How to buy my first published short story

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It’s ‘self publishing’ not ‘vanity publishing’ – the difference is, I think, important…

Self-publishing, or independent publishing, is undergoing a renaissance, invigorated by the e-book revolution. Gone are the days of ‘vanity publishing’, where you would pay a ‘publisher’ to print your book – irrespective of its quality – and then proceed to hawk your wares to anyone (often non-one) who might be interested. Now the popular e-book providers like Apple and Amazon provide a free sample, and if readers like what they try, they buy. The key point here is that quality has reentered the realm of self-publishing, and if your book doesn’t measure up, it languishes in cyberspace with all the other pieces of writing criminality destined never to be read by anyone other than the author.

For the record, self-publishing is neither a new phenomenon nor the preserve of amateurs who can’t get published ‘professionally’. Prominent self-publishers (and their titles) have included Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, James Joyce (Ulysses), Deepak Chopra, Robert James Waller (The Bridges of Madison County), Virginia Woolf and Rudyard Kipling.

Modern print publishing is having a hard time, and the percentages being demanded by the large retailers such as Amazon and even stores like Tesco means that agents and publishers are less inclined to take risks with new writers. Of course, there are exceptions, thankfully, and several new writers are shining examples of what we would all like to achieve. For proof of this, check out Jess Richards’ Snake Ropes. Jess is a former student of the Creative Writing course I attended at the University of Sussex. Agents and publishers are also paying lower advances, and advances on second and subsequent books are being determined by the sales of the first book which, for a new writer, can be meagre. Despite all that, competition is fierce because, ultimately, getting a book published remains the crowning glory of a writer’s hard work and dedication. Consequently, succeeding in being taken on by an agent or publisher is like an army trying to attack a castle through a cat flap. Robert Persig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was rejected 121 times. During his lifetime, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick sold just 3,715 copies.

It’s even harder if you’re a short story writer, and like me you have one short story (albeit the first in a series of ten) that you’d like to foist upon an unsuspecting audience. Publishers aren’t keen on short stories by new writers, and getting one published is a non-starter. Even published writers have trouble getting new work published that doesn’t fit the novel structure and length. Stephen Leather, a five times published writer, had his novellas refused by his publisher because they didn’t fit the publisher’s desirable output at that time. He self-published and reportedly proceeded to rack up sales in the region of £15,000 per week in e-book sales. The average yearly earning for a published author (let’s put JK Rowling and EL James to one side for a moment) is around £10k. One small piece of good news here (for the writer at least), is that they still get their full percentage royalty, irrespective of how heavily the book is discounted at the bookstore; it’s the publisher who takes the hit.

Hopefully, you can now see why self-publishing is regaining its foothold. Ironically, the principle retailers like Amazon and Apple are on the one hand depriving agents and publishers of their former profit margins, while on the other hand providing a free and easy new outlet for new writers to let the reading world decide for itself whether their e-book is worth the e-paper it’s printed on.

So, here’s mine…

The Repentant Sicarii.

I’ve published through a company called Smashwords. They take my story, convert it to all of the popular e-book formats, and then distribute it. This takes a while (for example, you have to have sold 1,000 copies on Smashwords before they submit it to Amazon for the Kindle).


It’s just $2 (about £1.30), a meaty 6,000 words long, and here’s the best way to get it:

1. Visit

2. Register with the site. It’s free.

3. Login, and make sure the ‘adult filter’ is OFF.

4. Search for The Repentant Sicarii or Paul Sharville

5. When you’ve found my short story, buy it for just $2

6. Download it in whichever format you like, including Kindle and Apple


1. Once you have downloaded the book, plug your Kindle into your PC or Mac.

2. Your Kindle should appear as a drive (like when you plug in a USB pen)

3. Copy the book (from your downloads folder, or wherever you’ve saved it) to your Kindle documents folder.

4. Hey presto, the book will appear on your Kindle.


The only way to promote my story so that people beyond my family and friends buy it is via recommendation and social media. Here’s how you can help:

1. Please be kind enough to rate and review the book on the Smashwords website. A small point here, if your name is Sharville (and there are quite a few of us), probably best if you don’t review it, just tell me how much you love/hate it the next time we meet for a pint.

2. Please avoid leaving fake or over-enthusiastic reviews. That’s where there is a suspiciously glowing review from someone who’s clearly a well-meaning friend. If word gets out, Amazon will come round my house, break my pencils in half and slap my legs. Say what you feel, good or bad. OK, maybe not the bad bit.

3. If it’s not your cup of tea, then that is absolutely cool. Thanks for purchasing it. I really appreciate you taking the time to soldier through it.

4. Meanwhile, back in the ‘I love it’ camp, please post a comment on your Facebook and Twitter pages, with a link to the book page on Smashwords (here). I really need all you lovely people to spread the word.



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