Many of us would love to get a 14 book deal with a big name publisher, as well as hitting #1 on Amazon.co.uk. Today’s guest, Kerry Wilkinson, has done just that, but he certainly works hard for his success.
In the intro, I talk about the publication of my new novel, Desecration, and my thoughts around parting ways with my NY literary agent. I also mention the Bristol CrimeFest opportunity to be on the panel of indie authors.
The podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets through the Kobo eco-system. I’m currently selling in 22 countries through Kobo – exciting!
Kerry Wilkinson is the author of the Jessica Daniel crime series with the Silver Blackthorn YA series coming in 2014. The first Jessica Daniel book reached #1 on Amazon.co.uk and the series is currently on Book 6, Thicker Than Water. You can watch the interview on YouTube here, or listen above or on the podcast feed.
- Kerry was a sports journalist for a decade after University, and started writing fiction at aged 30. He looked into how to get published and didn’t like the negative energy, in comparison to the positive energy of writing the book. He self-published in 2011 and his first book, Locked In, went to #1 in the Amazon.co.uk store.
- The Jessica Daniel series is character driven, more about Jessica’s life and her friends, rather than a police procedural. There is a general formula around crime books, with a twist at the end of the mystery, so it is the character’s that make it more interesting. Kerry reads a lot of non-fiction and also journalism and his plot ideas often come from little things he has read.
- We spoke on Halloween, so we discuss why people are obsessed with reading about the dark side of humanity …
- Gender in publishing, both in terms of our names and also our characters
- Kerry particularly enjoys reading comics, and so his new YA Silver Blackthorn series is delving more into that world, written as if it could be turned into a graphic novel. On using book cover design to separate branding as opposed to author name.
- How self-censoring has disappeared after writing a number of books, as Kerry has relaxed into his voice.
- On Kerry’s 14 book deal with Pan Macmillan … and how he has already written all the books, so he is back into self-publishing at the same time. He doesn’t get distracted during his work day, so no social media, no email. He just gets up early and works, sometimes 12-14 hours of writing. He can write 1000 words an hour. Writing as a production journalist for 10 years has made a big difference to writing at speed, but it’s also the hours he puts in. Kerry thinks most people can write relatively quickly if they avoid distraction. He treats writing the books as a job. You have to work hard.
- Kerry now plots heavily before the main first draft, sometimes 16,000 words of outlining, and then writes cleanly, without many edits. He also plans ahead for the bigger series, so foreshadowing and plot lines are organized.
- Kerry’s thoughts on self-publishing and the current publishing industry. He just gets on and writes! He got pitched by lots of agents after reaching #1 on Amazon and went with the one who had actually read his books. He will continue being hybrid, combining traditional and self-publishing.
- On the importance of Amazon metadata in being seen, as well as a lower price for a new author. Having more books in the series so people keep coming back.
You can find Kerry at KerryWilkinson.com and his books wherever books are sold.
His latest Jessica Daniel book, Thicker Than Water is here on Amazon.
Please do leave any comments or questions below.
Transcript of Interview with Kerry Wilkinson
Joanna: Hi everyone, I’m Joanna Penn from thecreativepenn.com and today I’m here with Kerry Wilkinson. Hi Kerry.
Kerry: Hello. Hi.
Joanna: Kerry is the author of the Jessica Daniel crime series, with the Silver Blackthorn YA series coming in 2014, and the first Jessica Daniel book reached number one on the whole of Amazon.co.uk, and the series is currently on book number six, Thicker Than Water, so lots to talk about today, Kerry.
First up, tell us a bit more about you and your writing background.
Kerry: I was a journalist about a decade after graduating university, which is always wanted I wanted to do, just a sports journalist. Because I’m never good at actual sports, so that’s the next best thing. And then I just figured I should probably try to do something with my life that wasn’t just going to an office every day. So I started writing and tried to get published. It’s the usual: send chapters to an agent and that kind of stuff. I didn’t fancy it and I figured it was actually a quite positive experience for me so I figured if I spent months getting rejected, it would turn into a pain so I never bothered. When I saw the self-published books about two and a half years ago I never looked back since.
