Bestselling author Mel Sherratt discusses her journey as a self-published writer.
When TAUNTING THE DEAD was riding high in the Kindle charts last year, I made the decision to self-publish three books I had written in a series. I felt passionate about these books and wanted to see if, by getting good sales figures for these as well, I might be able to tempt a publisher to offer me my dream of a two book deal.
The first two books in the series had been turned down by several publishers because they were cross-genre between women’s fiction and crime thriller. I agreed with the overall comment but I didn’t want to change them. Indeed, these books are still hard to market as there doesn’t seem to be a valid genre that they fit in. I lovingly refer to them as grit-lit.
Loyal readers devour books and then you find you can’t write quick enough! On a serious note, I purposely published book 1, 2 and 3 of THE ESTATE series in quick succession. I had studied the Kindle for months before publishing TAUNTING THE DEAD – what was selling, what wasn’t, prices, covers, genres etc so before putting out my series, I did it again. I noticed that if I had more than one book out, I could perhaps create a buzz around the next one’s release date.
I had three covers designed with similar images, using the same fonts as on TAUNTING THE DEAD and built a new website (which I am in the process of redesigning again.) Every time I had something to share, I published a blog post and linked it to my Twitter and Facebook accounts. FIGHTING FOR SURVIVAL (which is only 99p as part of the Kindle 100 October sale at the moment) was the last book of the three. It went out the week before Christmas, sold 4000 copies in its first month and got to number one in psychological thrillers ten days after its release.
I believe that self-publishing taught me how to think of writing as a profession. Lots of people think money shouldn’t be mentioned when we talk about it. Art, words and expression are some of the things that what we all as writers should love, but ultimately you wouldn’t expect a plumber to fit your bathroom and not be paid for it. So I learned how to manage my time better, work to deadlines, self-edit as much as I could before sending to a copy editor. I taught myself how to do lots of things – I’m still overwhelmed by conference calls and Skype and Facetime. But creating an e-book, and a print book via CreateSpace, is easy for me now (although I still hold my breath every time I add something new, thinking that I have done something wrong.) We each have different skills and it’s about honing them to improve all the time – and then getting help on what you’re not so good at.
But I had to develop a thick skin. In the US, the stigma around self-publishing has all but disappeared but in the UK, it’s still clearly with us. I hear writers talking about the same thing. But really, is it still the same? When I self-published two years ago, I wondered if I was doing the right thing. But after twelve years of rejection, what had I got to lose? And it seems now, looking back, I had a lot more to gain than even I imagined.
I also have what is known as a simple style of writing. There’s nothing wrong with it for the majority of my readers, who often say my work could easily be adapted for film or television, but for a few readers, they don’t gel with my short, sharp sentences and my snappy style, preferring more description.
When I was offered a two book deal with Thomas and Mercer, an imprint of Amazon Publishing, I was ecstatic. I now find I have a terrific agent, publisher, design and editing team. There is a lot of self in self-publishing and although I’m going forward as a hybrid author, it’s great to have so many people on board now. My new book, WATCHING OVER YOU, is out in January 2014. Am I scared after all that I have learned? Ohmigosh, I can’t tell you how much – this one is dark and sexy as hell. But I am really looking forward to seeing what reception it will get. I’ve already got emails from readers waiting for it – and that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t taken the plunge to self-publish.
Mel Sherratt has been a self-described “meddler of words” ever since she can remember. After winning her first writing competition at the age of 11, she has rarely been without a pen in her hand or her nose in a book.
Since successfully self-publishing Taunting the Dead and seeing it soar to the rank of number one best-selling police procedural in the Amazon Kindle store in 2012, Mel has gone on to publish three more books in the critically acclaimed The Estate Series.
Mel has written feature articles for The Guardian, the Writers and Artists website, and Writers Forum Magazine, to name just a few, and regularly speaks at conferences, event and talks.
She lives in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, with her husband and her terrier, Dexter (named after the TV serial killer, with some help from her Twitter fans), and makes liberal use of her hometown as a backdrop for her writing. You can find her website here, she writes a blog and you can also find her on Twitter at @writermels.