Horror author Helen Cardwell admits the biggest shock she’s ever experienced was when her debut novel became an instant bestseller.
The 40-year-old from Leicestershire realised a lifelong dream when The House in the Attic went to print back in 2012.
But within weeks of the self-published horror story being released it had shot to number one in the Amazon book charts, knocking Susan Hill’s novel-turned-film, The Woman in Black, off the top spot.
And nobody was more surprised than Helen.
She explained: “I’d been writing short stories and poetry for years, and when I began work on The House in the Attic I thought it would just be another short ghost story based on the gothic-themed dolls-house my sister owned.
“As the idea expanded, so did the story and it was suddenly a book.
“I looked to get The House in the Attic published by a mainstream publisher, but the response I had was what actually motivated me to self-publish instead.
“One told me that while the story was of interest they were not prepared to take a chance on an unproven author and another told me there was no market for books where ghosts came back to haunt the living – hilarious, as my bookcase is full of books by authors who write about precisely that.
“I figured I had nothing to lose by just getting the book into print for my family and friends’ amusement.
“When it became a number one bestseller on Amazon I was astounded. I never imagined such a thing could happen.”
Since the overnight success of her first novel, Helen has continued to self-publish books through PublishNation.
Almost all of her proceeding horror and fantasy novels have also reached number one in the charts.
And her latest release, The Memory of Moths, has just won the coveted horror category at the Pinnacle Book Awards in America.
Helen usually takes around a year to complete each novel – depending mainly on the amount of required research.
But, uniquely for a contemporary writer, she always completes the first draft by pen.
Helen explained: “I always jot the basic plot and character backgrounds first.
“Then I write the whole first draft by hand.
“Once it goes onto computer it gets checked three times to ensure everything is as right as it can be.
“I then call it done.
“I’m an obsessive when it comes to everything work wise, and if I didn’t make myself stop I’d never publish anything as I’m never really happy with my work.”
One thing Helen is happy with is the services of PublishNation.
And she recommends that anyone with a desire to become an author should follow her down the self-publishing path.
Helen added: “I’ve achieved things I never dreamed were possible when I started out on this adventure.
“I have spoken to few people who are writing books as they find my experience interesting.
“Some are surprised to find that you can achieve the things I have through self-publishing, others think unless you’ve made a few million pounds you still can’t class yourself as a successful writer.
“It depends on how much you think money is a sign of success, I guess.
“For me, being an award-winning, bestselling author is a dream come true.
“I love how much control self-publishing gives you over your work.
“It is easy and so straight forward, and PublishNation made it easier than I imagined it to be.
“From the first contact through to the final proofs they did all they could to make my journey enjoyable and successful, and the fees charged are unbelievably reasonable.
“They were friendly and went beyond the call of duty in helping get my work out there.”