Joanna: You said there that you did self-publishing and then haven’t looked back.
It sounds as if you just loved your work, and then miraculously everything happened. Is that how it went?
Kerry: More or less. That’s not that far from the truth. In July 2011 I just kind of left it out there. And it did really well even after six weeks it was in the top 100 and by end of October 2011 leaving them out there, so that’s three months or so, and then it went to number one. And it stayed at number one more or less. So I didn’t do an awful lot more than just simply upload it and let it go.
Joanna: We’ll come back to that in a minute, but why don’t you explain a little bit more about the Jessica Daniel series? And what are the books like and who’s going to enjoy them?
Kerry: So the crime series of books involve a Detective Sergeant who’s a female called Jessica obviously. And then I never really wanted to write just a core book. It’s not what I read for a start. I tend to write a person who just happens to be a police officer as opposed to writing a crime book. And it works, it seems to be where people come back to read the future books. I don’t think it’s crime, it has a formula and it gets towards the end there a twist, and even if people don’t know what that is, they know to expect one. It’s just the way it works, whether your writing books or television or movies, whatever. People know the game, there’s nothing clever out there.
So you can come up with a really intelligent twist at the end and so on, people might think it’s clever but at the end they know it’s coming, and so you can be as smart as you like. But if that’s the only tool you’ve got, there are thousands of crime books all doing pretty much the same thing out there. There’s nothing to stand out.
I’m not really interested in things so much. I’m interested in people and so when I write about Jessica, I write about her and I write about her life, and her friends, her relationships, and so on. And she just so happens to be a police officer. And so I want people to get to the end and want to come back to read the next one, and the next one, and the next one because they’re interested in her, not necessarily because they think the crimes are really well thought out and thing kind of stuff. That’s just a bonus but I think that’s the bare minimum really. And certainly from what reader tell me and the emails I get and so on, they’re much what people think as well.
Joanna: That’s fantastic. So you’ve got this character but as you said, there is a bit of a formula for crime novels and you come up with these twists at the end.
How do you come up with a twist? Do you have a process for actually thinking up these plots?
Kerry: Not necessarily. Most of the plots come from something which I’ve read, almost entirely non-fiction. Just read these in the newspaper and just tweaks your imagination, you think, I wonder what if this happens or what if that happened. And away you go, and that’s your plot, sometimes you work backwards and you have the end first, and sometimes you just maybe got an interesting scenario and see where it takes you and so on. But pretty much everything I come up with is come from just little snippets of things I’ve seen or things I’ve read, and then just expand and you let your imagination go.
Joanna: And you said you don’t necessarily read crime, so what do you read for pleasure?
Kerry: Well a lot of non-fiction. I read biographies, I like biographies. Science fiction stuff, I can read Doctor Who books, I read comic books. I read a lot of comics. And I read the news pretty much every day. Just the things I always really like is non-fiction especially and then comics.
Joanna: So did you specifically pick crime because it would be more commercially viable?
Kerry: No, I didn’t think about that even in the slightest. It had nothing to do with that. Just the idea that I had about some mad idea about intergalactic crime investigating space penguins and I’d have written that up, but I didn’t. I just wrote out what I had so it just happened to be crime.
Joanna: So of course, we’re actually talking on Halloween as we’re recording this, and I wanted to ask you, because one of the criticisms of crime novels is they go into this dark side, and there’s murders.
Why do you think we as writers and as humans, are obsessed with this dark side of humanity?
Kerry: Probably because it’s so amazing. People, generally speaking, aren’t going out and murdering other people. This is the same reason we play Call of Duty on the Playstation or Grand Theft Auto, because you don’t go out and nick cars, you don’t go out and run people over, you don’t go out and shoot people, so it’s a glimpse into a different world which isn’t your world. It’s just escapism, isn’t it? I think that’s probably why people pick them up in terms of the genre.
Joanna: And why do you write a woman?
