Motivation: The Success Story of a Self-Published Author

Yeah, it really does happen.

In a few weeks I’m giving two workshops at the annual Willamette Writers Conference, one of the biggest and best out there.  Because of that, I receive email updates from the nice folks who run it, and what you see below is one of them.

Great news for all of us, even if we’re not pursuing that specific strategy.  It’s testimony to the fact that publishing is changing rapidly, and today’s long shot flyer just might be tomorrow’s ticket in.

Into what… that remains to be seen.  Because that, too, is changing. 

What isn’t changing is the criteria for a publishable story, and the various means of getting there.  Those things are like gravity… universal and eternal.



By Elisa Klein

Don’t knock the Kindle until you’ve tried it — not just for reading, but for launching your literary career.

That’s the sage advice fromup-and-coming writer Colleen Houck.  The Salem, Oregon author, who once battled professional rejection by turning to self-publishing, just inked a three-book deal with a major publisher thanks to the wireless reading device.

At this year’s Willamette Writers Conference, Houck will inspire you with her story of perseverance and her ingenious use of the latest technology.

Undaunted by nearly 400 rejection letters, Houck turned to Amazon’s self-publishing services several years ago. She gained a following through the on-demand outlet and her series of romance/adventure novels landed at #22 on Amazon’s Kindle bestseller list. That designation brought her to the attention of an agent at the nation’s top literary agency: Trident Media. Alex Glass sleuthed out the savvy self-published author in May and quickly offered representation.

Houck remembers, “I turned to my husband and screamed: I HAVE AN AGENT!” (Alex Glass will join Houck during a recently added session at the conference.)

Houck first published her novels Tiger’s Curse and Tiger’s Quest through Amazon’s Booksurge, a service recently re-named CreateSpace. Hiring editors and printing copies of the books was expensive, but formatting and selling books on the Kindle was affordable for the author. Readers also liked the Kindle price.

Houck explains, “Readers are willing to take a risk on new authors when it doesn’t cost them too much.” Many Kindle books cost just a few dollars and some are free. A post Christmas surge (which) Houck attributes to booming holiday sales of the wireless reading device, sent her Kindle sales from 278 in December, to 4,842 in January, and 6,412 in February.

The momentum was building and Houck embraced the idea of a five book series.  She explains, “In March of 2010 I was approached by a film producer who purchased the options for all five books in the Tiger series to be made into movies.  Alex became my agent by the end of May and by the first week in June the first three books in the series were sold to a traditional publishing house.”

Colleen Houck is happy to have the validation of an agent and mainstream publisher, but still sees the value of self-publishing on-demand via Kindle.  “Everybody has the right to tell a story and express themselves. In my case it was only after readers  got interested in my work and I was making moneythat industry people picked me up.”

To hear more about their journey, join Colleen Houck and Alex Glass for Kindle Success at the Willamette Writers Conference on Friday, August 6th, from 9:30 am-10 am. Their special informational session will take place right after the panel of literary agents.

The 41st annual Willamette Writers Conference will take place Friday, August 6th through Sunday, August 8th, at the Portland Airport Sheraton Hotel.  On-line registration is at

Learn more about Colleen Houck HERE.


After reading this, I feel I must alert you to the fact that my own new novel, Whisper of the Seventh Thunder, is available in Kindle format HERE, at the low price of only $6.39.   Be sure and check out the reader reviews… if they weren’t good, I wouldn’t mention it.  And only two (out of 15) are from people I know.

You can read more about story — it’s an apocalyptic thriller — HERE.


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8 Responses to Motivation: The Success Story of a Self-Published Author

  1. As someone who’s kicking things off with ebooks myself and seeing numbers that make me quite happy for a newb, I love seeing success stories like this. And Larry, I love that you’ve put Whisper up on Kindle, but you’re ignoring a huge section of the market. NOT EVERYBODY HAS A KINDLE!!! I have a Nook. My crit partner has a Sony ereader. And that doesn’t cover the people who’ve bought a Kobo or any of the other devices out there that read EPUB. PLEASE make Whisper available from somewhere like Smashwords that covers ALL formats, not just Kindle! We’d really like to read it if it were available in a format we could use!

  2. I’m eager for your 6 Core book to come out. I think reading successful books, chapter by chapter while taking note of how the author addresses each of the 6 cores would make a great exercise (and a workshop, too).

  3. Just emailed back and forth with Larry and we’re working to get the book up in other e-book formats. Hopefully we’ll have it available elsewhere in the next week.

  4. It’s great to read these success stories from authors who’ve believed in themselves and their work and taken the initiative. The author is credited with their own success, not the eventual publisher, although they might add to it, hopefully!


  5. Thank you for sharing this very inspiring story!

    I’m currently working on the rewrite of my first Christian fiction novel, Help From Above, and once I complete it, I’ll be offering it as a free eBook. I’ve also pondered the idea of making it available for free to readers who use Kindle and other e-reading devices. These devices are becoming more and more popular, and I truly believe authors need to look into offering their books in these formats as well.

    Personally, I don’t own a Kindle due to the high price tag. However, I do read books on my Android phone, and my husband reads using his iPod. There are times, though, when nothing beats holding and reading an actual paperback. 😉

  6. Kelly

    Hello, Larry. Kelly here.
    The above is very impressive. I doubt I’d have hung in there after 400 rejection letters.
    I get the ebook format, but did she pay for editing as well, or go with her own “final copy?”
    And what about publicizing the book so Amazon/Kindle readers would see it and but it?
    As someone in the throes of making changes for an editor, it seems every manuscript needs a beta reader, and probably an editor–?
    Wondering about your thoughts…

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