mnmlist: “I earn more from it in a month than in the whole time when Constable were sitting on it” Author Alex Marwood and the tech-resurrection of Serena Mackesy

“Most writers have ups and downs in their careers, but mine has been a bit like falling off a cliff, only to land on a trampoline.”

Author Serena Mackesy is currently in mid-air and heading ever-upwards as her novel The Wicked Girls (as Alex Marwood) hoovers up plaudits from readers and the industry alike.

Fascinated by the story of how she took control of her second coming with the use of epublishing and social media, I asked Serena to share what’s she’s learned. Authors, nay, anyone looking for an insight into the disruptive power of new technologies should find part 1 below a must read.

Part 2 later this week finds Serena giving advice on using social media. ‘At least buy me a drink before you ask for a blowjob’ is the type of advice that should resonate far beyond writers and users of social media…

The revolution in publishing

Cover artwork for Alex Marwood's The Wicked Girls“I have written two bestsellers, over a decade apart, under two different names. In between, I wrote three other books, under conditions of increasing fear, poverty and self-doubt as each vanished virtually without trace. As my last hurrah before the bailiffs came in, I recently changed my name to Alex Marwood, and my psychological thriller,The Wicked Girls, has once more made me an overnight success.

Life is full of if-onlys, but my biggest if-only is the wish that social networking and ebooks had been around at the level they are now when I was attached to publishers who had decided, as has happened to many writers before me, to kill my work. There’s a lot of fretting about ebooks at the moment, but I love them.

Most writers do. We tend to feel that a book is the words within it, not the paper on which it’s printed. And the great thing about an ebook is that it’s there, ‘in print’ forever, and there is always a chance that it might find its way to someone who will love it long after the average six weeks a retailer gives a book-book. The long-term effects aren’t being felt yet, but I think that ebooks will have the revolutionary effect that home video had on film. Suddenly, there’s a second bite of the cherry, and books that have fallen through the cracks still have a chance of having a life, much as Waterworld and the Chronicles of Riddick, celebrated box office disasters, were rescued by mad-good video sales.

I have both self-published and ‘officially’ new-published in electronic format, and both experiences have been great. A year or so ago, I took the rights to Hold My Hand, a supernatural thriller, back and self-pubbed it on Kindle. With a simple cover put together by a friend, and a blurb that reflects the book rather better than the ‘professionals’ had managed, I earn more from it in a month than in the whole time when Constable were sitting on it, and have also sold the film rights. Which feels very, very nice indeed.

For the couple of hours’ head-scratching it took to convert the Word file using Mobipocket Creator, and Google the web boards to discover that I didn’t really need to get myself an American tax number, I would say it was fully worth it.

But I still think that I’m better off attached to a publisher – just not any old publisher.  Sphere have been extremely clever in helping me to harness the advantages of the online world: because ebooks, particularly at the moment, when they are still the domain of the adventurous, the curious and the mavenish, can be a powerful marketing tool.

The budget for The Wicked Girls was tiny. I know that people think that a successful book must have been backed up by a big budget, but marketing budgets are spent on Jeremy Clarkson, not on works of fiction by debut authors. Most of the initial sales of my first bestseller, The Temp, came out of the fact that I was able to puff it at the bottom of my column in The Independent. This time around, I didn’t have one of those.

Anyway, Sphere decided to experimentally publish The Wicked Girls as an ebook a couple of months before it came out as a book.  The hope was that it would get talked about prior to publication, that it would garner a few reviews on Amazon, which would encourage the mainstream press not to just chuck their review copies in the charity bin. The results were better than anybody had expected. By the time the book was ‘officially’ published, it had already collected nearly 50 Amazon reviews and had sold nearly 20,000 copies – without advertising, press coverage or hype.”


Come back on Wednesday for Part 2

Follow Alex Marwood on Twitter

Buy The Wicked Girls on Amazon