Resources and tips for the self-published author.

How Donna Mabry Went From Seamstress to Best-Selling Author

by Miral Sattar •  October 14, 2015  •   Follow miralsattar

Published in Interviews, Publishing Tips  •  One comment

A lot of times you will hear publishing experts say that you shouldn’t publish unless you have a series and have proven yourself as an author.

We say hogwash. There are so many examples of first-time authors that have done well who have used their success to continue a series. Take for instance Donna Mabry.

Mabry is a Las Vegas Avon lady/seamstress turned writer. Mabry published Maude at the age of 72, which quickly became the best-selling non-fiction KDP book of all time. Maude beat out Unbroken and American Sniper and has almost 10,000 reviews. Maude is based on Mabry’s grandmother and has a story that readers can connect with and get inspiration from.

When Donna made the decision to self-publish Maude, she had to ignore discouraging remarks from friends and colleagues. Experts told her she wouldn’t sell if she didn’t have a series.

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 2.26.31 PM

But Mabry had a good story to tell that connected with readers and is glad she “didn’t listen to the ‘downers.'”

We asked Donna some questions about her self-publishing experience.

Why did you decide to self-publish vs going the traditional route?

Getting a traditional publisher or agent is very time-consuming. They want up to six months to say yes or no and don’t want you to submit your work to anyone else until they decide. I went to my 50th high school reunion. A lot of my friends were passed away, and I thought, “How many more “six months” do I have left?”

That first [traditional] publisher gave me no help at all and I was learning from the ground up. They also put a very high price on the book. After 8 years of no sales, I got the rights reverted back to me.

What options did you consider when self-publishing?

I LOVE Amazon and Createspace and expect to use them for all my American books.

Tell us about your best-seller Maude and how it sold over a 1,000,000 copies

Maude happened when I was telling my daughter some of my grandmother’s stories and she said, “Write that.” So I began. I worked on Maude for over ten years. When my mother, Evelyn, heard about my book she became very upset, so even though it was finished before she passed, I didn’t publish it. Then, I did a revision and brought it out. The response has been overwhelming. [Maude] became a best-seller in only a few weeks.

How did you get so many reviews and sales on Maude?

When I brought out Maude, I posted it on my personal Facebook page. My friends bought it, posted reviews, and told their friends. Others bought it and told their friends. It all happened so fast, it was incredible. We didn’t spend anything on advertising. Readers took Maude to their hearts and passed the word along. I owe everything to those readers. My daughter took on the role of Marketing Director for me and expanded on things from there with “business” social media pages and a website, but the success of Maude was truly organic.

What is next for you?

I am working on three books right now. They’re like children. Whatever one is in my head is the one that needs me. D’Arcy Curran is the story of a young woman growing up in Kansas and Detroit during the Civil War. That will take me almost a year because of the research. The Russell House, also set in Kansas but during modern times, is a mystery. Rocky Russell loses her mother only to find out that her father has been living a secret life.
The Las Vegas Sophisticate is one chapter away from being finished. It’s an Alexander Merritt Mystery. I usually do several revisions before bringing out a book,so it will be a few months before it’s ready to release.

What is your favorite book?

My favorite book is Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind. My daughter’s name is Melanie.


Read more about Donna Mabry on her blog.

About Miral Sattar

Lover of books. CEO & founder of Bibliocrunch. Love storytelling in all its forms. Formerly TIME. I'm a new media entrepreneur who has worked in the media industry for 11 years. My mission is simple – to innovate the publishing industry with technology. My company has been featured in BBC World News, Money Magazine, Bloomberg, Consumer Reports, Forbes, WSJ, MediaBistro, PBS, Columbia Journalism Review, The Next Web, Publishers Weekly, and a bunch of other places. Bibliocrunch was also selected as The Next Big Thing in media by the Paley Center. I also used to run a popular South Asian culture blog called Divanee. Before I ran my own company and became a mom, I used to be on the board for several literacy organizations, and wrote a LOT more. Hopefully, when things are calmer I can go back to that! :)