The start of a new year always sees me in reflective mode when it comes to my writing. It is a chance to look back on the year that was, the year that ‘nearly’ was, and is a wonderful opportunity to dust myself off, frame those lovely rejection comments, read my 5-star reviews, feel better about everything and set new goals for the year ahead. This business of writing can, at times, be a fickle thing and I think it’s important to celebrate successes as well as to moan about the near misses and the very nearly’s. With this in mind, I am starting a regular feature on Whims & Tonic which gives writers an opportunity to share the ups and downs (mainly ups) from the past twelve months. ‘Then and Now‘, if you will.
To kick things off, I am delighted to have self-publishing sensation, Mel Sherratt, author of Kindle bestseller ‘Taunting the Dead‘ to tell us about her past year. If ever there was a role-model for ‘keeping going’, Mel is your woman! Over to you, Mel…
About the author
Ever since she can remember, Mel Sherratt has been a meddler of words. Right from those early childhood scribbles when she won her first and only writing competition at the age of 11, she was rarely without a pen in her hand or her nose in a book. Born and raised in Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire, Mel used her beloved city as a backdrop for her first novel, Taunting the Dead, and it went on to be a Kindle #1 best seller in three different categories and #3 in the overall charts. It is also in the top 100 kindle best selling books of 2012.
Mel’s new series of psychological suspense, The Estate, is set in the fictional place of Stockleigh because she believes that the Mitchell Estate can be found a few miles from anywhere in any town or city…
Where were you with your writing this time last year?
I was feeling frustrated, nervous and elated at the same time. Exactly this time last year, the crime thriller I had self-published a few weeks earlier, TAUNTING THE DEAD, was just about to hit the top 100 Kindle best sellers. It was an incredibly exciting time as I’d been trying for a traditional deal for over twelve years with various books but with no luck. My writing is cross-genre – it’s gritty, and fast paced like a crime thriller should be, but with a lot of fear and emotion and empathy, with the villains as well as with the good guys.
What was causing you the most challenges/frustration?
I was quite elated to see the book rising so quickly and to see so many glowing reviews. TAUNTING THE DEAD went to No. 3 in the overall chart and No. 1 in police procedurals and stayed in the top one hundred for twelve weeks. But the downside of self-publishing is that to get the book noticed it had to go out at a low price – to tempt a reader to take a chance. I get really disheartened when I hear that books ‘shouldn’t be sold for less than the price of a cup of coffee’. For me, it was a great marketing tool, allowing me to get my name known. It means I can charge more for my books now but I still like to keep the price affordable. Over the past twelve months, I’ve seen mainstream publishers doing the same and I think it’s brilliant, although I do draw the line at books for 20p!
What was the pivotal moment for you in the last 12 months?
I think it was when I decided that rather than try to get a traditional two book deal on the back of the sales of TAUNTING THE DEAD, I wanted to self-publish the series I’d written, THE ESTATE. I really did believe in the series. The books are a mixture of women’s fiction and crime and I knew by studying the Kindle chart that there could be a market for them. I have three out now – SOMEWHERE TO HIDE, BEHIND A CLOSED DOOR and FIGHTING FOR SURVIVAL are at No. 2, 3 and 4 in the psychological thrillers category at the moment.
Where are you with your writing now?
I’m currently finishing a new book, a dark psychological suspense. It’s a hint of Single White Female with a splash of Panic Room and a liberal sprinkling of Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct. I’m also getting ideas together for the next book, working on the synopsis and first three chapters.
What was/were the low point/s and high point/s of the last twelve months?
The low point was parting company with my agent as the working relationship for me wasn’t working. But it gave me the impetus to think of my writing as a business and the end result was that I published four books in my name and two books in a pen name in just over fourteen months. I also came to the attention of several agents who in turn contacted me. I’m now represented by Madeleine Milburn and really looking forward to what we can do together.
What is the most important thing you have learned during the last twelve months?
To take time for friends and family. Working on a big project such as writing a book can make you selfish with your time. I’m often so consumed in my thoughts that I can’t switch off. For me, I write drafts quickly so they are often intense sessions of ten hours a day, every day for about three weeks at a time. I’m not sure I can find another way to work though – I like to pour it out quickly and then go back to edit. Also, just how much you can achieve in a year if you put your mind to it. I’ve even shocked myself at my output and what I have learned to do. I’ve really enjoyed it.
What are your hopes for the next twelve months?
My hope for the next twelve months is to get a two book deal. Self-publishing is something I shall continue as long as it feels right for me but the book deal is my ultimate aim. I shall, though, release book four of THE ESTATE series around summer time, and I have lots of irons in the fire on other projects that I hope to reveal soon.
Any other good news, inspirational or positive experiences to take away from the last twelve months?
I’m a firm believer of always taking an opportunity if it arises so this year has found me featured in the Daily Mirror and Best Magazine, appearing on numerous local radio stations and recording a podcast hosted by TV presenter Sue Cook. I now write a monthly column for my local evening newspaper, The Sentinel, and am mentoring two writers. I’ve been quoted in The Bookseller by Ian Rankin and I’ve recently found out that TAUNTING THE DEAD was in the top 100 best selling Kindle books of 2012. I was absolutely delighted to hear it – it was in the top ten of fifteen self-published titles in that 100 too.
Thanks so much to Mel for sharing her writing year. A true inspiration and proof that perseverance is the key. It looks as though Mel is poised for great things in 2013. As they say, watch this space … !