Mel Sherratt's latest novel is the fantastic Behind A Closed Door. Mel is a wonderful example of a clever and successful self publisher and we're thrilled to have her on the site.
Can you tell us about your journey to publication?
Uegh – I doubt you have the time to sit and listen to my story. I’ve recently written it up into what I hope is an inspirational author talk – I call it Deal or No Deal! I’ve been writing for more years than I care to remember – taking it seriously (i.e. getting past the first few chapters to write The End) for thirteen years. Last year, I came that close to getting a traditional deal and because of that, I decided to self publish a crime thriller, TAUNTING THE DEAD, on Amazon Kindle. It was a huge success, selling in excess of 50,000 copies, which I’m immensely proud of. In July, Ireleased SOMEWHERE TO HIDE, the first in a new series, The Estate - self published again, although I’ll never give up the dream of a traditional book deal. The second in the series BEHIND A CLOSED DOOR has also just been released.
Who has inspired you?
I guess it’s the author’s I read during those years such as Adele Parks, Dorothy Koomson and Lisa Jewell who put a book out each year that I didn’t! More recently, it’s been the greats such as Peter James, Ian Rankin, Mark Billingham, Martina Cole, Mandasue Heller and Elizabeth Haynes – the crime family, I call them.
Just lately though as things changed for me, it’s been authors like Talli Roland and co-authors Mark Edwards and Louise Voss who have become online best sellers. I always quote Mark and Louise as my inspiration (and my friends now) as from self-publishing they got a four book deal. I know how incredibly hard they worked to get their books out there. It’s no mean feat doing it all yourself.
What is your writing process?
When I’m drafting I aim to get a ‘dirty draft’ down in about six weeks, which as this is my day job too is doable for me, providing I don’t procrastinate too much. I write quickly, using a rough beginning, middle and end, twenty-chapter plan. This usually evolves into around forty chapters by the end of the first draft. Draft two is where I try to make sense of all I wrote, cutting, pasting and usually adding another 20% to make it into a worthwhile story. Draft three is where I tighten and tie up any loose ends.
How did you design the cover for Taunting The Dead?
It took me a long time to find the blood red rose, as in hours over several days. At one time I was pulling my hair out as I couldn’t find anything. I wanted a freshly dug grave with a grave stone and a red rose on top of freshly dug soil. Where was I going to find that! So I had to trawl through image after image until I found the right one. I then built the background up, in my mind to look like a paving slab and I darkened the edges by layering two images. The font and the titivating were done by a cover designer, my lovely friend. She’s designed all my covers so far – I find the image and she adds the sparkle – although I am learning how to do them myself now. That rose still haunts me. I’ve since found a local professional photographer who, if I can’t find what I’m after, will set it up for me. The cover has to be just so.
- Edit, edit, edit. There should be no room for errors. Despite them appearing in lots of traditionally published books too, this isn’t an excuse to use. I didn’t have a professional copyedit carried out on TAUNTING THE DEAD but I did on SOMEWHERE TO HIDE and I shall have one for every novel I release in future.
- Don’t ever put anything out that you don’t think is good enough, just for the sake of getting the book online quickly.
- Cover, cover, cover. Personally, I think covers are everything for e-books. I know they’re not seen as often as on a printed version but online they are crucial to catch someone’s eye, just as much as walking into a book shop and spotting one on the shelf that sticks out from the many.
- Don’t join the bandwagon of authors who constantly shout out ‘buy my book.’ If I see someone on my Twitter timeline doing that, I’ve started to unfollow. I doubt many people would buy a book from that alone. Write an interesting blog post or article about yourself and your book and I’d be far more inclined to download a sample of your book to see if I like it.
What is your favourite women's fiction book of all time and why?
That would have to be SUSHI FOR BEGINNERS by Marian Keyes. I’m not very good on remembering books once I’ve read them and moved on to the next one. I often forget endings, which is appalling for the amount of authors I meet on a regular basis. But SUSHI FOR BEGINNERS just stayed with me. I loved the vulnerable Ashling and the hard, control-freak Lisa who mellowed quite considerably throughout the book. I also liked the dark side that Marian covered about depression and how a homeless man evolved into a character too. Great characters: that’s what sticks with me. Oh, and I’m a sucker for a happy ending.
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