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Q&A with Karen McQuestion—Self-Publishing

Karen McQuestionKaren McQuestion is the author of several novels, including Easily Amused (AmazonEncore 2010) and Celia and the Fairies (AmazonEncore 2010).

Q: What do you see as the benefits of self-publishing over traditional publishing?

A: Control! Not all writers feel this way, but I love every part of the process: editing, formatting, cover design, and marketing. I especially enjoy writing the descriptive paragraph that sums up the story. Combined it’s a lot of work, but I believe writers are the best advocates for their books. No one has more on the line or knows the story better than the author.

Q: Why did you choose Amazon as your publisher among all the other independent publishers out there?

A: For years I attempted to get published traditionally. I was agented for three different manuscripts, entered contests, and submitted directly when the agent thing didn’t work out. I attended workshops and conferences, and networked to the best of my ability. Oh, and I wrote a lot too. And revised extensively. I also researched the business end of publishing and read agent blogs. In short, I explored every avenue I could think of, and still I was a failed novelist with several books languishing on my hard drive.

That all changed the day I read an article about another writer named Boyd Morrison. He had a terrific agent but wasn’t able to sell his novels, so he uploaded three of them to be available as ebooks on Amazon’s Kindle. In a short period of time, he sold thousands, which led to a publishing deal with Simon & Schuster. His story resonated with me, and I decided to do the same thing. I chose Amazon because, simply put, that’s what worked for Boyd. If I had thought it through, I still would have gone with Amazon because of their market-reach and innovative approach.

Q: Was your experience with E-publishing a straightforward process or are there obstacles to keep a look-out for?

A: It was fairly straightforward, because others had paved the way before me.

This is the part where I get to give credit to author J.A. Konrath. Mr. Konrath is a prolific writer of horror and thriller novels and a font of knowledge for the indie author. His blog became my guidebook for self-publishing on Kindle. The information on his site was invaluable when I started out, and helped me to avoid a lot of potential obstacles. I am forever grateful.

Q: Do you have any advice for new writers on building an audience?

A: Marketing strategies are as varied as the authors themselves. I don’t believe there’s any one way to get the word out. For me, there were a few things. The Amazon site is set up so that those who self-pub ebooks can designate twenty keywords, five categories and multiple tags. My advice would be to take advantage of these options because this is how potential readers can find your books. I also posted on the message boards every day, not just to promote my books, but also to be part of a community of people who read and buy books on Kindle. It gave me insights into what readers look for and enjoy. Plus, I met some wonderful people, and those folks recommended my books to other posters. Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth. It benefited me in a big way. I’m still amazed.

Q: What have you learned from this journey of self-publishing that you wish you had known when you were starting out?

A: I had no clue how big ebooks would become. When I started out in July 2009, I only knew of one person who owned a Kindle, and I had not seen an ebook device myself. I was old school where books were concerned. I couldn’t imagine reading off of an electronic device. Oh boy, has that changed! I still love traditional books, but I also enjoy the ease and convenience of my Kindle. I can see now why they call it an ebook revolution. I’m thrilled to be part of the first wave of writers who achieved success through this new technology, and I honestly believe that my story will be eclipsed in the next year or so by many, many authors. This is an exciting time to be a writer. We have more options than ever before.

—Melissa Corliss DeLorenzo

Karen McQuestion‘s essays have appeared in Newsweek, Chicago Tribune, Denver Post, Christian Science Monitor and several anthologies. She is the author of six books self-published on Amazon’s Kindle, one of which, the novel, A Scattered Life, caught the attention of an L.A. based production company and became the first self-published Kindle book to be optioned for film. Five of her previously self-published books will now be published by AmazonEncore. McQuestion lives with her family in Hartland, Wisconsin.

Learn more about Karen at her website, www.karenmcquestion.com.

 Book Giveaway Winner!
Congratulations to Christine D. who is the winner of a copy of Karen’s book, Easily Amused! She will also receive a copy of Karen’s children’s book Celia and the Fairies! Congratulations, Christine D.!

Want to write for The Writer’s Life blog? Drop us an email at thewriterslife@hercircleezine.com.

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Melissa Corliss Delorenzo
Melissa Corliss DeLorenzo is a writer, reader, yogini, mom, homemaker and the Associate Editor for Her Circle Ezine. She loves to cook and take long walks with her kids and is a woman who wants to meaningfully exchange and intersect with other women writers. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from the University of Massachusetts and a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. She is at work on several novels. Melissa lives in North Central Massachusetts with her family.
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16  Comments
  • Karen McQuestion

    Kerri, I’m glad I could help!

  • Kerri Wood Thomson

    Karen has given me the inspiration to get over moping around about my year spent trying to find an agent, and receiving close to 50 rejections. I’m just going to take the plunge and self publish.

  • Karen McQuestion

    Yay–more comments! And everyone is so nice, I wish you all could win.

    Rita, thanks for the compliment. I try to be nice. I don’t always succeed, but it’s good to know I come off that way.

