June 9, 2010

Made It Moment: Karen McQuestion

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 8:49 am

A Scattered Life I’ve been following author Karen McQuestion’s (great name, right?)journey avidly. I first became aware of Karen through Joe Konrath’s blog. Joe talks about his move away from mainstream publishing and to Kindle and Amazon’s new publishing arm, Amazon Encore. He’s at the forefront of a movement that could eliminate  part of the publishing chain, putting the author at one end and the distributor at the other. Karen had never been published traditionally and thus didn’t have Joe’s following when she began doing the same thing. Could she possibly succeed? As you will see below, her results have surpassed all expectations, making Karen also a pioneer in this brave new world of book creation.

As a writer I felt I’d “made it” when I got a complimentary email from a woman I’d never met.

My story is like so many others. Being a writer was a lifelong dream of mine, but I didn’t approach it seriously until my three kids were all in school. Once the youngest went off to kindergarten, I kept a disciplined writing schedule, attended critique groups and workshops, and over the next seven years managed to write five novels, none of which were ever published.

When I discovered that manuscripts could be self-published as e-books on Amazon’s Kindle, I was intrigued by the idea. Initially, I uploaded two of my books, just to see how it went. I had no expectations, so when they started selling, I was thrilled. Still, without feedback, I didn’t know if anyone liked them, or even read them, for that matter.

A few weeks later, I got an email from a woman named Kimberly who lived in Las Vegas. The subject heading said, “YOU ARE HILARIOUS!!!!” Her email was as enthusiastic as her heading, and just as full of exclamation points. She loved my books, and wanted to know if I had others. I was overjoyed. I printed her email and read it over and over again, then made my husband read it (he was happy for me, but not nearly as emotional about it).

This was a turning point. Hearing that a complete stranger connected with my stories convinced me to upload my other books.

Since that day, I’ve heard from other readers, gotten some terrific reviews, and sold thousands of e-books. One of my novels, A Scattered Life, was optioned for film and will be published in paperback by AmazonEncore this coming August. There have been many validating moments, but Kimberly’s email was the first of these, and I still get a thrill thinking about it.

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. Oh my goodness, congratulations! A Scattered Life looks really good. Optioned for film–how exciting! Yet how nice that your made-it-moment is actually connecting with a reader. Very cool! Best of luck to you!!

    Comment by Savvy — June 9, 2010 @ 9:08 am

  2. I agree, Savvy. When Karen puts her connection with a reader as the moment she knew she’d made it, that kind of hinge for her career, it shows her character. Blessings, Karen. And continued “made it” moments for everything you do.

    Comment by Peg Brantley — June 9, 2010 @ 9:17 am

  3. Sapphire and Peg, that connection with readers is what I am most longing for as an unpublished (pre-published?) author, and I suspect it is the same for both of you. As someone devoted to print, I haven’t had the opportunity to connect with Karen through her work yet, but just pre-ordered A SCATTERED LIFE from Amazon. It will be my mid-summer present to myself!

    Comment by jenny — June 9, 2010 @ 9:28 am

  4. Karen,
    Your book sounds wonderful! I am looking forward to reading it!

    Comment by Judy — June 9, 2010 @ 10:14 am

  5. I truly believe the best part of publishing a novel is hearing from strangers who enjoy it. But a film option sounds awesome, too!

    Comment by Sara — June 9, 2010 @ 12:23 pm

  6. You were wise not to sit about believing in the rejections you got from print publishers; you were wise not to spend years and years sending it around and trying to rewrite it to thrity differenct views of what you should do with it; wise to forego all the nonsense in a time and place wherein you could take it to Kindle and start selling it, and wow, what a story! Gives hope to many another Indie author/publisher. I am on my way, having followed in the footsteps of my best friend Joe Konrath. I sold a thousand books last month, so am a happy Kindle camper too. While it was not the Kindle edition of Killer Instinct that inspired my film option, the same book can be found on Kindle and it is my personal bestseller there.

    Major Congratulaitons!

    Comment by Robert W. Walker — June 9, 2010 @ 7:07 pm

  7. Wow, Rob, a 1000 in a month? Congratulations! I love reading about your and Joe’s exchanges–I bet the two of you can keep ‘em laughing all night. So…want to write a post for this Brave New World series??

    Comment by jenny — June 9, 2010 @ 8:34 pm

  8. Jenny, thanks so much for inviting me to share my “Made It Moment.” And thank you for pre-ordering A Scattered Life! You’re making me look good to my editor and the marketing people.

    I appreciate everyone’s comments and good wishes. Reading them put a huge smile on my face.

