How Kerry Wilkinson became a publishing success

Kerry Wilkinson

To his colleagues, Kerry Wilkinson is the chief sub-editor at the BBC Sport website.

But many more recognise him as the author of the detective Jessica Daniel series, which has sold around 500,000 copies.

It's an impressive feat for someone who only started writing novels two years ago, in a self-imposed challenge spurred by turning 30.

"I made a list of the things I thought I could do if I really tried, and writing a book was the first thing on that list," says Wilkinson.

He's a keen cricket player and the idea for a crime novel popped into his head while walking near Scarborough cricket ground.

He then started writing Locked In - the first story about the murder investigations of a Manchester detective - in March 2011.

High turnaround

The traditional publishing route of going to an agent "seemed so scattergun and long-winded", and Wilkinson didn't want to go through years of rejection.

So, only four months after he started writing, he uploaded his book directly online.

Start Quote

It's on a billboard in Turkey - mad”

End Quote Kerry Wilkinson

"I was on the Amazon website and saw the 'self-publish with us' button at the bottom. I clicked it and read up. It seemed really easy, so I thought why not?"

He didn't use the promotional tools of Facebook and Twitter yet within three months of Locked In's release, it topped Kindle's best-selling chart in the UK.

Wilkinson has a high turnaround rate and the release of two further novels online saw him become Amazon UK's top-selling author in the final quarter of 2011.

Since then he has written six more Jessica Daniel books and a yet-to-be-released Silver Blackthorn trilogy for young adults.

All 12 works have now been bought by Pan Macmillan publishers, who also released the first four Jessica Daniel stories in paperback last February. Two more books will be issued by the end of 2013.

Colleagues' reaction

Wilkinson started at BBC Sport in September 2011 after their move to Salford. However he didn't tell colleagues about his writings.

"I kind of carried on - I quite like my job so I just turn up.

"But people started noticing stuff and asked 'Is that you?' because my name is quite rare, so I was like, yeah.

"When the most recent book came out in February, there were posters around Manchester so people were passing them when coming into work, which was quite weird."

His colleagues are mainly bemused as to why he's still at the BBC given his success. But, now that he's signed a publishing deal, he has decided to leave this June, just before his first book launches in the US.

His novels have also been translated in other parts of Europe. "It's on a billboard in Turkey - mad," he says in disbelief.

Although married, he explains the fact he doesn't have children means he can fit his novel-writing during evenings and time off. He adds that some of his best work happens at 5am.

"It's nice that, when I leave, I'll actually have time - for the first time in two years - to do stuff like travel."

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If you have the discipline and willpower, it's not that hard”

End Quote Kerry Wilkinson
Forensics research

Wilkinson admits to not being a "massive reader".

"Even growing up I just used to read a lot of comics and Doctor Who books, and stuff like that, but none of that links back to crime in any way."

Nor does working in sports journalism. Born in Bath, he started his career at the Express Newspapers group in Preston after graduating at university there.

So does this mean he's done lots of research to compensate?

"Yes and no, because it depends on the storyline.

"For some of them you don't need much, it's more about the science. You have to talk to people who know forensics and the science procedures that go alongside it.

"You do all the research, and then try and find a way to ignore it all so you don't baffle people."

And does he have any tips for aspiring writers?

"I only ever have one: just get on with it. You're the only person stopping yourself and it's way too easy to find excuses not to write.

"If you have the discipline and willpower, it's not that hard."

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