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