"Penpal" Author Dathan Auerbach: From Anonymous Reddit Poster to Published Novelist

Getting Your Book on Websites Like Amazon

"I figured that 100 or so people wanted this book, I wanted my own copy, and I'd give a copy to my mom. I just wanted to get it out there. I decided I'd do it myself. Anybody who has a computer can publish a book on Amazon. I can type up something this afternoon, and it's not even a story—I could type up, "I went to the store and I bought a fan but it didn't work," and that's the whole story. I can publish that on Amazon, or anywhere, really. Anybody can write something that has the potential to be seen; whether or not it's ever seen is another thing.

"So that was actually the easiest part of this process. I just had to have the file, and the whole thing had to be formatted properly. I uploaded it to Amazon. If you're self-publishing through Amazon, there's no investment on behalf of the company. Amazon isn't losing storage space, or even warehouse space, to have my book on their site, because of how it's printed. So they don't care if it's good or bad, or if it's successful or not successful—they make money when you make money. Every time I sell a book, I get a royalty and they get what they get. If the book's selling, they're making money; if the book's not selling, they're not making money, but they're also not losing any money.

"And that's also true of iTunes, especially places that only do digital stuff. There's no risk on their part. Anybody can publish anything that they want. It's becoming a really powerful and popular way for people to get their work out there. It used to be the case that, if you wanted to come out as a writer, you'd have to go to a publisher. You'd have to court these suitors to sell your book, but now the business model has changed. Sometimes that's good and sometimes that's bad. It means there's a lot more stuff than there used to be, and it's not all good. The market is becoming saturated with self-publishers. Anybody can self-publish a book."

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