Getting published

Walthamstow author Shelly Berry promoting her book on BBC Radio London
Walthamstow author Shelly Berry promoting her book on BBC Radio London

Shelly Berry on how her second attempt at novel writing has paid off

Finally, after many years of typing away, I can call myself a published author. It hasn’t been an easy journey but following numerous blogs, short stories and a ‘shelved’ first novel, Outreach was officially published in September.

The story was born out of a growing curiosity about what would happen if an innocent crush became an obsession. While I imagine most of us can hold up our hands to fancying someone ‘off limits’, what would it take for us to choose to pursue the subject of our desire regardless? How could our upbringing affect our need to chase their attentions, and what might it be that puts our crush on that pedestal in the first place?

Being the second novel I’ve written – although the first that’s been published – I had an idea of how to go about it. First came the planning; a flow chart of post-it notes detailing the story’s progression which could be easily changed during the writing process. Then came character development; who are these people and what’s their history? The environment also got some attention. What kind of pub does Emily find herself drinking in as she keeps a watchful eye over her love?

I worked out that it would take 60 weeks to write Outreach at a steady rate of 1,500 words a week. As someone who ploughs through writing blocks hoping that any words are at least some kind of foundation, editing easily took as long before my novel got passed to trusted fellow writers for their feedback – and further edits. Then came the arduous task of trying to find a platform for my fledgling novel. Identifying suitable publishers and agents is hard work, but the deluge of rejections is even tougher.

Before The Book Guild got in touch to say they wanted to publish my book with me, doubt was creeping in. Luckily my ‘just do it’ attitude won! Having a paperback version of your writing in your hands is a very special moment, but not as special as the support it has received. It’s a gift to know that people are buying, reading and enjoying my writing – and while I don’t think I’ll be earning enough royalties to give up the day job, I’m very excited about where Outreach might take me next.

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