    Robert, as I was reading your words I thought, here is a man who’s been around the publishing block. With a film option and a thousand books in a month, I have a feeling that for you the best is yet to come.

    I actually did my share of sending manuscripts out and trying to figure out what the market wanted. I second-guessed myself a million times. On the upside, I did become a better writer along the way, so when the Kindle opportunity presented itself, I was ready.

    Comment by Karen McQuestion — June 9, 2010 @ 9:06 pm

  9. I love your rare and inspiring story. Congratulations on all your success! Right now is a terrific time to be a novelist.

    Comment by L.J. Sellers — June 9, 2010 @ 11:28 pm

  10. Welcome to the site, LJ! You are doing some wonderfully creative work yourself, and I love reading your MMA posts (and am looking forward to deciding which of your books to start with…your website is open on my machine right now)! Please get in touch if you’d be interested in writing a Made It Moment yourself :)

    Comment by jenny — June 10, 2010 @ 7:18 am

  11. Wonderful story to inspire all of us to just keep trucking along… or is that writing along? LOL

    I remember the first reader feed-back I received. It was for a column I wrote for a Dallas newspaper and a reader sent me a lovely note. I won’t say how many years ago that was, but the note, which I still have, is a bit yellowed with age. Not that I have gotten older, mind you. Just the paper got older.

    Comment by Maryann Miller — June 10, 2010 @ 10:05 am

  12. Jenny, Nice interview. And, congrats, Karen. You are the success story those of us poised to self-pub are needing to hear:) Looking forward to reading A Scattered Life.

    Comment by Eloise Hill — June 10, 2010 @ 6:32 pm

  13. Eloise, please keep us posted on your own journey!

    Today’s post–just up–is about some of the bumps and turns along the way toward (maybe) traditional publishing.

    I find the new possibilities out there fascinating–especially the interaction between different paths.

    Comment by jenny — June 10, 2010 @ 7:55 pm

  14. Congratulations, Karen. And Jenny, thank you for sending me the link. My first e-book THE SHADOW OF REALITY, a romantic intrigue, has just gone up on Amazon. I don’t expect results ike yours, but I’m thrilled to be in the game.

    Comment by Donna Fletcher Crow — June 11, 2010 @ 2:34 pm

  15. OH MY. This is wonderful news. Congrats, Karen! (And remember that we are on a first-name basis when your ms becomes a blockbuster movie.) Sometimes all I need is to hear a story like this one to go one more day, and today is covered now. I look forward to reading A Scattered Life and hope to see it on the big screen someday soon. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Comment by Subourbon WIfe — June 11, 2010 @ 2:56 pm

  16. Wonderful news, indeed! Congratulations Karen. If it had not been for your success, I would not have been encouraged to publish my novel, NEVER GIVE UP, now on Kindle. And like Donna Fletcher Crow, I do not expect the kind of success you have but surely enjoy the fun of trying.

    Comment by Dawn Klemme Ross — June 11, 2010 @ 3:28 pm

  17. Dawn, please keep us posted on your progress with NEVER. As always at Suspense Your Disbelief, I love to introduce new authors and their work–please everyone, consider it an open invitation to get in touch with me!

    Donna, thankfully I have your print book to look forward to as I remain a steadfast lover of yes, sadly fallen trees, but I wish you the best of luck in your Kindle incarnation, too!

    Subourban, you will be writing about your book here one day, I predict!

    Comment by jenny — June 13, 2010 @ 6:52 pm

  18. I had the good fortune of attending a workshop Karen McQuestion held at RedBird-RedOak Studios in Milwaukee on self-publishing. It was fabulous – she was well-prepared, generous, funny. Her writing is terrific and I’m thrilled things are going so well for her!

    Comment by Pam — June 17, 2010 @ 12:39 pm

  19. I somehow missed the more recent comments until just now. What a nice surprise! And what fun to see some familiar names. Thanks everyone, for all the kind words. And thanks again, Jenny, for being such a generous host!

    Comment by Karen McQuestion — June 24, 2010 @ 11:18 pm

  20. [...] 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. Last June when I shared my [...]

    Pingback by Suspense Your Disbelief » Guest Post: Karen McQuestion — November 26, 2010 @ 6:04 pm

  21. [...] back initially self-published sensation Karen McQuestion to Suspense Your Disbelief. Karen wrote a Made It Moment last year and since then her sales have only soared, Amazon’s print publishing arm, Encore, [...]

    Pingback by Suspense Your Disbelief » Guest Post: Karen McQuestion — October 9, 2011 @ 9:02 am

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