Today I am really pleased to have crime writing self publishing phenomenon and good blogging friend, Mel Sherratt on the blog to talk about her journey through the self publishing world.
1) You have just published your fourth book through the self publishing route. What kind of response are you getting?
It’s been a rollercoaster of a ride. I’ve just found out that Taunting the Dead is a Kindles top 100 best sellers of 2012 on Amazon.co.uk and I’m over the moon. My new series, The Estate, is doing well too so the response I’ve had has been amazing.
2) This is the third book in your Estate series, can you tell us a little bit about it?
Fighting for Survival, in terms of issues covered within it, has been my riskiest yet on the estate. It covers such things as self-harm, depression, stabbings and girl gangs. The main thing that links it altogether is peer pressure, I think – how we want to be seen by others and not necessarily who we are. And there’s a death in this one – one of the main characters. It was hard to do but imperative to show that not every story has a happy ending. I’ve also been told that some of the scenes show just how much something can spiral out of control.
3) Why did you choose to set your story in a fictional town rather than a real one?
There were several reasons – the first being that I believe the Mitchell Estate, the fictional place in The Estate series can be located a few miles from anyone who reads them. Every city has its Mitchell Estate – that’s why some people think my work is realistic and others can’t believe things like that happen. Although it is fiction, some of them do.
I also am quite often asked ‘is it based on the estates that you used to work on?’ and ‘are any of the stories real life cases you’ve dealt with?’ and for both I have to say no. I find most of my information from newspaper and television clips and everyday news. So, in order to distinguish it from the city where I live, I decided to create a fictional place.
4) What made you choose the crime genre to write about?
I think the genre chose me – although I’m still quite happy to write women’s fiction in a romantic comedy style too! The background that I mainly worked in was social housing so my writing became grittier and is what makes the stories different, I think. And I never planned on writing a police procedural with a crime to solve. I always wanted to write about victims of crime, fear and emotion.
5) How did you find time to write and blog at the same time?
I was ‘lucky’ enough to be made redundant so I made my redundancy last as long as I could and worked full time. I’m sure if I sat down and thought about it, I had the equivalent of a part time job as I ran my blog High Heels and Book Deals, which is why when the self-publishing took off, after two years I had to stop it. But for me, while I was doing it, I met a lot of people in the publishing business and bloggers and readers that knew of me when I released Taunting the Dead. And because I write quickly, I block off weeks at a time where I do nothing but write, so there was time for both at first.
6) How did you begin your writing career?
Honestly, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. I’ve always been scribbling down something or other, whether that is short stories that never got published or novels that are mostly available now after thorough editing and bringing up to date. In terms of making money as you would expect from a career, that was when I self-published.
7) What made you want to self publish in the first place?
It was purely down to being rejected for years by mainstream publishers – and, I think, learning to write better during the time that I was. I never gave up and was always writing something. Taking time to learn a craft is the same for everyone – the hours you put in can suddenly start to pay off. So, because of the near misses I was getting with the publishing houses, I decided to give it a whirl myself. Self-publishing The Estate series was because the work is cross-genre and didn’t seem to fit in anyone’s remit. The series is a mixture of women’s fiction and crime – I call them emotional thrillers.
8) I read that you have a new agent. How did that come about?
I was very lucky to be approached by several agents during the last few months of 2012. I met with three of those and actually, all three were great. I finally made my choice, Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency, and I haven’t looked back since. It’s great to have someone there who can maybe take me to the next level. There is only so much you can do by self-publishing and I don’t have a clue about foreign territories. It’s going to be a great partnership and I can’t wait to see what comes of it. It’s very exciting.
9) What advice would you give others looking to self publish?
Self-publishing is a challenge but I’d encourage anyone who wants to try for themselves to do it. It does depend on the individual author and their aspirations, plus the amount of time someone can dedicate to the other side of things other than the writing such as re-writing, editing, formatting, cover design, marketing etc. My advice is to take your time, make the product (because it is a product at the end of the day) the best you can and go for it.
10) What are you working on now?
I’m busy working on my second draft of a new novel. I write my first draft really quickly to get down all my ideas and then on the second draft I enhance these ideas and add more to make it into a book. My second draft is a lot like many writers first drafts once it’s finished as everything gets tied up. It’s the hardest I work on a book – the thinking draft I call it. It’s still great fun as I’m at that stage where anything is a possibility. Once that’s finished, I need to write a synopsis and three chapters of book two to go with it – which is brewing away nicely at the moment.
To find out more about Mel Sharratt: