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Ten years after author Stanley Gordon West self-published his novel Blind Your Ponies, the book gets called up to the big show.


Nearly 30 years ago, Stanley Gordon West was living and working as a camp director in southwestern Montana, an area that had become a hotbed for Hollywood scribes and others of that ilk. Inspired by the creative energy, he decided to try writing a book. “I jumped in, got out an old manual typewriter and started pounding out a novel,” he says.

West’s first book, Amos: To Ride a Dead Horse, was picked up and published in 1985 and was even turned into a made-for-TV movie starring Kirk Douglas. But when West wrote a follow-up novel, the publishing house gave him the brush-off.

Undeterred, West continued to write, and in 1997 — 12 years after the release of his debut novel — he decided to try the self-publishing route. A writer friend gave him some advice. “He told me to print 200, because [otherwise] you’ll have them in your garage the rest of your life,” West remembers. “I knew he was conservative, so I printed 3,000.”

The first run sold out, so he went back and published another. And then another. And another. By 2001, West was self-publishing his sixth book, a novel titled Blind Your Ponies, which is about a small town in Montana that rallies around the local high school’s basketball team.

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Cut to last year, when Pam Lowe, who’d heard about Ponies from a friend, recommended it to her son, Kurtis, a sales rep who worked with Algonquin Books. He did some research and found that a whopping 40,000 copies of the book had been sold via special order from bookstores, thanks solely to word-of-mouth recommendations. He mentioned it to an Algonquin editor.

Around the same time, Amazon discovered the novel and tried to buy the rights, at which point, as West puts it, “The pot got stirred.” An industry bidding war began, with six publishing houses expressing interest. Algonquin eventually won out. “Everybody can relate to [the book],” says Chuck Adams, Algonquin’s executive editor. “There’s no artifice in this. It’s a great story.”

West, 78, has now sold more than 151,000 copies of his self-published titles. But when Ponies hits shelves nationwide this month, he can expect to sell quite a few more.

Algonquin publisher Elisabeth Scharlatt says it’s only fitting that West’s tale is getting a storybook ending. “It’s kind of an old-fashioned publishing story,” she says. “And sort of an old-fashioned feel-good novel too.”