Mel Sherratt and Tim Cooke talk about self-publishing on Kindle at the London Book Fair 2013

April 26, 2013 § 1 Comment

Where should we begin Mel Sherratt’s story?

We could start it here. In December 2011, Mel Sherratt published Taunting the Dead on Kindle. In one month, she sold 40,000 at 99p a copy.

It went on to be a number 1 Kindle bestseller, in three different fiction categories, and ultimately a number 3 bestseller in fiction. Not bad at all. However, when this one month comes after 12 years of writing, part time until 2010, it’s not such a great story for those seeking instant success.

Mel Sherratt nearly secured a traditional publishing deal. She had an agent, and her book Taunting the Dead had got to acquisitions stage: then everything fell through. What had she to lose by publishing Taunting the Dead on Kindle?

Publishing on Kindle was not Mel Sherratt’s first choice, nor would it be today. In a way it was a last resort, or perhaps the only way she could see herself being published quickly. And despite her success, she still wants to be published traditionally. Why? Because that was her goal when she set out. All the same, she would rather self-publish on Kindle than not publish at all.

Three books of Mel Sherratt’s ‘Estate’ series (psychological suspense) are also available on Kindle.

Before self-publishing, Tim Cooke wrote for television. Tim Cooke published Kiss and Tell in October 2012, and his second book Defending Elton this month, April 2013. Although Kiss and Tell was the first to be published, it was not the first to be written. Tim Cooke wrote a draft of Defending Elton first. So no, he did not whizz off a complete novel in six months.

Three top literary agents had worked with Tim Cooke. Yet even with their help, Tim Cooke did not secure a publishing deal. His books had been professionally edited (by agents). Like Mel Sherratt, he had gone far down the road to a publishing deal.

We, unpublished writers, know how hard it is to interest agents. Is it comforting to know that getting an agent will not necessarily lead to a publishing deal?

For neither writer did things happen quickly. And it seems likely that neither of them would have been as successful on Kindle if they had got to it sooner. In the time they were waiting to secure publishing deals, they were able, with the help of their agents, to improve their books.

More than once, Tim Cooke said that a book should be as good as it could be, before you self-publish it.

Mel Sherratt found, after hours of searching online, an image, a rose for Taunting the Dead. Before Taunting the Dead was published on Kindle, a writer friend of Mel Sherratt’s put the finishing touches on the cover.

The designer that Tim Cooke asked to do the cover for Defending Elton agreed because he had liked the book. He also designed the cover for Kiss and Tell; he did not charge his usual fee. Tim later learnt that the designer had done covers for Irvine Welsh and Stephen King. (Books will advise you that knowledge is power, but if Tim Cooke had known of the book-cover designer’s prestige, he probably would not have asked for his help.)

Taunting the Dead had been structurally edited but not copy edited when it was first published. So there were mistakes. Mel Sherratt has had her other books copy edited as they were published (she’s since had Taunting the Dead copy edited too). She wouldn’t recommend that any writer omitted this step. You can’t copy edit yourself, she told us.

Publishing on Kindle appears easy. You can self-publish, but will your book sell? Buyers of ebooks seem to look for the same things as buyers of hard copy books, a well written book, and a good cover.

We hear great success stories in self-publishing, of ebooks that have not been edited and of readers who (happily?) point out all sorts of mistakes to the writer so that she can correct them. Collaborations between readers and writers? How long can that last for? We can only presume that such writers are lucky. If becoming an ebook bestseller were that easy, who could resist self-publishing a book?

I heard Mel Sherratt and Tim Cooke speak at the Authorlounge  (The London Book Fair on 15th April 2013).

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§ One Response to Mel Sherratt and Tim Cooke talk about self-publishing on Kindle at the London Book Fair 2013

  • timscribe says:

    No, it’s certainly not easy, I think both Mel and I stressed the point too, but following a few golden rules can increase your chances of success. The importance of quality editing and a good cover design cannot be overstated… and of course, a riveting story helps too! Securing an agent can give you confidence and some are prepared to help with editing and redrafts etc. However, there are no magic formulas. Keep writing, and keep trying to follow your dreams. If writing is your true vocation, in whatever form, you will be driven from within and however bumpy the road gets you simply won’t be able to stop.

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