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  • Barbara Copperthwaite

‘Before I sold over 1.6 million books, I had twelve years of rejection from traditional publis

Mel Sherratt (who also writes under the name Marcie Steele) is the author of fifteen crime novels, all of which have become bestsellers. She works with publishers as well as self-publishing and has sold over 1.6 million books. For the past four years, she has been named as one of her home town of Stoke-on-Trent’s top 100 influential people. Shortlisted for the Crime Writer’s Association Dagger in the Library in 2014, she regularly appears at festivals and is featured in newspapers and magazines.

Today on #SETBACKCOMEBACK she is talking about what it really takes to become an overnight success. Mel, it’s over to you!

An overnight success. Sounds good, right? Yet before I sold over 1.6 million books, I had twelve years of rejection from traditional publishers and two agents who couldn’t sell my work because it was deemed to be too cross-genre (I’m sure it was at the time – I have never been one to fit into a box.) I also had several nail-biting occasions when one book or another was taken to final acquisition meetings and then fell at the last hurdle.

During those years, I was a wreck. Mountains of rejection created a rollercoaster of emotions. I lived that rejection, the hurt, the discipline of working day after day on a dream, around a full-time job, that may never be fulfilled. I spent all my spare time on it, sometimes to the detriment of enjoying myself. I was the one who would stay in while all my friends were going out. But I just wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Then I was made redundant. It gave me time to concentrate on what I wanted full-time for a short period. The Kindle had become popular so I studied what was popular in the ebook charts: the bestsellers and series that were selling well, books by unknown authors as well as books by bestselling writers, debut novelists and established ones too. I checked out covers and blurbs, and which genres were selling consistently. I did more research, project planned, hired an editor and commissioned a cover.

A month before, I’d decided to self-publish under a pen name for a trial run, using Stirred with Love, the first Marcie Steele book. If that didn’t work out, I hadn’t messed up a chance to write as Mel Sherratt. Meanwhile my books were still getting rejected by traditional publishers. 

Publishing on Kindle changed Mel’s life. Photo by Quentin Schulz on Unsplash

Finally, tearing my hair out after facing another no, I decided to self-publish my first novel Taunting the Dead. If I could sell a respectable amount of copies myself, maybe then I could get a publisher interested. It was time to find my audience.

Was it the right time, right place when I published my first ebook? Was it luck, or sheer grit and determination never to give up? Was it the fact that if no one ever paid me a penny, I would continue to write regardless? The writing was a part of me.

Even though it is more mainstream now, in 2012 self-publishing was frowned upon. But pressing the publish button on Kindle Direct Publishing on 8 December 2011, unwilling to let anyone hold me back any more, was a gamechanger.

Sure, publishing has its ups and downs like any other job, but if I hadn’t taken that chance, I wouldn’t have published my 20th book last month, I wouldn’t have been able to write full-time for the past ten years, and I wouldn’t have had so much fun. So many opportunities that came from it.

The publishing world is predominantly white middle-class, London centric (although that is slowly changing) and yet I found my readers with my working-class stories. I’d gone from twelve years of waiting around for an agent, publishers, editors to get back to me, to having complete control of my own destiny.

Pressing the button on Kindle was by far the best thing in my life I have ever done. It changed my life completely, making a career for me my way. So far, I have worked with three publishers, had six two and three book deals, and have self-published alongside those books coming out. I’m classed as a hybrid author now, doing a bit of both.

In my opinion, there has never been a better time to be a writer. There are LOTS more opportunities now than there were when I first started to write IF you are willing to put in the work, learn your trade, persevere and keep on going. Because, well… let’s face it, procrastination is easy and working hard isn’t.

But just imagine what I would have missed out on had I not pressed ‘publish’ on December 8, 2011 and launched Taunting the Dead…


You can find more about Mel on her website  at Twitter, and at Facebook. To find out more about her latest book, Good Girl, click here

#MelSherratt #SetbackComeback #writingadvice

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