Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Guest author Mel Sherratt: An Indie Publishing Success Story

Ever since she can remember, Mel Sherratt has been a meddler of words. Right from those early childhood scribbles when she won her first competition, she was rarely without a pen in her hand or her nose in a book. Born and raised in Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire, Mel now uses her beloved city as a backdrop for her crime thriller novels. A self confessed shoeaholic, Mel also hosts a blog called High Heels and Book Deals. Taunting the Dead is her first novel and she is represented by Curtis Brown Literary Agency

Is cheap and cheerful a good or a bad idea?

I’ve known Liane and Kevin since my Novel Racer days, another online support group. Even back then I was writing, writing and more writing to try and get a traditional book deal. Last year, I came soooo close but no cigar. And soooo close just doesn’t cut it, does it?

All in all, I’ve written six books. Some of them have never been near a publisher, if I’m honest. I learnt a lot by writing all those words. With the help of my agent, who suggested I used my dark, gritty style of writing to create a detective series, I wrote my novel, Taunting the Dead. It was turned down late last year by a publisher I very much wanted to work with. It wasn’t the only publisher that turned me down. There were several, all with good comments but still no cigar.  I was devastated.

Since last summer, I’d been studying the kindle best seller list: who was on it, what was selling, pricing, blurbs, product descriptions, covers. You name it, I studied it. I also started to chat online to author Mark Edwards (Catch Your Death and Killing Cupid). Mark and co-author Louise Voss were my self-publishing inspiration last year as well as Talli Roland (Build a Man). Having seen Mark and Louise go on to get a traditional deal after selling an impressive amount of copies of their books, with the backing of my agent, we decided to self publish Taunting the Dead. Maybe I could get a sales record to tempt a publisher too.

It was a huge decision. I priced my book low purposely. Was I underselling myself? I didn’t think so. I was a new author with no track record. If you like my sample, why not take a chance on my book for a low price? Pressing that button also meant letting go of a dream I’d had since I was a teenager. Or did it? Only time would tell.

Taunting the Dead went on sale on 8 December and, with the help of a ‘launch’ on twitter plus a lot of lovely supportive people, went to #229 in the overall Amazon chart on that day. I obviously shot right back down again the day after but I sold a few copies every day. I’m not one of those authors who tweets out links with my book in – I use Twitter as my virtual office so I like to go online to chat – so I promoted myself in a handful of guest blog posts. Gradually the daily total sales went up until one day (I can tell you it was January 11) the total sold doubled, doubled again the following day and just kept on going. I hit the top one hundred and then the top twenty. Next was #1 in police procedurals and then number one in all three of my categories, police procedurals, thrillers and mysteries. I wrote this blog post when I got to the top ten best sellers! I mean, how did that happen? My highest charting was number three. Wow. To say I was flabbergasted was an understatement. I’d been writing one book or another for twelve years. Finally people were reading, and liking, my words.

I now have a sales figure, I have a fair few good reviews (and a few not so good – it seems that readers either really like Taunting the Dead or really don’t) and hopefully a following to build on for when my next book in the series, Follow the Leader, comes out. I’ve made a few mistakes along the way but all in all it’s been a good experience. Will I get that elusive deal? Or will I have scuppered any chance of a mainstream publisher?  Only time will tell. But one thing is certain. I shall never stop writing. I shall never stop dreaming, even if sometimes the dream may have to change along the way.        

-Mel Sherratt
Twitter: @writermels
Amazon UK


The Divorced Lady's Companion to Living in Italy said...

Great post Mel and best of luck with that elusive publishing deal. It's sounds as though it's within reach - I hope so!
Best, Catherine

Liane Spicer said...

Welcome to Novel Spaces, Mel! Congratulations on the success of TTD and Wishing you all the best in your writing career!

Yours is such an inspiring story for anyone thinking of going the indie publishing route - like I am. As a matter of fact my brand new micropress has just released its first three short stories by Caribbean author Vaughn T. Stanford. Exciting times!

Charles Gramlich said...

Congrats on getting it out there. The traditional route can't accomodate all the good books that need to see the light.

Jewel Amethyst said...

Inspiring story. Hope you get that elusive deal.

Chris Stovell said...

I have to say it was a real thrill seeing the steady rise of Taunting the Dead up the charts. I felt a real sense of pride in Mel's achievement as, through the Novel Racers, it feels as if we go back a long way! Congratulations, Mel - you showed them all. (I know - and how! - that the rubbish reviews sting, but there's always someone who wants to rain on your parade so just take heart from the many excellent reviews!).

Mel said...

First of all, thanks os much for hosting me!

Hi Catherine. Thanks - and I hope the deal is in reach too!

Hi Liane - go for it! Good luck with all your ventures too.

Thanks, Charles. And that's a great way of putting it too :)

Thanks, Jewel. As one who has been inspired by so many authors over the years, it's overwhelming to hear I'm an inspiration.

Chris - I've been watching you too! We do go back such a long way. And as one author said to me, better to have a book that polarises opinions than an ok read. Well, I'm sticking with that anyway!