Episode # 106 – Disruption and The BritCrime Festival with Helen Smith

In Uncategorized by Angela McConnell12 Comments

carlcovernewThis week I talk to Helen Smith, author of the highly acclaimed Alison Wonderland and Emily Castles Mysteries. She recounts her journey from a traditionally published writer to self-publisher from “back in the day,” to her current status as a hybrid author, as well as BritCrime.com, the upcoming virtual crime fiction festival she’s organized for readers and authors to meet online.



Helen Smith Author Web Page

Amazon Author Page

BritCrime Festival – July 11 to 13, 2015

BritCrime Facebook/Event Page

BritCrime Newsletter Sign-Up


The Guardian – “All write now: Helen Smith on self-publishing”

Nick Stephenson (Author Website)

Nick Stephenson – Author Marketing that Works

J.F. Penn (Author Website)

Joanna Penn – The Creative Penn

Mark Dawson (Author Website)

Mark Dawson – Self Publishing Formula

Amanda Hocking

J.A. Konrath

Lake Union (Amazon Imprint)

Thomas & Mercer (Amazon Imprint)

Andy Weir: The Martian

Blake Crouch: Wayward Pines


Show notes:


Helen originally sold her first book Alison Wonderland to a traditional publisher in May 1999, but when it eventually went out of print, she wasn’t having any of it! She quickly got the rights to her books back and self-published them in 2010. Within three months, she had attracted the attention of Amazon’s publishing division at the time, and soon was published under Amazon. Alison Wonderlandwent on to hit No. 1 in the Amazon store.

She is more recently known for her Emily Castles Mysteries, a humorous contemporary mystery series that follow a 26-year-old amateur sleuth loosely based on her own daughter.

Although Helen has written in a myriad of mediums, including screenplays based on her own work and original plays, she prefers to focus her creative energy on writing novels. The medium, she finds, is a natural fit for her as a writer, and she has a solid list of five novel projects that she’s working through.

Like most anyone who follows the self-publishing industry closely, Helen marvels at the changing tides of disruption Amazon introduced with the Kindle. She finds the changes more exciting than fearsome, and points out that smart people expect that things will continue to change and adapt readily with those changes — and she loves the fact that it’s constantly changing!

Thanks to technology nowadays, Helen says, she reads more than she ever did. It’s what returned her to novel-writing.


And technology is how she is bringing together authors and readers in a new endeavor. On July 11 to 13, 2015, the very first BritCrime online crime fiction festival will take place on Facebook, open and free to all. Helen has brought together forty celebrated British crime fiction authors (and one American) in an event that will take place online over the course of three days. She has organized Q&A panels, giveaways, opportunities for readers and authors to connect, and she’s even opened a little online pub, The Slaughtered Author, where participants can chat after hours over a virtual pint. All the fun of a convention/festival with none of the hassle and cost of travel. Festivities and Q&A panels begin Saturday, July 11, 2015, at BritCrime Festival. Readers are encouraged to mingle over at the BritCrime Readers’ Cafe.


“Companies have short lifespans… And Amazon will be disrupted one day… I don’t worry about it because I know it is inevitable. Companies come and go. And the companies that are the shiniest and most important of any era, you wait a few decades and they’re gone.” – Jeff Bezos on 60 Minutes, Dec. 1, 2013 (from getwired.com)

“As soon as you think of it, you can make it happen.” – Helen Smith

Action Steps:

