November 26, 2010

Guest Post: Karen McQuestion

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 6:02 pm

A Scattered Life

In the midst of all the wonderful hullabaloo (what is a hullabaloo anyway?) with Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day comes a very different sort of post. A post from an author who entered this world from the other side of the fence. Suspense Your Disbelief is an equal opportunity employer when it comes to all things writing and books. And so even though I adore bookstores as I will adore that deep, hot soaking tub if I ever get one, I am fascinated and impressed by author Karen McQuestion, who, with a little help from Amazon, made it in an otherwise almost entirely self-propelled way. Karen contributed her Made It Moment last year. And now she returns with an update that will blow you away.

By the way, I don’t usually do this because I want this blog to be for every reader, every writer–as many readers and writers as possible–and not a reflection of my particular tastes. But I have to say–I ordered a copy of Karen’s first print novel as soon as it came out, and I heartily recommend it. A one sit read.

And now, Karen…
Karen McQuestion

Last June when I shared my “Made It Moment,” I thought life couldn’t get any better. During the prior year, I’d self-published six books on Amazon’s Kindle and sold a slew of ebooks, resulting in a film option and publishing contract for my novel, A Scattered Life. It was a wild ride. Even though I planned for it, waited for it, spent years writing and revising and submitting, getting a publishing deal still took me by surprise (not that I’m complaining).

Since that time, I’ve contracted with my publisher, AmazonEncore, for four more of my previously self-published books. Three of them are already out in paperback and ebook, and the next two will be released in April, 2011. In the space of two years, I’ll have gone from failed novelist to the published author of five books. And none of it would have happened if I hadn’t been open to trying something new. All told, I’ve sold over 75,000 ebooks on my own.

My story has been covered on NPR, the Wall Street Journal, and on ABC’s World News Now and America This Morning. In September of this year, my first book, A Scattered Life, was mentioned on Good Morning America when it made the number five spot on the Kindle bestseller list.

On occasion someone will congratulate me and say I deserve my success. It’s nice of them, yet hearing this makes me very uncomfortable. I did work long and hard, but there are plenty of excellent writers who’ve done the same and are still waiting for their day in the sun. It’s unfair, I know. I’m not entirely sure I deserve my good fortune, but I’ll take it anyway.

The best part of this whole thing is the knowledge that people are reading and enjoying my books. The second best thing? Generating an income so that I can consider writing my job. To be able to do what I love, connect with readers, and get paid for it? I’m in writer heaven.

I hope that my publisher will be interested in the book I’m working on now, but if they opt not to publish it, I love that I have other options. As long as my manuscript meets the approval of my circle of trusted readers, I wouldn’t hesitate to self-publish again. It’s all been good.

Karen McQuestion’s essays have appeared in Newsweek, Chicago Tribune, Denver Post, Christian Science Monitor, among other publications. She is the author of six books self-published on Amazon’s Kindle, one of which, 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. It will be published by AmazonEncore, Amazon’s new publishing division, on August 10, 2010. McQuestion lives with her family in Hartland, Wisconsin.


  1. Karen– such a great story of perseverance, good fortune, and obviously talent! What an inspiration to all writers out there!

    Comment by Shelley Stout — November 26, 2010 @ 8:44 pm

  2. I love,lov,love your story, Karen, and I LOVED A Scattered Life. Can’t wait to read more of your work.

    Comment by Judy — November 27, 2010 @ 9:28 am

  3. How wonderful! It’s very generous of you to credit luck as a factor in your success as well. If I ever make it, I vow to do that, too. Hope that film option turns into a deal!

    Comment by Sara — November 27, 2010 @ 10:10 am

  4. You’re the poster child for the “Believe in Yourself” campaign and an inspiration to many other writers. Keep it up.

    Comment by Carolyn J. Rose — November 27, 2010 @ 10:26 am

  5. “You deserve your success”–nothing wrong with that! And so do all the hard-working novelists out there who don’t give up, who aren’t afraid to try something new (okay, we’re all afraid, but some forge ahead anyway!). Congratulations! I am so glad so many news outlets are picking up on your story and helping in the promos. Fantastic!

    Comment by Savvy — November 27, 2010 @ 10:29 am

  6. What I love is that you’ve shown us closed front doors don’t mean closed back doors. We just have to pick up our feet and check out the entire house.

    Did you do this with or without the help of an agent?

    Comment by Peg Brantley — November 27, 2010 @ 12:00 pm

  7. Hi, Karen and Jenny,

    This is a very interesting discussion. I’ve never self-published, but you definitely making it sound like an exciting alternative. With traditional publishing, unless you make it to bestseller status, there’s not much money for authors. My latest novel is a YA coming of age novel STACY’S SONG, which L&L Dreamspell has just brought out in both print and e-books. It’s had very good reviews. But I doubt that it will earn much money because the “big” publishers have the lock on distribution. L&L is a small independent publisher. Could be self-publishing e-books is the future of publishing. Who knows? The revolution could be now!

