Tongues lagged when author, J.A. Konrath proclaimed that he was able to make a living from his Kindle sales. And although many writers saw this as the inspiration they needed to move forward with their own Kindle publishing plans, some questioned if it truly was possible.
Author Karen McQuestion says emphatically, “Yes!” In less than a year, not only have her books sold in the tens of thousands on Kindle but she is being published by AmazonEncore and has landed a movie deal.
In our interview with McQuestion, she explains the secrets of her success, her tips for other authors, why she turned down literary agency offers and what other authors can do to promote their eBooks successfully on Kindle.
Did you have any idea that you would be able to make a living and land a movie deal from all of this? How did it feel when you realized that this was all happening to you?
In July 2009, when I uploaded the first of my six books to Kindle, I had no expectations whatsoever. I remember saying to my husband that it would be nice if I’d make enough money for a nice dinner out once a month. At that point, my main hope was that my books, which were languishing on my hard drive, would be read by people outside my circle of friends and family. I never anticipated that less than a year later I’d have sales in the tens of thousands, positive reader reviews, a movie option, and a book contract with AmazonEncore for my novel, A Scattered Life.
As to how it felt–I was overjoyed, of course, especially when readers emailed to say they loved my books, but there was also a sort of fear that this was too good to be true. Every day, I’d check my sales and think that this level of success couldn’t possibly last, that soon it would dwindle to nothing. Each month sales have held steady or increased, but I still don’t take them for granted.
Were you able to land an agent too with all this excitement? If so, whom?
I opted not to use an agent for my contract with AmazonEncore. With an offer in hand and a movie option already finalized, I felt comfortable handling it on my own. My editor, Terry Goodman, was accommodating, and I’m very happy with the final terms of my contract. From the start I’ve felt that this was a partnership and that they want me to be happy. The novel will keep its original title, and I’ve been consulted on everything from cover art to flap copy to promotion. I’m excited to get A Scattered Life out in the world, and hope that when it comes out in August it will be as well received in paperback as it was on Kindle.
You seem like a prolific writer. How long does it take for you to write an average novel? Â How many pages a day do you typically write?
I’m actually not a prolific writer, but I like the idea that I seem that way, so thank you! The six books on Kindle are the result of eight years of work. One of the books, Celia and the Fairies, is a middle grade novel and another is a collection of humorous essays, so those two are quite short.
It takes about a year for me to write and revise an adult novel. I try to write two pages a day, although generally at the beginning of a project I write less, and then my daily page quota increases as I go along.
What do you say to the naysayers who say that people like you are just a fluke?
I haven’t encountered any naysayers, but in the event the subject comes up, I can point to other self-published Kindle authors whose books rank as well or better than mine. My story is in the forefront because of the movie option and book deal, but there are many whose sales are comparable.
Are we flukes? Just lucky? Perhaps. But if it’s true that luck is when preparation meets opportunity, I like to think that the years I spent writing, revising, and submitting are coming to fruition. That’s what I like to believe, anyway. And if that’s true for me, it can be true for others.
How many eBooks have you sold on Kindle since you started?
Just over 30,000 downloads to date.
What can authors do to promote their eBooks and stand out from the thousands of others on Kindle?
Presentation is key, and that means having a great title, description, and cover. The cover is especially important, because despite the old expression, people do judge a book by its cover. A low price, less than $2.00 in my case, plays a big role in enticing readers to try an unknown writer.
What authors should know is that there is a demand for well-written, low priced e-books, and in my opinion, it’s a completely separate market than that of traditional books. My overall impression of Kindle owners, from reading the message boards, is that they are voracious readers–three or four books a week, in some cases. They love the ease and convenience of reading and buying e-books and they are actively looking for the types of books they enjoy. And like most people, they like a deal.
I’ve found that Kindle owners are open to trying new authors, especially at a low price, but they can’t buy books they don’t know about. I used the Amazon message boards and Kindleboards.com to get the word out. I also made comments on heavily-trafficked websites and blogs, when the topic concerned the Kindle or e-books. I always contributed to the conversation, and then mentioned that I had self-published on Kindle.
After a few months, readers started recommending my books on the message boards and I found that word of mouth was helping to drive sales. A Scattered Life was also chosen for an online Kindle book club on the Amazon forum, something I didn’t find out until after the fact. In reading the discussion of my novel, I was touched to learn that readers felt an emotional connection to my characters and had strong opinions about events in the novel.
With all your success outside of Kindle, do you plan on writing more books and selling them on Kindle?
Absolutely. I’m working on a novel right now, and when it’s finished I can tell you with complete certainty that it will be available on Kindle.