Kerry: It’s just what came out. I mean, there’s nothing in particular that I thought I’d be easier to write a girl than a bloke. It just came out. I have a book for fantasy and young adults which is out next year. Again, it’s about a girl. It just came out. I don’t really know how to explain it better than that. It was just there, so that’s what I wrote.
Joanna: That was the character that you cared about. But it’s interesting because I’ve been asked about gender and I’ve actually used my initials J.F. Penn as my thriller name so that people don’t confuse me. So people don’t assume, oh, she’s a woman, she can’t write this.
Now you get the opposite, don’t you? Because Kerry can be a male or female name.
Kerry: Yeah, I had two national newspapers call me a her or a she. And at least 20% of the reviews I get refer to me as a she or whatever. But I don’t really know what to do with all that. In the afterward, it speaks very specifically about the fact I’m male so people don’t read it or whatever, there’s nothing I can do. I don’t mind it, just as long as they enjoy the books, and then great.
Joanna: Do you think gender is important in writing?
Kerry: It depends on you as a person. I personally don’t, because I think we can have as much in common with somebody in the opposite gender as you do from your own. It doesn’t matter. Boys aren’t necessary always interested in football, and girls aren’t necessarily interested in ponies. It depends on the individual so I figure I can write about anyone really. If the readers get it, then great.
Joanna: No that’s fantastic.
Tell us a bit more about this YA series that you’ve got coming out.
Kerry: After I self-published, it just started taking off and I signed a contract with Pan Macmillan to do six Jessica books and I just as I finished the sixth Jessica book writing it, and I’d gone on holiday, and last year in 2012. And then I was just laying around thinking. And then I just had an idea for a book, what the book turned into be. It’s called Reckoning. It’s part of the Silver Blackthorn trilogy, as it’s called.
And so even though I was on holiday, I just started writing and notes about plot, plotlines and what happens to work out and so on. I started writing it when I got home properly. And when I finished writing the first book, which is about 85,000 I sent it to my agent who really liked it.
And because of the Jessica contract, Pan Macmillan get first dibs on anything I write. Or at least they get to see it first. So we sent it to them and then they get a month of exclusivity as part of the contract and they bid for it within that month because they didn’t want anyone else to read it. So yeah, it worked out all right. It’s the kind of thing I’d read and the kind of thing I grew up reading.
It’s set a little bit in the future. It’s a dystopian world, as they call it, which is a word I’ve never used in my life until people starting using it to me. And so she’s 16, and then she gets called to work for her king. And it’s not quite what she thought it was and so it’s her story. It’s written first person, which is unlike anything else I’ve written. It’s very, very different than the crime stuff.
Joanna: Now I’m interested because I’ve just written my fifth novel, which is actually a crime novel. But rather than action/adventure, which is what I have been writing, I feel like I’m finally just discovering my real voice.
I wondered, are you feeling that this YA series is more you than the crime series, for example.
Kerry: I wouldn’t say it’s more me, it’s just a different side of me because although I don’t read crime, I understand what crime books in this sense that’s they’re about. This allows me to get the mass humor out of my head and hope that it was quite funny. And that’s what people say, especially if they go on and on, I think it was quite self-centering when I first started writing, thinking, “That’s outrageous” and now everything just goes in. There’s no censoring at all. It was like everything I think is funny ends up in them now and I think they’re better books for it. So I wouldn’t say it’s the real me, it’s more of a different side. When you write about police procedurals and lots of things, there’s lots of things you can’t do. It’s set in the real world.
Silver’s not like that. If you hit a plot that you’re not sure about, it’s science fiction, it’s set in the future, you can make up a piece of technology that gets you around the problem. So it’s just a different discipline.
Joanna: And I think that self-censorship. That’s what I was getting at. Because I feel like suddenly I’m actually including the things that were in my head and I didn’t want to write down before. So it’s really great that you’re doing that too.
It sounds like this Silver Blackthorn could be the comic. It could be a graphic novel.