    Sherry O’Keefe, I love the analogy with the encyclopedias. Very true. The Internet and computers have made our lives more complicated in some ways, but they’ve also opened up new opportunities as well. I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned. Other people have been generous with me, and I like to pass it on. :-)

  • sherry o'keefe

    karen,

    this q & a has been encouraging! just as we no longer need a set of encyclopedias in our living room because we have the internet and google, it is now possible for writers to step outside the box of traditional publishing and consider the same decision you’ve made. what i find wonderful in reading your interview is the giving and sharing nature you exude. this circle of helping one another by sharing and encouraging is a nurturing experience we don’t encounter every day. i thank you and her circle ezine for paving the way for others.

    best,

    sherry

  • rita

    Good interview and such thoughtful follow-up advice. What a nice author you are!

  • Karen McQuestion

    Hi Everyone! First of all, I want to thank Melissa for inviting me to do an interview, and for hosting the giveaway. I really appreciate it. :-)

    Kate Robinson, like you, I was not all that enthused about e-books either until I got my Kindle. I still go to the library and to bookstores, but for ease and convenience you can’t beat e-books. I compare it to the difference between going to the movie theater and Netflix: same movie, different form of delivery, both have their place.

    Hey Kipp! Hello again. You are very welcome. I’m glad to get the word out if it helps other writers.

    HeatherY, thanks so much for entering the giveaway and for your kind words.

    Jonita, I wish your friend the best of luck. You’re right when you say there are so many deserving authors out there. We’re lucky that now there are more options for getting our work in the hands of readers than every before.

    Patsy, I agree that it’s vital to believe in yourself and your work. Not always easy, but really important.

    Hi Christine D! I’m so glad you mentioned the cover of Celia and the Fairies–I loved it from the moment I saw it. I’d love to get it enlarged and framed for my office. I don’t think I’ll get sick of it.

    Linda, you’re very welcome. Thanks for taking the time to comment. :)

    Hello again, Jools! I’m glad my marketing tips were helpful. I hope your book sells a bazillion copies.

    Mark F., we meet again! I’m glad I was able to help.

    Solveig, if you look on my website, my FAQ page addresses marketing in general. If you’re going to be uploading to Kindle, you are allowed to choose five categories and twenty keywords. These will help prospective readers find your book when they do a search. It makes sense to get full use of this option. In your case, you might choose things like: urban fantasy, paranormal, teen, mystery, coming of age etc.

    You also might want to check out Amanda Hocking. She’s had phenomenal success with her self-published YA novels, and she shares a lot of her marketing and sales information on her blog. The best of luck to you!

  • Solveig Quass

    Great Interview. Karen is an inspiration. I have a novel almost ready to publish, “I Am Anasazi.” It’s an urban fantasy/mystery about a young woman growing up and dealing with life. I’d like to self publish. Any marketing tips for young women audiences?

    Thanks,
    sq

  • Mark Feggeler

    I heard Karen tell her story on NPR earlier this year and it was a lightning-strike moment. All obstacles to publication disappeared, along with any excuses I’ve ever employed to explain why I stopped writing.
    Mark Feggeler

  • Jools Sinclair

    What a fabulous interview! Karen, thank you for your insight~you are quite an inspiration! I love your marketing tips…and of course your entire story.
    Thank you!
    Jools Sinclair

  • Linda

    A truly enjoyable interview. And encouragement such as Karen’s for new authors is one of the most valuable resources we can find. Success stories don’t hurt either. Thank you for sharing.

  • Christine D

    I love technology. I went from searching for a Scholastic book on Amazon called “Hinky Pink” to finding a new author to read not only for myself but for my niece. The cover of “Celia and the Fairies!” caught my attention and reading further I believe I will be adding this one to the collection. In addition, since I have always been quizzical about writing a book it was intriguing to read your Q&A section. Thank you.

  • Patsy Thornton

    Great inspriational story! Sometimes writers just want to give up but this story gives hope and that you have to keep on keeping on. Believe in yourself and your work!

  • Jonita

    What a wonderful story! I know of an author who has not had success getting her books published in the traditional sense, but has made them available as eBooks. I’ve read all of them, and hope that someday she will experience traditional success in the same way that you have. There are so many deserving authors out there!

  • HeatherY

    Karen McQuestion is an inspiration! I hope they do justice to her story as film.

  • kipp Speicher

    Great stuff and thanks so much for all the help you have provided for other authors

  • Kate Robinson

    Thanks for the encouragement! This interview is especially well-timed as lots of people just finished (hopefully!) their NaNoWriMo novels and wonder about editing and publishing. You provide resources and references that will really help others as they start to revise and then want to publish their books.

    I’m very interested in learning more about publishing to e-books as I, too, have a nook that I love! My husband and I were “no way” on e-readers until we actually checked them out. Then, rather than anniversary gifts or a weekend away, we bought nooks together. We share our account and thus our books, so we can talk about what we read. What’s more romantic than that?

    Thanks, again, for all this information! While my book is not ready for publication, I know where to look once I have it ready!

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