Today I’m writing about my experience with self publishing. I had always thought of “self published” to mean that nobody liked the thing enough to professionally publish it. However, based on my experience so far, that is totally not the case. It just means I’m in control.
So let's back up a little. A couple of years ago I found myself floundering and my art career not succeeding as I wanted it to. I was about to give up on making art my full time job and had applied to the Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) in the hopes that they could match me with some sort of data entry work-from-home type job. Unfortunately after the initial interview I was deemed too disabled to work any sort of regular job. However, when they learned I’m an artist, they suggested their entrepreneurial track for me. Basically they were able to help uplift my art career through the purchase of supplies/technology as well as coaching and education. They matched me with the team of What If Publishing, and after some brainstorming and research, they suggested I make a coloring book.
The very first thought that popped into my mind for a coloring book was “Cats Are Jerks” - a book of cats doing jerk things. However, this book already existed. It seems anything you can think of already exists. So I did some rethinking and went with “Cats Being Dicks”. It’s the same general concept, but I made it completely my own and pushed the envelope a bit with vomit, poop, and a cat playing with a tampon.
I went into workaholic mode and managed to create the entire book (31 coloring pages, a cover/back cover, written content, a table of contents, etc.) in about a month and a half. Not only that, but we were moving at the time so whenever I wasn’t packing, driving, cleaning, or setting up our new apartment I was drawing drawing drawing. It was a feat that I don’t think I will ever be able to (or want to) replicate.
What If Publishing was there every step of the way to help and guide me on just how exactly to lay things out and taught me so much about using Adobe InDesign. They walked me through how to properly format and save the files and how to go through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing process. I made “A+ content” (fun photos and videos to accompany the Amazon listing), made a video flip through, and advertised it on Meta (Facebook) and Instagram.
Unfortunately we learned that “Dicks” is an obscene term in Amazon’s eyes, so we weren’t able to advertise it on Amazon’s website. Usually when you search something and you get those little “similar products” things underneath - those are people paying to advertise their product. So I missed out on a lot of potential, but persevered nonetheless.
Cats Being Dicks grew slowly over time and made me more money every month. I only make a couple of dollars per book sale, but the fact that I don’t have to worry about storing/selling/shipping myself makes it totally worth it. It’s basically a print-on-demand website for books. In November and especially December the book just totally blew up. It was number 347 in books. In BOOKS! Like all books on Amazon!
And then… Suddenly one day my book was pulled and I was sent an email about a copyright infringement. Amazon provided me with the information for the person making the claim, but the email I sent to them bounced back as invalid, and the name they gave did not seem to exist anywhere online. Clearly someone had given fake info. What If Publishing coached me on how to deal with Amazon and get the book reinstated since this was clearly bullshit. Our theory is that it was a competitor just trying to knock me off the charts. It was down for about 11 days, but finally they put it back, with all of its five star reviews.
THEN...very recently, What If informed me that there was someone else trying to publish a coloring book with the exact same title and the exact same subtitle! I felt like a dick, but I couldn't have this other book out there stealing SEO results from me, so then I was on the other side of an Amazon complaint. The book has since been taken down...for now.
Since then it hasn’t been blowing up, but it still provides a steady income every month. In the meantime I have published a second book “Cats Being Brats” which is the same concept, but renamed so that I can overcome the censorship hurdles. I’m eagerly waiting to see if this book is also a hit.
In the meantime I’m working on a third cat coloring book - “Cats Invading Art History”, as well as a more serious book with words - "Shit I Learned In Therapy...But With Cats". Stay tuned and subscribe to my newsletter for updates on when those are released.
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