Friday, October 8, 2010

Karen McQuestion

A Scattered Life....and more

A Scattered Life is the story of a friendship triangle. I've always been intrigued by the idea of feeling like an outsider in your own family, and in telling the story of the three women in this book I was able to explore that idea more fully. Some readers have said they laughed and cried while they read the book, which was gratifying to hear.

I heard Karen's interview on WPR a couple of weeks ago and e-mailed her. She's been a busy lady. Hers is the enviable story a real self-starter, the kind of woman who made "it" in this shaky business.

She's published five books with Amazon so far. Karen says, "After years of trying to get published traditionally, I self-published my books on Amazon's Kindle in 2009. Sales were great, and as a result, I now have five books (paperback and e-book) coming out under the AmazonEncore imprint, and one novel, A Scattered Life, optioned for film.

I'd like to thank the Kindle readers, especially the ones on the Amazon message boards and My good fortune is directly connected to their willingness to give an unknown author a chance. That alone would have been wonderful, but then they took it a step further by recommending my books to other readers, and it all snowballed from there. Believe me when I say, I am truly grateful."

So, how did she do it?

Although she says she had no huge platform, Karen did have an audience with some work she did at WPR and other places, but the following pieces from an interview with Joel Konrath have a lot to do with it:

I still post on message boards, and make comments on heavily-trafficked websites and blogs. I think some writers underestimate the power of the message boards, especially the ones right on the Amazon site. The Kindle readers are right there, only one click away from your book.

One thing I did, which I think helps, was to set it up so my posts on Amazon come up under “Karen McQuestion, Author.” That way, I can participate in general discussions and if people on the boards are curious, they can check out my books, and if they aren’t, that’s okay too.

I've also posted comments on, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, and other newspapers here in the US and worldwide. I'm genuinely interested in reading about anything Kindle /e-book/ publishing related, so it was natural for me to seek out articles on these topics online. Whenever I felt I could contribute to the conversation or politely clarify a point I did, and always mentioned that I spoke as a self-published Kindle author. I do believe this led to sales, but it's impossible to say for sure. Regardless, I felt it was a good use of my time.

(On whether she was raising her prices last June to net a higher royalty:) Readers who said in reviews or on message boards that they tried one of my books primarily because it was cheap, and then liked it so much they went on and read my other titles. I’d hate to raise my prices and miss out on even one reader. So, I’m torn. The short answer is that I may raise the price on one of the books, and see how it goes.

I have not used Smashwords. All of my books have been sold via the Kindle or Kindle app. If your writing has been vetted and you have every reason to believe it’s of publishable quality, I say go for it.
Amazon does not discriminate against self-published authors. In fact, they’d love for every indie author to sell millions of downloads. When you make money, they make money. The book pages on Amazon don’t differentiate--small press, self-published, big publishing house— each product page has an identical layout. And it’s free to upload a book on Kindle (I still can’t get over that)!

Four tactics that will give your book a huge advantage can be set into place before the book is even on the market:

Price: Set the price low--under $2.00 is best. A low price makes a huge difference in enticing readers to try an unknown author.

Title: Choose a title that’s catchy and easy to remember.

Description: Descriptions should be brief, ideally only a paragraph. Try to avoid making it just a rundown of plot points. Start with the main character and make sure you include the conflict. Use strong verbs and specific nouns, and leave the reader wanting to know more.

Cover: A cover can make or break a book. Try to make the cover as professional in appearance as possible. For ideas, look at traditionally published books similar to your own.

Additionally, when you upload your book, make sure you take advantage of the options in picking “categories” and “keywords.” And after the Amazon book page is complete, add appropriate tags. All of these things help readers find your books.

Finally, be prepared to spend some time doing marketing. For the first six months I spent at least an hour or two a day doing promotion online and it paid off in a big way.

People can’t buy your book if they don’t know about your book, so don’t be shy—get the word out!


Karen McQuestion said...

Hi Lisa! Thanks so much for the nice write-up. I really appreciate it. :-)

I just wanted to add that although I didn't go through (an e-book distributor), it was because I wasn't aware of them at the time I was self-publishing my books. I know of many writers who have used Smashwords and are really happy with the results.

Silvina said...

How very cool! And Congratulations on your success!