the reality of self publishing when only 143 people know you on Twitter and seven of them are holiday villa SpamBots selling you incredibly good deals at discounted prices.

Prices drive the sale of any book and Amazon's KDP program for self publishing is built on getting 70% or 30% of your RRP, depending on which route you take. Publishing eBooks has become a phenomenon that has trailed in the wake of Digital eBook Readers that have dominated the electronics market for the past five years.

Hard copy book sales have dropped considerably due to the ever rising sales of .epub files dressed up as real books, let's not forget Fifty Shades of Grey and its sales annihilation of Harry Potter- both the electronic copy and the hard copy. But how was an 18-year-old boy from Yorkshire with poems about prostitutes, New York and Kevin McCloud going to outsell mummy porn and vampires?

Well, not convincingly. If I were to define the process of self publishing it would go something like this:

1. Compile poems
2. Create a cover (more hassle than it's worth)
3. Argue against a machine that only speaks binary everyday for at least a week
4. Electronically stitch together the whole book more times then you care to remember
5. Upload to Amazon and wait
6. Tweet the link to your book 10 times a day
7. Watch it sell 20 copies.

Blogs sell self publishing much like those 'Make $400 a day' spam emails you most certainly get every week, but this only happens if you have content people want to read like sexually frustrated vampires or military secrets. The fact is 18 poems you wrote when alone, tired and bored won't cut it in the Amazon eBook chart (currently, I'm #138,886 in the Paid Kindle Chart).

Maybe teenagers end up in front of screen because they are all failed authors whose books unsuccessfully made an impact on anyone at all. Maybe you have to write a book or a collection of poems that is mysterious and Banksy-esque because then you're really making a statement. Maybe in a naive eureka moment I thought people with eBook readers would buy any old tat sold at the right price. Maybe, I was wrong.

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