Kerry: Absolutely, it’s very visual. I’ve been having these conversations with publishers about how to promote it and things like that. And the fact that it is very visual means that you can have really incredibly cool posters if you choose to go that way. So that’s the kind of thing we’ve been talking about. Maybe it’ll happen, maybe it won’t. I don’t know.
But you’re absolutely right, they’re very visual and it’s very broken down into chapter, chapter, chapter, which could of course, lend itself to 22 pages of a comic, which is what I read and in very many ways, that’s how I think book should be structured. You want people to get to the end of the chapter, you want them to say, well what happens next? You don’t want to give them too many points where they can put it down and get bored and forget what’s going on, and so on and so forth. I think a lot of comics I’ve read have actually been very beneficial for how I structure a book and a novel and so on.
Joanna: Absolutely, that’s fantastic.
One of my questions about this is, are you going to have to do anything with your name or your brand? Because you’ve got adult crime and then you’ve got YA. Is that coming to play at all?
Kerry: No, they asked if I wanted to change my name or track an initial in there or not, but I think readers are intelligent. They can tell by the cover, they can tell by the blurb. I don’t think people are going to be confused into thinking it’s a Jessica book. It looks totally different. I think people are intelligent so… I wrote it, I don’t see why it shouldn’t have my name on it.
Joanna: I think that’s great, and I think this is a change that’s happening in the market where it doesn’t really matter.
Authors are embracing everything under one brand now.
Kerry: That’s how it will be coming out. It will have my name. It will just look different in terms of the cover so it’ll all be in my write up not changing anything because it’s a different genre. I don’t think it matters. I think people are intelligent enough to know the difference.
Joanna: Yeah. So coming back to publishing.
I read that you have taken a 14 book deal. Is that correct?
Kerry: Yes, so that includes the original three Jessicas, which I self-published. So it’s those three. Just in the end, another 11. The 14 is broken down to 9 Jessica books, three Silver Blackthorn books, a spin-off crime book from the Jessica series, which involves another character who began life in the Jessica series, and then a couple of standalone crime novels, which is 14. And then I got other stuff on the go, like I’m self-publishing in November, so next month, in two weeks from today, and then I forgot the other ideas but lots of stuff I just keep writing.
Joanna: Because when I read that I was like 14? Does that mean that you just signed your life away for the next X number of years?
Kerry: They’re all written.
Joanna: They’re all written. That’s amazing.
What is your writing routine like? How many words are you writing a day to have written so many?
Kerry: It probably depends on the day, but I get up early like, half six, somewhere like that. Then I get to work. If I’m in the mood and I don’t get distracted, I think a lot of people find is when I turn the laptop on and before you start writing, and before you know it, three hours have gone. I don’t do that. I can just switch up and work. If I sit down for a day, I can work for 12, 14 hours with a meal break in the meantime.
And then if go all right, I can write 1,000 words an hour. I don’t know. I worked as a production journalist for ten years, which is all about subbing and editing and so have other teams, so on, so I’m far better than I was two and half years ago definitely. I didn’t get edited that much. Stuff will go off to my agent and to the publishers, and they’ll come back, and apart from type-o’s and bit and pieces and a few notes on the structure, I don’t really get edited that heavily because it’s already been done. That’s what I’ve been trained to do as a journalist. A lot of that got sorted before it ever gets anywhere. I write quickly and I can edit myself quite a lot, and so things get done quickly
Joanna: That’s great.
You’re basically going about writing fiction in the same way that you were writing your journalism pieces, which is you write fast.
Kerry: Absolutely. I’ve worked on tabloid newspapers. We get perhaps a football match report eight minutes to ten, deadline’s at ten. You got eight minutes to turnaround 500 words so you get used to working quickly and you can’t have an excuse and say well I was too busy looking at Twitter because that ain’t how it works. That’s the job, that’s how I was trained to work. That’s how I spent years working, and so you just get used to working quickly, and reading quickly, and typing quickly, and thinking quickly.
I write a bit differently now because I’m a better writer, because I’ve gotten used to writing fiction and got all my skills, I should say as a production journalist, but on top of that, I can just work quickly. I just can. It’s just something I can do.
