One million sales - and hitting the shops at last

Mel Sherratt
Opinion - Books Thursday, 18 October 2018

After numerous rejections, Mel Sherratt self-published, and became a bestseller. Now, she writes, she is making her debut in mass market pb

Today my new novel, Hush Hush, is published, and for the first time ever I can say it is hitting the shops. I am feeling extremely excited, yet apprehensive at the same time. I'm a northern working-class woman, and I've had this dream since I was a little child. My route to publication, however, has been far from easy or quick.

I went through two agents and 12 years of rejection before I decided to take destiny into my own hands and self-publish. I thought that if I could shift a reasonable number of ebooks and find my own audience, maybe a publisher would want to take me on for any new books that I wrote. Instead, I found a readership who enjoyed my books and who are still with me some 14 novels later.

I pressed the button and self-published my first novel, Taunting the Dead, on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) in December 2011. That was way back when self-publishing was frowned upon by the industry I longed to be a part of. Often it was seen to be the only way rejected writers had of getting their work seen.

I guess to the naysayers, that is exactly what happened to me. But pressing that button changed my life. After Taunting the Dead did well (to date it's my bestselling book, and has sold over 200,000 copies), I went on to self-publish several more novels before joining forces with Amazon Publishing, and then Bookouture.

Moving to HarperCollins Avon at this time of my career feels so good. Avon are dynamic and edgy, and I have very much been following their work, both as a reader and with my author's hat on. Their team are energetic, and there is a vibrancy to each of them. And now I've gone full circle, basing my books in my hometown of Stoke-on-Trent again, it kind of feels meant to be. I am very well looked after, as if I have the whole publisher behind me too. And Avon always have cake on offer whenever I visit.

But none of this would be possible if I hadn't kept on going through the rejections. From my point of view, if you're a writer, no matter how many knocks you have, you'll always continue to write because you want to get your stories out there. So you just have to keep at it.

A hashtag I use on Twitter is #keeponkeepingon. This game is all about persistence, determination and grit. Even if you have a bestseller straight from the off, it's then all about the next book doing well too. It's a marathon, not a sprint. You are building yourself into a brand, so that readers are more likely to find one of your books and then go on to read your backlist.

One thing my journey shows is that there isn't a conventional route to market any more. I self-published because my earlier novels were too cross-genre for traditional publishers to promote. I have found an audience, and sold more than 1 million books across seven years, mostly in ebook. I now have the chance to see my books in another medium, the mass market paperback, which will offer another way for readers to find my stories.

I am very excited about this next step. The storytelling is far more important than the way my work is read or produced, but finally I have fulfilled that dream I've had since I was a little girl. I'm sure there will be more than a little jumping up and down when I see the first few books out there on the shelves.

Mel Sherratt is the author of 10 crime and psychological thrillers that have sold more than 1 million copies. In 2014, she was shortlisted for the Dagger in the Library award. She lives in Stoke-on-Trent, which she has used as a setting in novels including Hush Hush, out today (18 October) from Avon.

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