Poppy J. Anderson is the most successful self-publisher of the year. You’d never suspect that behind the Anglophone pseudonym lies a thirty-something German from Essen. All ten books from her New York Titans series made the top 10 of the German Kindle bestseller list, with most of them sitting at the top spot for weeks. As a serious historian, she never dared to send publishers her humorous books about the shallowness of love surrounding a fictional New York football team. Only Kindle Direct Publishing and a stubborn friend made it possible for her books to delight thousands of fans rather than lie in a drawer collecting dust.
“My best friend, to whom I’d always given all my manuscripts to read that I’d been devotedly hammering out—first on my electric typewriter, then later on my PC—since I was fifteen, was excited when I blushingly told her that I’d seen a report at the 2012 Frankfurt Book Fair about self-publishing and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).
I’m an author who’s lucky enough to do the best job in the world every day
‘You’re going to do that too,’ she told me, totally convinced of this plan, even when I went back and forth between embarrassment about actually publishing my books, pure fear of falling on my face, and a little bit of flattered blushing because her compliments were music to my ears. My objection that I didn’t have time, because I had a doctorate waiting to be finished, was vigorously brushed aside and she wouldn’t let it go.
It can’t hurt to try
Whilst I scolded myself for being an such an idiot and telling her about the possibilities of KDP, and cursed my big mouth — which was also to blame for the fact that, one year previously, I’d found myself on a cookery programme with the very same friend —,the reckless part of me nonchalantly shrugged my shoulders. What was the worst that could happen? I figured that given the multitude of published eBooks, hardly anyone would notice my book amongst all the others anyway, so I decided to give it a shot.
At the end of a nerve-racking process, I pressed the KDP “Publish” button, and with that my first book, Touchdown fürs Glück (“Touchdown for Happiness”), saw the light of day, while I nervously chewed on my nails like a half-starved hamster. This nerve-racking process started when I tried to find the right manuscript from the dozens of already finished books on my hard drive, to edit and make corrections, and ended with me hanging some pink underwear and a football jockstrap from a tree in my parents’ garden to take a photo for the cover.
I probably don’t need to tell you that the end result wasn’t very tasteful, and that the neighbours, who watched this special photo shoot with incredulous looks, thought I’d gone totally crazy. But let’s be honest: someone who takes part in cookery programmes on national television and writes romantic novels about American football players probably fits the dictionary definition of the word ‘crazy’ pretty well.
Despite this unusual cover, my book surprisingly found its way to readers, who also bought the follow-up Make Love und spiel Football (‘Make Love and Play Football’), which likewise was blessed with a cover which was a bit of an acquired taste.
Within three months, both novels had sold around 15,000 copies. To be honest I’d been expecting to sell fifty copies across the whole year, and even then only when I was in a particularly optimistic mood. My best friend graciously gave up the opportunity to make me eat humble pie, despite assuring me from the start that the books would be a success, but she didn’t spare me from repeatedly pointing out, in a slightly arrogant tone, ‘I told you so.’
The best job in the world
Two years later, my hobby has become my job. The doctorate still isn’t finished; instead more than ten books have come out, which have sold more than 500,000 copies. I’m an author who’s lucky enough to do the best job in the world every day, full of happiness, and be her own boss. I’ve got KDP by Amazon to thank for that, as well as my friend, who still reads all my manuscripts before I let them loose on my readership.
Naturally, working as a self-publisher also means that you need to have a lot of energy and discipline, but there’s no greater feeling than being able to reach so many people with your own stories and to dare to go within touching distance of your readers—not even being on a cookery programme!
P.S. These days, I’m no longer creeping round trees armed with a camera, taking photos of pink underwear and amusing my parents’ neighbours; instead I leave the cover to the professionals.”