From 0 to 60 in Three Months: Case Study of a Successful New Writer, Estelle Wilkinson

Cover image of It Started with a Click by Estelle WilkinsonThis guest post will encourage and inspire authors who are thinking of taking the plunge into the heady world of self-publishing, providing helpful lessons from debut writer Estelle Wilkinson, author of It Started With A Click.

I’m often surprised by how many people I know who are closet authors. I’ve lost count of how many people who, on finding out that I’m active in the world of self-publishing, reveal their own writerly ambitions. One of these is Estelle Wilkinson, whose debut book came out earlier this year. She approached me wondering whether an idea that she had for a book might lend itself well to self-publishing, and I said I’d be happy to take a look at her manuscript and offer advice.

On reading her manuscript, I judged that it had a good chance of success, and gave her lots of marketing advice, such as starting a website with a blog, and suggesting that she read my book promotion handbook, Sell Your Books! Knowing how generous the indie author community is, I also put her in touch with a few other experts that I know, notably Helen Hart, author and director of the excellent assisted publishing service SilverWood Books, and the self-published, best-selling author Joanne Phillips.

A few months down the line, Estelle’s dream has turned into reality and she’s now making significant, regular sales and collecting some excellent reviews on Amazon for her first book, It Started With A Click, and is now working on her second.  Her first book tells the tale of how she found romance in an unlikely place: on eBay! The nature of her story means that her book is in an unusual format – a series of instant messages and emails. It’s a compelling true story – which is why she writes under a pseudonym!

Welcome, Estelle, to Off The Shelf Book Promotions  – though I know this site has become very familiar to you as you’ve sought its advice over the last few months! 

Q: What made you think of turning your emails into a book?

A:  I’ve always considered my story to be an interesting one and many people have suggested turning into a book (or selling it to a magazine!) I’d never heard about self-publishing and so had no idea this was possible. Until last summer that is… I was having a conversation about a book I’d recently read (basically that I was astonished such badly edited work could make it through a publishing house) and the person I was talking to told me that it was self-published. I had no idea. The seed was then firmly planted and here I am now.

Q: Why did you decide to self-publish rather than seek a traditional publishing contract?

A:  I think this comes down to confidence. I was never sure that my story would interest a wider audience than my friends. The idea of sending it to publishers for them to reject didn’t appeal to me. As it is, I’m getting some wonderful reviews and they’re not all from friends and family! In fact, most now are from people I don’t know. Plus, being self-published means I’m in total control. And I am a bit of a control freak!

Q: How did you manage to make it happen so fast, from concept to launch date?

A: It could have something to do with me being rather impatient. Well, if people reading this have read my book, they’ll know I’m a quick mover! Plus, the emails were already there. I just had to fill in the gaps and do a little editing. I did work some very unsociable hours! But I was determined to make it happen.

Q: Your book straddles genres – is it chicklit, is it a memoir, is it social history? – which makes promoting it particularly challenging. How did you deal with this complication?

A: I’ve almost ignored the genre issue and have just pushed my book in general on Twitter, GoodReads, Facebook and my blog. I’ve had a couple of negative comments from people who were expecting your normal Chick Lit novel (I guess I’m guilty of promoting it that way when you look at the cover) but it is named as a memoir and is clearly described as being so. It is a romance and it would appeal to ladies but it’s different! I’ve tried to get that across as best I can.

Q: What have been the three most effective means of promotion for you?

A: Firstly, running the free promotional days offered by Kindle Direct seemed to really boost my presence for a short while. I also did a small amount of advertising on Facebook. This seemed to do a good deal for sales. At the time, my book was for sale at 99p and I was selling 2-3 per day. Finally, listening to you, Debbie, and ensuring my Twitter, blog and other sites are updated regularly. Generally, just following your advice and trying to get it right!

Q: What are the three things that have most surprised you about your self-publishing journey? 

A: Most surprising is how much work you need to do to promote your book. It’s like having a full-time job. Which, on top of my part-time job and raising two kids, feels like a massive pressure some days. The support offered by other authors has also amazed me! There are days I don’t think I would have made it through without that support. I have now set up a guest blog area on my site to try and give something back and also help other authors who are new to the publishing world. Thirdly, the effect the reviews have on me. I’m very happy to hear people’s opinion of my book and want to take the comments into account when finishing book two. However, it is hard to hear someone disliked the story enough to only give it one star.

Q: What will you do differently when you launch the sequel?

A: I don’t know how much I would do that differently as far as marketing is concerned. I’ve had some amazing guidance (thank you Debbie!) I guess the one thing that is different this time is that I’m being more patient. I want to get the book as good as I can get it before it is published. I sometimes think I rushed Click a little.

Q: Can you tell us yet what the sequel will be called and when it will be available? I noticed that several Amazon reviewers are impatient to see what happens to Catherine and Damien next!

A: The sequel is currently called Clicked?: Did eBay Deliver Love? but I’m not absolutely in love with that title so it may change. I’m hoping it will be published before the end of May but that’s as much as I can promise at the moment. It will all depend on how much time I can put in to getting it right.

Q: Will there be a Book Three, or do you have any other books planned after that?

A: Originally, I had thought a trilogy would be good. Three is the magic number, after all! But, I have since decided to keep it at two. So much has happened in the last nine years but I may take a stab as turning some of it into a fictional work once Click(ed) has settled down and I’ve more time to put in to writing. I never realised it could be so addictive. I’ve never had blog before but am enjoying it more than I ever expected to. Adding the narrative to my books got me going too. I almost don’t want to stop!

Q: Do you have any plans for a print version, or do you think it works best as an e-book?

A:  I’m not against a print version. I still don’t know if I’ve got the self confidence to approach publishers, but if one were to phone me tomorrow and offer to run a printed version of Click, I can’t imagine I’d turn it down!

Q: What would be your “inheritance tip” for indie authors i.e. what one piece of advice would you say every indie author needs to know?

A: If I could only give one piece of advice it would have to be to buy your book (Sell Your Books!) and follow your Off The Shelf Book Promotions blog! Without you I wouldn’t be where I am now!

Gosh, I blush! But Estelle’s success is just one example of why I love to help indie and self-published authors market their books.

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