Joanna: I would love to learn to do that more.
Would you say that timed writing would probably be the best way to increase, or to get up to that speed?
Kerry: How do you mean?
Joanna: If I wanted to work like you, I would set a timer for 20 minutes and try and do like 2,000 words in 20 minutes.
Is it like like trying to do timed things? Because you talk there about a deadline almost. I have eight minutes to go, I’ve got to do it. Does that help you go faster?
Kerry: I think. I mean that was obviously fear of being able to keep your job when you have to work quickly and you have to be good. So you just learn to get like that. There’s no way around it and so I suppose if I know I’ve got ten hours to sit down and write, I know I could be doing probably 8,000 words and that even gives me a little bit of leeway to talk around. And so if I’m not hitting that, I know the problem so I’ll try and pick it up the next day. I don’t really set targets because I know how fast I should be working.
But I suppose in your case, yeah, if you know generally what you’re writing, people say you can go 500 words an hour or whatever, and you’re trying to get quicker, I suppose your best bet is to set yourself targets to write quicker in a set period of time.
I genuinely think a lot of it is just not getting distracted. I think most people can write relatively quickly if you just sit down and write. The problem is that people have other things on the gauge and you’ve got to switch on the tv, they’ve got kids and wives and all your friends. Husband or whatever around the house.
So instead of just getting on doing something, just distractions everybody has. Whereas I just don’t do that. I just get on doing what I’m supposed to be doing. Actually like a job basically, the same way if I’m at work, if you’re at work, you can’t just sit there with Twitter on the go for three hours. You have to work. And so I’ve been working. I turn 33 on Monday. I’ve been working really either full time or part time since I was 16-years-old, so I just treat it like a job the same as I’ve treated everything else like a job, because it is.
Joanna: No that’s great.
And do you plot beforehand? So before you sit down to write you know what you’re going to write today?
Kerry: Yeah, so it’s pretty much involved. At first, to be honest, I didn’t know what I was doing at first. I had very, very loose outlines, a lot of that. I locked in about 1,000 words, 1,300 words. And just fill in a lot of gaps where I went. But now, the outlines they’re ridiculous really. I’ve got a plot outline for what I’m going to write next. The outline is 16,000 words.
But that means when I come to write it, all the thoughts have been put into it. There aren’t any plot holes because I’ve already worked them out. There aren’t any gaps or anything because I know what I’m doing and so even though you might start writing a character and they stick in your head a bit and think, well, this needs to be beefed up a little bit and perhaps when you get to it, you might reorder stuff, which is what happened when the last thing I was writing. I totally reworked the final eight chapters. It was more or less what my plan was but in a slightly different order.
But at the same time, I still know exactly what I’m doing so I never get stuck. I’ve never had writer’s block, and I can sit down and think, what happens next because I’ve already worked that out long before I sat down to write. Again, that feeds into the speed thing. And I’m not spending half an hour looking at a screen thinking what happens next because I already know.
Joanna: I think that is probably the number one tip I think people talk about is knowing what you’re going to write before you sit down.
When you do that plotting process, is that a very different amount of time? Obviously you’re not going to write the outline in this feed that you normally write. How many days does that take or do you have a process for that?
Kerry: It depends. I wrote a book called Down Among the Dead Men, which is going to be published by Macmillan probably in 2015 actually but to really work everything, it’s got so much coming out. But that was very strange. I was driving home from work and I was coming out of a car park and I went over the final bump and it was almost if the idea dropped in my head over that final bump. And by the time I got home, I knew what I was doing. That was on a Friday so over the course of Friday night, Saturday, Sunday, I sketched out the entire thing, started writing it on the Monday and then finished two and a half weeks later.
So the whole process from no idea to complete book was about three weeks. And then we sold it to the publishers about eight days later so within a whole month it had gone from a blank page to being sold to the publisher. But that doesn’t happen all the time.
