With Kindle sales in their millions again this year, an increasing number of authors are turning to ePublishing to launch their careers and get their work to readers worldwide. Mel Sherratt is one talented new author who did exactly that and explained to Sheena Lambert just what can happen…
“One year ago, I pressed the button to upload my crime thriller novel, TAUNTING THE DEAD to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing Programme. I was an unpublished author, represented by one of the UK’s leading agencies, but despite this, my book had ‘rave’ rejections.
As you can imagine, I was really nervous – would it work? Was I selling myself short by self-publishing? Was I finishing my ‘career’ before it had even started? Would my friends and authors that I know, look at me any differently? Luckily the answer to all these questions was no. But it was one hell of a scary moment.
During that year – 2012 – I’ve sold in excess of 100,000 ebooks. I’ve even been quoted by Ian Rankin in ‘We Love This Book’, on Desert Island Books – ‘There’s a lot of young crime writers that I’ve just met for the first time. There’s one called Mel Sherratt – and she’s only on ebook at the moment; she’s very interesting.’ The success of TAUNTING THE DEAD led me to build up a following and publish three more books in a series, I named The Estate. Both SOMEWHERE TO HIDE and BEHIND A CLOSED DOOR are in the top 3 in the Amazon thrillers and suspense category. FIGHTING FOR SURVIVAL has just been released. And just last week, I signed with a new agent, Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency, based in London.Sounds crazy, right? But it all came about after twelve years of rejection from traditional publishers.
Being rejected over and over again (I have a file containing over 40 letters, and that was before email submissions became easier to submit) was tough but I think it made me more determined. It was after getting turned down by one of the main publishers in London, right at the final hurdle, that I decided to study the Kindle chart for a few months – what was selling, what wasn’t, covers, genres, charts, categories. I also watched a number of authors who were making a splash to see how they were doing it. And I realised that there could be an opportunity for me to self-publish too.
I chose the electronic option because it was the best option I knew of at the time that would get my work out easily and cheaply enough for me to compete as an unheard of author. I wasn’t sure anyone would find my books as I hadn’t got a traditional publisher behind me. It knew it was hard to get noticed online as there are so many authors out there trying to do the same thing.
When it came to creating an ebook, one thing I found indispensable was a book called SELF PRINTED, by Catherine Ryan Howard. I can’t tell you how times I’ve dibbed in and out of this book, always going back to it as a reference and a reminder. It’s a great tool and because of it, I learned how to do most of the self-publishing process myself. I have a friend who designed my covers but I’m also learning how to do those myself too, the more I go on with my journey.
One of my books, SOMEWHERE TO HIDE is now in paperback. I did that through Amazon Createspace. If you’re computer savvy, you could do this yourself too as the behind-the-scenes set up has been made as easy as it can be. It was fiddly – and time-consuming to learn – but I set out my documents, interior and exterior, modelled on a 8×5 inch paperback size. I make pennies for each copy, but I want them for marketing purposes. I don’t expect readers to pay over the odds for them so I cut back on any profit. I’ve sold about 200 since summer. Next year, time permitting, I’m hoping to create paperbacks for the rest of my books. It would be great to see them all in print.
Although I don’t do much to promote my books, when I have a new one coming out, I try and do a few interviews and guest blog posts so that I can tweet these out for my followers and add them to my Facebook author page. I do however, spend a lot of time chatting to my readers on Twitter and by emails. I think it’s important to take time to build up a relationship with your readers. And there’s nothing better than getting a message from someone who has read all your books and can’t wait for the next one.
The best bit of advice I can offer new authors is to get your work professionally copy edited. I didn’t get TAUNTING THE DEAD copy edited and I literally learned from my mistakes! Every book I have released since has had a paid copy edit, well worth every penny.
The main gripe I have? Self-publishing still carries a stigma. Despite so many sales, I’m unable to join the Crime Writing Association unless I get a traditional deal. I’ve also tried to introduce myself to the manager at my local branch of Waterstones but to no avail – I didn’t even get a smile! And despite so many sales, I still have a problem thinking that I’m an author in my own right.
I am, however, still trying for a traditional deal with an established publisher. I’ve had a dream to see my books in the shops since I was in my teens and dreams don’t go away. It is time-consuming to do everything yourself, as in every business, and sometimes I’d like to just sit and write. On that note, I’d like to add that my agent will be taking out a new novel next year. The book will be revealed at London Book Fair in April 2013. This new novel is dark psychological suspense, mixing everything I’ve learned from Taunting the Dead and The Estate series. It’s very exciting at the moment – who knows if I my dream will come true at last!”
Find out more about Mel at her website mel.sherratt.co.uk or follow her on Twitter @writermels.