  • Practice outreach. Helen’s BritCrime festival is a brilliant example of creative outreach and networking. How did she find most of the authors for the event? They responded to her post on Facebook. Keep your eyes open to what other authors in your field are up to and don’t be shy to reach out, say yes, or offer a hand.
  • Think it. Whatever it is, think it, dream it. This is a pretty metaphysical sort of action step, but Helen’s quote rings true: “As soon as you think of it, you can make it happen.” Make sure you give yourself time to daydream each day, no limitations, no reality check. Take a few minutes each day to imagine all the steps you might take to reach that mighty pie in the sky, and then take just the first few steps. Do that every day, and I’ll meet you by the sun. :)
  • Continue to read/learn about publishing. If you’re here reading this, then you probably don’t need to be reminded of the importance of education. It goes without saying that if one wants to excel in a chosen field, then they must read, read, read. It’s a common thread among successful authors interviewed here on RSP: they’ve all stuffed their ears with podcasts of those before them, their eyes with blog posts of those more experienced, and they’ve all done it while practicing their trade day in and day out. You are on that same path to success. Stick with it. You will get there.

Simon Asks:

How have your reading habits changed with technology? What kind of disruption do you imagine will topple the mighty Amazon one day?


Leave a comment below or get in touch with Simon by email at simon@rockingselfpublishing.com

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Angela McConnellEpisode # 106 – Disruption and The BritCrime Festival with Helen Smith
  • It was a really inspiring discussion – especially Britcrime. I didn’t see much about bloggers, are they involved too?

    Pity about the English stuff though. I’m Singaporean, so I much prefer British English(grammar and vocabulary) to American. It’s much closer to Singapore Standard English, and I think it’s much prettier.

    • SimonRSP

      Thanks Eustacia. I’m not sure about bloggers, but if Helen doesn’t see this shortly, I’ll pass on your question 🙂

      • Helen Smith

        Simon, sorry for not showing up here sooner. Thanks so much for hosting me. I really enjoyed it.

        • SimonRSP

          No problem Helen! Thanks for chiming in 🙂

    • Helen Smith

      Eustascia, sorry for the delay in replying! We’ve had some great support from bloggers in the run-up to the festival. We will be running more events like this. If you’d like to sign up to receive an alert, please go here: http://www.britcrime.com/reviewers/

      We’re encouraging readers to visit our BritCrime Readers’ Cafe over on Facebook to meet other readers during the festival. It’s open for business now and we’re getting the most wonderful support from bloggers there who are posting reviews of participating authors’ books and interviews: https://www.facebook.com/events/1655995967963231/

      By the way, I visited Singapore last year for the second time, after about 25 years. I liked it the first time and I liked it the second time, too. It’s an astonishing place.

      Thanks for being nice about my ramblings about the difference between UK and US English. And thanks for listening to the podcast. I really enjoyed taking part in it.

      • Thanks so much for the reply, Helen! I’m glad you liked Singapore on both your visits 😀 I bet the changes between the first and second must have been very great.

        And yay for the link. I’ve signed up as a blogger!

  • Philip Harris

    Thanks for another great podcast. I really enjoyed this one, had me laughing out loud during my workout.

    • Helen Smith

      Philip, thanks for listening! Simon’s a charming host who is extremely organised and efficient. I love Angela’s show notes, too – they’re really impressive. I hope you know that laughing is considered just as good for you as a workout. You can take the rest of the week off…

      • Philip Harris

        That’s good to hear. I could do with a rest. 🙂

    • SimonRSP

      Thanks for listening Philip 🙂

  • mtr amg

    That is a meandering path to success but you still got there!
    oh, gosh I know what you mean about american/English differences and I find the Americans are more intolerant of the differences, almost as if they don’t know it is different elsewhere – they just tag it as wrong. I went off to sign up for the brit crime so I am in! They also say things like ‘on accident’ where we would say ‘by accident’… I think… lmao – now I’ve got myself confused!
    I do read more now after downloading the Kindle app. I have had to adjust my Goodreads target twice this year and I’m still 20 books ahead of schedule. And I am totally a hoarder – of both ebook and real books.

    • Helen Smith

      Thanks for the comment! Thanks for signing up for the BritCrime Festival. If you made it to any of the events, you’ll know it has been madly busy, hence my delay in responding. Apologies for that. Hope you enjoyed it if you joined us. If not… see you next time!