Usually, I’m plotting two, three things at a time and it might take three weeks, a month, whatever. But I’m not sitting down doing it every day. It would just be when I’ve got the time… I quite like that process because it’s very unstructured. So might decide I’m going sit down today I’m going to plot, and I’ll start working my way through and so on. And then other days, I’ll just go out and do something or whatever, and then something will pop in my head when I’m out. And then I’ll work that into it when I get home.
So it really depends. It can be anything from a weekend, which is the literal meaning of extraordinary. It doesn’t really happen like that. So it’s usually anything between three, four, five, six weeks, and then I’ll plot two, three books at the same time within that four, five, six weeks. That help me plot entire arcs, especially with Jessica. I’m not just thinking well what happens in this book? I’m thinking what happens to her over the course of the next one, two, three, four books. I need to know where she’s going, and then that way you can lay a little bit of groundwork in whatever you working on next and foreshadow stuff also and set things up.
I never really get to a book and think, I wish I changed this in something I wrote a year ago because I’ve already plotted enough ahead that I know where it’s going.
Joanna: Presumably you didn’t do that with Locked In.
Do you ever feel like you want to rewrite that as you say you’ve also become a better writer?
Kerry: I’d make it at least funnier and I think the asides, which are now back into the book. One thing pops into my head, I think it’s funny, perhaps observations the character might make, which the readers might then associate themselves and so on and so forth, but I never did any of that in Locked In because I think I felt I had to be more structured. I had to make it feel like a book as opposed to something that I might write.
So yeah, if I knew now… If I could go back and work with that, it’d just be a significantly better book than it is. But I don’t know. You have to stop and live with what’s there. And people still enjoy it. I get emails all the time from people who pick it up and like the story line. It’s just me that it pisses off. And I tend to think it’s all right so yeah.
Joanna: No, I’ve read it. It’s a really good book.
Can people start anywhere because you’re obviously at number six is the latest one.
Kerry: Yeah, very much. I try to write them so they can all stand alone and so on. I mean, of course there allusions to things that have gone on in the past, especially with Jessica and her friends and so on and so forth. And you have little story lines and arcs, and again, it’s a comic book thing. You have arcs that build and they take three or four books to actually get to the point of the story and so on. And so long term readers will realize that has been four books in the making. But you can still enjoy it, and read it, and get it. It’s just the way to get the context of it so people pick up it from any number and go back and so on. I was at a library on Monday. People start at book four and book five and so on. And they ask me. It’s fine. You get it from anywhere.
Joanna: That’s brilliant. And then just a question on how you actually learned how to do this.
Do you have any recommended resources for people who want to learn how to write a novel, because obviously you came from non-fiction writing into writing a novel?
Kerry: You learn that from reading. If you read a book, especially if it’s a half decent book, if you read pretty much any book, you can figure out the structure. Read a crime book and you’ll know how it works. If something happens in the first chapter or second chapter, and in the final or the final two chapters, they’ll be some sort of twist. There’s a format to it. It’s like reading a news article in that you reach the conclusion and then you back to the start again. And that’s how a news article works. And if you can read it and figure out the structure, then you can do it.
And that’s all I did when I started writing. I was reading books and trying to copy the structure of them.
Joanna: It’s like analyzing what has worked for other people and then using that as a model, I guess.
Kerry: Absolutely, and then you break out and do your own thing within that. I mean, the structure is relatively rigid in how things work, but people work within that and they may have flashback and flash forwards so they might do some chapters from a different character’s point of view, that kind of thing. It’s not completely rigid in that every book is the same, but there is a general structure that people stick to because that’s the way they’re done so if you’re looking for a starting point then just read.
Joanna: No, that’s great. Now I want to ask you back on publishing. You’re now what we’re calling a hybrid author, someone who has traditionally published books and who is also self-publishing.
What is your feeling about the publishing worlds right now, and whether people should be doing indie or going traditional?