    Comment by Jacqueline Seewald — November 27, 2010 @ 2:48 pm

  8. Thanks for all the great comments, everyone! Peg, I’m going to let Karen know about your question. I think she’ll be stopping by to talk to everybody soon!

    Comment by jenny — November 27, 2010 @ 4:36 pm

  9. How wonderful for me to come and see all the lovely comments! Thanks everyone, for your kind words.

    Jenny, thank you for saying my book was a “one sit read.” High praise indeed.

    Shelley Stout, what a coincidence to find your comment here, since I just recently bought your Kindle book, Celebrities for Breakfast! I’m finding that other writers are exceedingly generous in their congratulations, maybe because they know everything that’s involved along the way.

    Oh Judy, I’m so glad to hear that you loved A Scattered Life. A lot of agents and editor considered it to be a “quiet” novel, (as if that’s a bad thing). It does lack car chases or paranormal elements, but I hope the quirky characters and storyline make up for it.

    Sara, you sound like me not to long ago–“If I ever make it.” I had serious doubts at various times. The fact that you’re thinking in terms of it happening is definitely in your favor. That, and perseverence play a big part. I always felt like I was on the cusp of success and when it didn’t happen I’d believe that the NEXT book would be the one to get published. It helps to be a little delusional.

    Hi Carolyn, your comment made me smile. I’ve never been called a poster child before. I’m glad it’s for a good thing.

    Savvy, maybe we forge ahead because we’re afraid? I had this fear of being 90-years-old with dozens of unpublished manuscripts stacked under my bed. That fear pushed me to submit, enter contests, and query, and eventually to self-publish on Kindle.

    Hi Peg, I love your house analogy–too perfect. In answer to your question, I had two different agents in the past, but at the time I self-published I did not have representation. When AmazonEncore offered me a publishing deal, I opted not to use an agent, and negotiated and signed the contracts on my own. It’s entirely possible that I didn’t strike the very best deal I could have, but I’m satisfied and now I don’t have to pay 15% of my income for what could be a very long time (with P.O.D. and e-books, I believe books may never go out of print). I do have an excellent agent who handles the foreign rights, however.

    Comment by Karen McQuestion — November 27, 2010 @ 6:57 pm

  10. Late for the party, as always. But what an amazing story!

    Karen, you are proving it can be done. Everything I’ve come to believe is possible if you self-publish, you are doing. Way to go! Keep up the good work!

    Comment by Debbi — November 27, 2010 @ 7:11 pm

  11. Karen, thank you so much for your comment back to me. I hope you enjoy my little rom com. I had a lot of fun writing it! :)

    I also have a blog, and would love for you to stop by sometime as a blog guest. I just posted my first guest this weekend!

    Comment by Shelley Stout — November 27, 2010 @ 7:53 pm

  12. Thanks, Debbi. I’ve “met” so many great writers as a result of my e-book experience and you’re one of them. I appreciate your comment (and your enthusiasm)!

    Shelley, I’d love to be a guest on your blog. Feel free to email me at kmcquestion (@) and we’ll set something up. :-)

    Thanks again, Jenny, for giving my story space on your site. It was very generous of you.

    Comment by Karen McQuestion — November 28, 2010 @ 12:06 pm

  13. Thanks, everybody, for keeping this dialog going, and Karen, for being so generous with your responses. Everyone here can learn from everyone else (especially me) and I absolutely loved reading this exchange. I encountered Debbi’s identity theft/legal mystery first of all your work, and am so glad you guys know it, too. Shelley’s first novel, RADIUM HALOS, is a very intriguing read–utterly unique as a novel, which is saying something. I’m waiting for her rom com to come out in print–and am about to pre-order Karen’s next print book, FAVORITE. One thing the e scene proves is that some great writers would be lost if mainstream publishing were the only gig in town.

    Peg, does your sister have print plans for her recent release? I’m just about to write you and ask if she’d like to do a guest post here!

    Thanks again for coming, everyone, and Karen you are welcome *any* time as a guest! It’s my honor to host you.

    Comment by jenny — November 28, 2010 @ 7:47 pm

  14. Karen certainly proves that it can be done–spectacularly well–on your own, given great talent and some help from Amazon & Kindle. For sure there is a sea change occurring in books. My question is how bookSTORES can gain access to some of the talent appearing via this avenue. Since I like to read in print–and buy as much of my treasures as possible from a bookstore–I’d love the twain to meet.

    Comment by jenny — November 29, 2010 @ 7:06 pm

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