In the second interview in the Success in Epublishing articles, we have a great interview with Karen McQuestion, an extremely successful epubbed author, selling both YA and adult fiction. Her books are on top of the charts on Amazon and she is now publishing with Amazon Encore, a division of Amazon that works with talented and successful epubbed authors. Her novel, A Scattered Life, was the first epubbed Kindle book to be optioned for a film. She's been interviewed by numerous newspapers, mentioned in magazines, and even appeared on TV on ABC's World News Now. We are very lucky and I am very honored that she was interested in speaking with my audience. Many thanks to Karen! You can find links to her books (A Scattered Life, Easily Amused, Celia and the Fairies, Favorite, and Life on Hold ) at the bottom of the page.
How/when did you decide that epublishing would be your path?
For years I went the traditional route. I attended critique groups, writing workshops, and conferences. I wrote and rewrote and was lucky enough to have some success with my non-fiction in national newspapers and magazines. At this same time, I also wrote novels, but I could never get them published, despite being agented for three different manuscripts.
In 2009, I no longer had an agent, and had almost decided that this book thing was never going to pan out for me. Then something happened that changed my life. I read an article about another writer, Boyd Morrison, who’d achieved success self-publishing his books on Amazon’s Kindle.
Until that point, I didn’t know such a thing was possible. I was immediately intrigued and wanted to do it. I Googled to find out everything I could about self-publishing on Kindle, and came across J.A. Konrath’s blog, a treasure trove of information for anyone wanting to learn more about publishing in general, and e-books in particular. Armed with this knowledge, I uploaded two of my books in July 2009. I had high hopes, but no expectations.
I did all my marketing online, using message boards and blog comments. I was diligent about this—an hour or more every day. Sales were steady and I was (and am) grateful for every one of them. The first month I made $30, the second $300. My husband looked at me and said, “How many more books do you have?” We both realized that my once failed novels now had value. One by one we uploaded everything: two adult novels, two YA (teen) novels, a collection of humorous essays, and a children’s book.
Every month my sales increased and people started to say positive things about them on message boards and reviews. Sometimes I would wake up at night and wonder, half-asleep, if this was really happening, or if it was just a wonderful dream.
Is writing now your day job? Was it always?
Freelance writing has been my day job for years, but the pay was so low and sporadic that I also, on occasion, cleaned houses, and worked at Kohl’s department store. My income was supplemental to my husband’s and we were also raising kids, so we made it work.
Last month I earned more than I did in ten years of freelance writing, so yes, it’s really and truly my day job, something my teenagers don’t seem to grasp. ☺
Was there a point where you could see things really kick in sales-wise? (Did you go from a book a day to 5 books a day at a certain point, or something like that?)
Sales were steady right from the start, but they really took off after one of my novels, A Scattered Life, was optioned for film. This happened in November after the book had only been out a few weeks. A film producer from L.A. noticed it was getting buzz on the Amazon message boards and thought it had film potential. At that time, it was the first self-published Kindle book optioned for film and the resulting publicity gave my books a huge boost.
Do you have any advice for those considering epublishing or new to the game?
You’re not alone here. Read J.A. Konrath’s blog, Amanda Hockings’s site, and my FAQ page for starters. Kindleboards.com has tons of information on it, and the other writers are really helpful. Everything you need to know is out there and your friend, Google, can show you the way.
If your writing is strong and you have a great story to tell, epublishing is as an excellent option. Put your work out there and let the market decide. It’s a shame to let good stories sit on hard drives when they can be shared with readers.
Writers are making good money now, and more and more of the self-published books are getting recognition and rising in the rankings. For me, and many others, it’s an exciting time.
What are your writing plans for 2011?
I just finished a manuscript which needs revising and I’m also currently working on a screenplay. I have another book partially done, which I’d like to get back to.
My titles are currently being picked up, one by one, by Amazon’s publishing company, AmazonEncore, so I now have the best of both worlds, but if AmazonEncore hadn’t contacted me I’d still have a sweet deal doing it on my own. After feeling so disheartened by rejection, I now have the joy of writing back.