Kerry: I didn’t worry about it that much. I just get on and write and then send stuff off now to what is now my agent, but what two years ago would have been self-publishing or… I don’t spend that much time worrying about it, but I suppose if you’re a new author, I don’t see why you wouldn’t self-publish. If you’re absolutely desperate to go with a publishing company, then you can go the traditional route sending out to agents.
At least it’s easier now. You can go by email that you couldn’t do five years ago and so on and so forth. But I just write. And if you’re writing for yourself, then just finishing it means you’ve won. You’ve done what you set out to do.
I think if you’re writing because you want to make loads of money, then you’ll probably fail at what you’re trying to do. If you’re writing for yourself then enjoy it, self-publish, and hope for the best.
Joanna: And you didn’t go seeking an agent or publisher, right? It came to you.
Kerry: Yeah. I still kept them. I still got 26, 27 emails from agents said do you want to get a coffee? Can we call you, etc. etc. etc. I’ve still got them all. And then we went down to London one day, after I got an agent, she came down to meet a bunch of publishers, and we went round all of these really nice glass fronted buildings. I met a bunch of publishers and a few authors and lots of agencies, publishers as well. I’m published in about 10, 12 languages now. And so yeah, they came to me.
Joanna: How did you decide if you’ve got all of these emails from all these agents, how did you decide which one to go with?
Kerry: I wasn’t that impressed with many of them. I’ve been in national newspapers because I’ve done well and was on the charts and so on, and it was clear that about 90% had never read a word I’ve written. So I just thought in that case, they’re obviously only interested in the money, so I don’t really care. So I just ignored all them, kept the emails though. But my actual agent who is called Nicholas, she’s great, and she read the book.
And she wasn’t just gushing and saying it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever read, obviously that’s rubbish. She just said the bit she liked, the bit she didn’t like, and that’s all I wanted really. Just someone who’s honest with me. So it was a natural choice that there wasn’t a lot of agonizing over who to pick, it was just the person who liked my writing and that was that.
Joanna: And then with the publishers, obviously your deal allows you to self-publish at the same time.
Kerry: Yeah. But partly because they’ve got so many books off me. They can’t quite fit them all into the schedule anyway. So I’ve had three books out this year through them. I’ve got three books out next year. So it’s not as if we can keep giving them stuff and say do you want to publish this as well because it’s nowhere to fit it into the schedule. So I can write other things. Apart from going to other publishers who then have the same problem as to when do we publish this?
Self-publishing gives me A, a window to get it out, and B, a little bit of freedom to try new things with it and so on.
Joanna: So you will continue doing both. You’ll continue self-publishing?
Kerry: I don’t see why not. So self-publishing in two weeks and see how it goes. If it’s a complete disaster, then maybe I’ll rethink it but if things just go okay and so on, I don’t see why I wouldn’t.
I quite like the hybrid model and I think they feed each other. So for instance, there’s a lot of traditional marketing around the Jessica books, especially around the Northwest of England, which Macmillan do amazing jobs with posters up and rotating banners and all that kind of stuff. And so people who found me in that way might be interested in self-published stuff because it’s got my name on it.
And then of course there’s the other side in that stuff can be self-published through Amazon and so you’ll get on the mailing lists and people who’ve previously bought your stuff might want to buy because they see it on an Amazon email and so on. And if it gets in the charts, people who have never heard of you might see it and give it a go, and if they like it, they might give Jessica a go. And I think they just feed each other. I don’t really see any downsides to it.
Joanna: No, I don’t obviously either. It’s actually brilliant what’s happened to you. And obviously success is not easily replicated and everybody would love to be number one.
When you said you didn’t really do anything, but for example, did you presumably you chose a specific category and you had a low price as well. At least those things.
Kerry: I always knew I was going to write more than just that because a lot of ideas just stuck in my pad, and once Jessica started in my head, I just I wanted to do more with her. So I always knew there was going to be a book two and a book three and so on and so forth, so I figured I just wanted people to read book one. I wasn’t that bothered about money, or making money from it because I had a good job that paid me well. It wasn’t an issue.
