Kerry Wilkinson on Being “The Hottest New Author in Britain”

Kerry Wilkinson Something WickedPreston’s newest crime author Kerry Wilkinson has erupted onto the national literary scene with his runaway success in the world of e-publishing with his iTunes and Kindle download crime novel Locked In.

Hitting the Amazon top 100 in less than a month, Locked In ranks in the top-80 Kindle books on the whole of Amazon UK and at No.14 in the Thriller chart, and Kerry’s novel is currently also ranking in the iTunes chart at No.8 overall and No.4 in the crime chart.

The Daily Express have termed Kerry “THE hottest new author in Britain”, and Kerry has kindly taken time off the hot-plate to write an article for the Lancashire Writing Hub on his unexpected success…

“My name’s Kerry Wilkinson and my debut self-published novel is currently sat at No.9 in the iTunes book chart and nestling just inside Amazon’s top 100 books, including in the top 20 thrillers.

That sentence is pretty surreal because, to me, it is all just an accident. I keep expecting to wake-up, check the chart, and find I have sunk without a trace. That could still well happen but, to be honest, everything I have somehow managed to achieve so far has vastly exceeded any expectations I could have ever had.

Essentially, I turned 30 last year and decided I wanted to do something with my life that didn’t just involve sitting around playing on the PlayStation … although I still do plenty of that.

In short, I had an idea I thought was good for an ending, plotted backwards and then wrote every day until it was finished. Revising took a while but the first draft of 97,000 words only took three weeks.

After having a few people I trust read it and a period of rewriting and revising, which included just leaving it for a few weeks at a time, then returning to it, I had something I was pretty proud of. But I was faced with the same choice everyone who has written something has – what now? Everyone knows most submissions to agents and publishers are rejected, if they’re even read. It’s not really their fault, they are understaffed and overworked but I think it’s generally accepted getting a book deal happens as much by luck as anything else.

The key thing for me was that I never wrote the book to “become an author”. I’ve got a full-time job I actually like. I wrote it to prove I could.

And so, after a couple of rejection letters from agents (while I was busy writing a sequel I should add), I just decided, “What the hell”, and self-published through Kindle and Lulu (for iTunes). I didn’t do much in the way of publicising, except for telling my friends, etc, on Facebook and Twitter and a couple of forums. But then something strange happened … people started to actually buy it.

After a fortnight, one of my friends sent me a message asking if I knew I was in iTunes’ top-50 titles. I didn’t but he was right. And then, a day later, I was in the top-40, then the top-30. When this started happening, the first thing I did was contact the papers … “local nobody outsells Twilight” is a good story after all and there was no point in waiting until after the event to get in on it. Of course, these type of stories will get old pretty soon if lots of people do the same thing…

The thing is, I was already at No.19 on iTunes before I’d had any media coverage at all but, after a few articles began to appear, I started to climb further.

On iTunes, I soon reached the top-10 while, on Kindle, sales just soared to such a degree that I was No.1 in their “movers and shakers” chart and in the top-100 books overall.

And that’s where I am now.

It could all be over tomorrow but everything that has happened is plenty more than I could have hoped for. I’ve got two more novels in the same series already written and, one way or another, they will be published. I’ve been in contact with agents, some of whom approached me and some I went to. I don’t know if anything will come of it but what I’ve learned is one of the main things to impress an agent is proven success.

I can go to any publisher or agent in the country and say I’m a top-10 bestselling author because I am. A month ago I could have sent the exact same manuscript to them and probably been rejected.

The fact is, even with everything that has happened to me so far, working with an agent and/or publisher would be easier. They’re professionals and know what they’re doing. I don’t … I’ve just kind of made it up as I’ve gone along.

This is only my opinion and I’m not saying I’m right. I’m definitely no expert either – but I do think there’s a certain thing that is key to publishing on Kindle and iTunes. The one big thing to remember is that people can download the first 10 per cent for free through those devices. That means your first few chapters have to be appealing. Perhaps that sort of pacing doesn’t fit in with what you’re trying to achieve but, if I download a sample, I want it to be fast and interesting. I don’t want a slow-burner where nothing happens because, if the sample is dull, why would I pay for the rest?

Maybe that means the electronic devices are changing the way people write novels? I have no idea, I’m just speculating.

People keep asking me the key to the small amount of success I’ve had so far. The truth is, I don’t know because, apart from doing my best to capitalise on the initial success, I haven’t done that much. But I do think the first three chapters of my book do a decent job in introducing the lead, setting up the mystery and then finishing on a cliffhanger at the end of chapter three.

Ultimately if you don’t want to read the rest of my story after going through those three chapters then it isn’t the book for you. So far, lots of people seemingly have read that first 10 per cent and decided they want to know what happens next. Whether they will continue to do so, I just don’t know … but I’ve had a fun, albeit exhausting, week regardless of what happens in the future.”

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