You might not have heard of Kerry Wilkinson. He sold his 100,000th copy of his ebook Locked In on Christmas Eve. Another self publishing success story. I asked him a few questions and he has been extremely open with his answers. Thanks Kerry.
Why did you go it alone as an author?
I went alone because I never set out to "become an author". I have a good job - which I enjoy - and writing Locked In was only ever really a challenge to myself to see if it was something I could do. I enjoyed writing it and had a lot of leftover ideas, hence the sequels.
How did you get to the top of the Kindle chart, any marketing tips?
I didn't really do much in the way of marketing - but I did plan for success just in case. So, at the back of Locked In was a preview of Vigilante (book two), even though it wasn't complete at the time. I also set up my own website (kerrywilkinson.com) and put that web address in the book, while making myself accessible if people wanted to email me and so on.
I have a mailing list of around 100 people completely self-generated through people coming to me - not to mention Twitter followers. Some email me to let me know their opinions of certain things in the books and so on. I seem to have at least a few very loyal readers, which is great. I've had some amazing emails from people.
The down side, which I was probably naive to not expect, was the abuse which also comes. Some people seem to be very jealous and I've had horrendous emails too.
Ultimately, I think any success they have had is that the books hit something of a gap in the market." Jessica, the lead character, is a strong-willed female. So it's not a traditional detective story with an ageing bloke, while it's not a love-conquers-all chick lit. tale either. There is nothing wrong with those, of course, but I think mine sits somewhere in the middle. Some read the books and hate them, some read them and love the character. I know because they contact me to say.
Have any traditional publishers approached you since you've had success?
A few things are ongoing but I haven't agreed to anything. I'm happy to listen to anyone to be honest.
I've had a fair few agents come to me. Some have been nicer than others. I'm a very laid-back person but if there's one thing that's wound me up it's the agents who have emailed basically promising the world. Or the ones who are very condescending. I've had people offering to release my books through their own in-house agent digital imprint and I just think, "Why would I do that?" I've got to number one on the biggest ebook platform in the country and sold over 100,000 books without them.
That isn't me saying I'm a brilliant writer, because I know my limitations. That isn't even me saying I don't need help - because it would be very nice sometimes. But some of these people should be more polite and approachable. Six months ago, I wouldn't have even got a script read. Now people email me and say they'll make me the next this or the next that.
I'd rather they were honest and say they are emailing me because I've sold a lot of books and they think they might be able to help me sell even more. That I would respect. I would respect it even more if they'd read any of the titles prior to getting in touch...
I think it's that kind of attitude which really puts people off the publishing / agent route. For me, I never tried that in the first place. The success is something of an accident. But I have read people's disheartened tales of being ignored by the industry and I can understand them. I prefer honesty, not vague promises or veiled threats (I've had those too).
All of that said, I am currently working with someone who is very nice indeed...
Do you have strong views on how the industry is changing?
Erm, not really. This is my only experience of the industry. I didn't spend years trying to crack it or being rejected. The best opinion I can give you is as a reader.
When I was working on Locked In, I realised fairly quickly that I wanted to write a series of novels, so I thought about what I would want as a consumer. The first thing is that I would always want book one to be cheap. If I waste a pound or two, then it doesn't matter. Not only that but, if I enjoy the book, I'll happily spend more on the rest of the series. I see series of books with 5, 6, 7 or more titles on Amazon and so on, yet the first ebook still costs £6 or £7 and I don't understand it. As a reader, I might spend £40+ on a full series I like but I probably wouldn't spend £6 on something I'm not sure about. Surely you use the first title as a taster?
I believe this is proven by my experiences over Christmas. I sold a lot of copies of Locked In (book one) on Christmas Day, while Vigilante (book two) and The Woman In Black (book three) sold record numbers. But, although Locked In's sales decreased on Boxing Day - as you would expect, Vigilante and The Woman In Black's actually increased significantly. People had bought the cheap £1 book and then chosen to buy the more expensive follow-ups in the days to follow.
If I was a reader, that is what I would have done too.
There are lots of other things but I should probably keep most of them to myself. In short, I tried to think like a reader not a writer. Somewhere along the line I think I've done okay.
Do you think all authors can do what you've done?
Maybe. Part of it would depend on what you want to write. Some genres are obviously more successful than others - although that didn't come into it for me. Patience is a key thing, as is being good technically. Knowing your way around a computer is absolutely essential. I'd say owning an ereader is crucial too. If you understand how to buy books via one, you have a much better chance of figuring out how to sell them.
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