But I figured if I make book one a pound, make it cheap, so people would just give it a go, then I could charge more for books two and books three, and so on, and hope they would come back, and that is exactly what happened. And they did that. I’m not trying to boast, but my third book, which I charged three pounds for, see with Amazon’s 70%, I made quite a lot of money off that. But that was off the back of selling the first book for a pound. And I’ve wasn’t fussed about doing that.
And then I did buy a Kindle. Thought about how would I find my book if I’ve never heard of it and such. So I just had a bit of a play and then you’re exactly right, then picking my categories and stuff. I think that’s overlooked quite easily if people don’t realize how important it is. I made an effort to get technical things right. Write a good summary and so on and so forth. I just didn’t really worry about social network and anything like that. And to a large degree, I still don’t.
Joanna: No that’s really good. I think exactly what you say is correct.
The 99p price isn’t so good these days because all the publishers are doing it, aren’t they? Notice for Halloween there’s a whole load of pound books available.
Kerry: And a lot of price matching. Say Nook or somebody will be like a whole bunch of 99p books and then Kindle price match them down to that. So yeah, publishers have caught on to it.
But in all honesty, if you can self-publish a series of books and you put book one at 99p, and they’ve already got say ten books from an author, I don’t know why they wouldn’t put book one at 99p. Who loses? They’re obviously already making money from it. If you snare some more readers with book one, then you can sell them book two to ten for a high price. It’s the same kind of marketing that other industries have been doing for years. Perhaps just taking the book industry a little while to catch on to it.
Joanna: Absolutely, almost final question.
How has all of this changed your life in the last couple of years?
Kerry: I left my job, which I loved, back in June. About three, four months ago and so on. And financially, it’s not a problem, but I still miss it just because I liked the job and so on. And not so much of a journalism as I am now. I’m a writer, which involves just sitting on my sofa not doing very much. So yeah, made a bit of money, gave up my job, live at home, work at home, etc. etc. So it’s changed everything coming from working in an office and getting up and getting to work everyday to getting up and walking down the stairs. It’s not the longest journey. But yeah, it’s changed my entire life.
Joanna: So even though you loved your job, are you happier now? It sounds debatable.
Kerry: It’s just different. Obviously part of going to a job every day, you see people every day. You have mates at work you can joke with and so on, and of course I don’t have that now because my workplace is my living room. And so I miss that. And I miss being a full-time journalist, but I still do things as a freelancer and so on. And my life isn’t just writing fiction, there’s other things I do around. It’s just different. I think it’s because it’s only been three or four months, it’s taking me a while to get used to it.
Joanna: Absolutely, and in fact, my first year as a full-time author/entrepreneur I actually ended up going to a library.
I go to library to write now because I need the commute and I need other people and I need to meet people for lunch and stuff.
Kerry: I travel and do things. I was in America for a little while and just go and see things I haven’t done. I enjoy traveling anyway now. I can afford to go places. It’s nice that you don’t have to structure everything around your job, so if something’s going on, you don’t have to defer what your work schedule is. You can just do stuff. So that’s a nice difference and so on. It’s not a problem, it’s just different not having to go to the office every day.
Joanna: Yeah, no fantastic. Okay, so where can people find you and your books online?
Kerry: Pretty much everywhere. Amazon is an obvious start and probably Kindle and so on, but they’re everywhere. They’re on any E-book site you want to look at, I’m on there. If you want to buy the paperbacks, again, they’re pretty much everywhere you can look for books. Or if you’re in the UK, you can go to the supermarket or your local bookshops. They’re just everywhere. There are pictures in airports in Malaysia and Dubai, Australia, and so on. And one of the biggest differences with self-publishing and actual publishing is publishers do get you everywhere. And so one of my friends will go travel and somewhere and they’ll send pictures from the airport and say they cannot get away [inaudible 00:49:29] They’re everywhere basically.
Joanna: That’s fantastic. And your website?
Kerry: Kerrywilkinson.com K-E-R-R-Y Wilkinson.com
Joanna: Fantastic. Thanks for your time, Kerry. That was great.
Kerry: No worries.