MOORHEAD, Minn. — Self-published author Ryan Jacobson said he always looks for inspirational stories.
The Mora, Minn., man, who talked with more than 100 people this past week at area libraries about how to get their books published and for sale on Amazon, said he started publishing about 15 years ago. But it was only about five years ago that he and some partners started working on self-publishing sports stories that brought them more success.
What set it off was a popular humorous book called "Hockey Moms Aren't Crazy" in 2013 that sold several thousand copies and started their journey in the sports world.
Since that success, it was a biography about popular Minnesota Vikings receiver Adam Thielen, who hails from Detroit Lakes, Minn., and spent his college football career at Minnesota State University Mankato, that attracted attention again to Jacobson and his publishing company when it came out last October.
He's since sold about 8,000 copies of the book, "Adam Thielen: From Small Town to Football Star," which was co-written with Thielen's cousin, Lindsay Von Ruden, who was teaching at the time with his wife in Mora.
The 112-page paperback book retails for $12.95 and also includes plenty of photos of Thielen through most of his life.
It's a "positive look" at the football star's life and how the undrafted receiver developed into one of the NFL's top talents.
Although the book wasn't authorized by Thielen, Jacobson said they did get in contact with the team and the player's agent to see if they wanted to participate.
Thielen passed on that. Jacobson doesn't know if Thielen even has read the book.
"I have no idea. I doubt if we are even a blip on his radar," he said.
Once that book was published and Jacobson traveled around the region to bookstores selling it, the biggest question he heard was when he would publish a book about the other star Vikings receiver, Stefon Diggs.
That 112-page book, which is also retailing for $12.95, was written by first-time author Doug Olson Jr. of the Twin Cities and published by Jacobson's company. "Stefon Diggs: The Maker of Football Miracles" is another inspirational story from the team, and it was released this past Tuesday, Sept. 17.
What the book, edited by Jacobson, delves into is how Diggs overcame a life of adversity that involved his father dying at a young age, an "unfounded" bad reputation he had in college and a broken leg he suffered while playing college ball at Maryland.
Jacobson said the book speculates that the fan base at other colleges created the "bad reputation" for Diggs because the top high school recruit stayed in his home area to play for Maryland rather than going to other big players like Ohio State, the University of Southern California or Florida State.
Also this year, his company is publishing books about Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay and Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner. Both of those men have also survived adversity, such as Conner overcoming cancer to star in the NFL. Both men, like Thielen, also stayed in their home states to play professionally.
Jacobson said his books are meant to inspire elementary and older children "to believe that they can achieve their dreams, too."
"The books are light reading and straightforward," he said. "We want to show children that if you work hard, they can do great things, too."
Jacobson said self-publishing books also can be hard work that takes time. It's fairly easy, though, to get a book on Amazon. He said "anybody can do it," and there are a lot of steps.
But he knows of 10-year-old authors who have published books.
Once a writer or author has created the book through Google or other word processing systems, they can create an account on Amazon.
Some people, he said, don't like the idea that Amazon wants tax and bank information, but he said if a book sells, they take their cut and the rest is deposited directly into the author's bank account.
Writers can then also create a book cover with their title, as well as find other information, at kdp.amazon.com, which is Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing site.
The manuscript of the book can then be uploaded through Amazon, a size for the book is selected and it's pretty well ready to go.
There are other steps, but what's good is there are no upfront costs, he said.
Jacobson also speaks with elementary school students about writing and storytelling and said his own 12-year-old son even has a book available on Amazon called "The Quest for the Magkar Sword."
If a book does well, Jacobson said it can be sold to a publisher that can make paperback copies to sell at bookstores.
Like the inspirational football stars he's written about, a local writer could also someday reach the top of the writing world, Jacobson believes.