On Publishing: Interview with writer Karen McQuestion

Meet the beautiful and talented writer!

I’m really happy to announce that I had a great opportunity to interview writer Karen McQuestion, the author of excellent books like A Shattered Life which was recently optioned for  film, Easily Amused and many more. She is a one of a kind writer who took a brave step when all else failed. While a considerable part of the world remained prejudiced to self-publishing, Karen braved it and won it too. You can get to know more about her at http://www.karenmcquestion.com/

Now, let’s get to know in detail about the publishing journey of this talented and beautiful writer.

From your bio, we get to know that you tried to get your books published for nearly a decade. That’s a pretty long time and how did those years feel like? How did it affect your writing?

During those years I was able to keep hope alive by thinking that whatever I was currently working on would be the one that would get published. I managed to convince myself of this every single time by coming up with good reasons: one had a better marketing hook,  the next was in a popular genre, the one after that had more mainstream appeal etc. and so on. I felt like someone with a big key ring, not knowing which key would open the lock, but sure that one of them would.

As to how it affected my writing—I think it affected it in a negative way. As time went on, I found myself thinking way too much about what would please publishers and agents, and less about stories I was excited to write.

Finally when and how did it occur to you that there was some other way to getting published?

In 2009, I read about another author, Boyd Morrison, who’d uploaded his unpublished novels to Kindle, quickly sold thousands of them, and got a big deal with Simon & Schuster. I was immediately intrigued because I hadn’t known you could upload manuscripts to be available as ebooks. I felt strongly about wanting to do this, but I wasn’t thinking in terms of snaring a big publisher. I just wanted to find readers for my books and (hopefully) to make some money too.

In July of 2009 I uploaded two of my books. By the end of the year I’d made all six available as Kindle books.

Did you feel even at that time that taking this path would lead you to where you are today?

I hoped for success, in the same way one might dream of winning the lottery, but I never expected it, and I’ve been floored by all that’s happened in the past two years. My books took off in a big way, one of them, A Scattered Life, was optioned for film, and I now have two different publishers: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and AmazonEncore.

My story was featured in the Wall Street Journal and I was interviewed for a segment on ABC that aired on World News and America This
. Really, who could have anticipated this?

Do you think getting recognized as a writer does not have much to do with the way you get published?

Writers today have more ways of getting their work out in the world than ever before.   As more self-published authors are being “discovered,” the negative connotation associated with self-publishing is fading away.  I would encourage writers to be open-minded. There’s more than one way to get from here to there.

Were there any threats, as in piracy issues while you used the kindle platform to get published?

I didn’t have any problems with piracy. Maybe I was naïve that way, but it wasn’t a concern of mine. So many publishers had turned down my books that I couldn’t conceive of anyone trying to steal them!

What was the greatest lesson that the process of getting published teach you? Since your later books have been published in
traditional ways, you must know the best of both ways. Do you think one is better than the other?

Even though I’m now traditionally published, I wouldn’t rule out self-publishing in the future. I loved the whole process, especially having creative control. A writer can put out a book in such a short period of time and can publish things traditional publishers wouldn’t typically be interested in—collections of essays, novellas, short stories. I loved being able to design the covers (with a lot of help from my daughter, Maria, who has a talent in that area).

On the other hand, traditional publishing really excels in two areas: paperback distribution and having a team behind you.  There are a lot of smart people working in publishing and it feels great to put a book out in the world knowing that professionals have seen it through editing, copyediting, formatting etc.

In short, I don’t think one is better than the other. They both have their advantages.


Thank you so much Karen for graciously sharing your publishing journey with us. I am sure we all learnt a lot from it. And I hope I can bravely say that the moral of the story is, to put it in your words, “…be open-minded. There’s more than one way to get from here to there”