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SPS-327: From Writing Conference to Writing Career – with Benedict Brown

Benedict Brown drew inspiration from a panel of successful writers at the 2020 Self-Publishing Show Live to throw himself fully into his writing and become a six-figure author. He and James discuss choosing the right sub-genre, getting cover images right, and getting words written every day.

Show Notes

  • On doing research with historical documents
  • Starting out on the traditional publishing path with children’s books
  • Being inspired by an indie author’s success
  • Switching from children’s fiction to historical mystery
  • Thoughts on writing a unique story while also meeting reader expectations
  • What kind of images work for Facebook ads
  • The value of learning to take criticism about our writing
  • On the value focus when we’re trying to be creative

Resources mentioned in this episode:

PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page

SPS LIVE: Click here to get your tickets for the live event in June 2022 while they last

SPF 101: Join the waiting list to be alerted when SPF 101 opens for enrolment in early May

MERCH: Check out our new 2022 hoodies and t-shirts in the SPF Store.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:

SPS-327: From Writing Conference to Writing Career - with Benedict Brown
Speaker 1: On this edition of The Self-Publishing Show.

Benedict Brown: I think one of the most important things you can do is really focus on your writing. People talk a lot on the Facebook groups about how people can be releasing 10 books a year or whatever it is. It is absolutely doable if you're not just sitting down and waiting for inspiration to strike.

Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers. No more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing?

Join indie bestseller Mark Dawson, and first-time author James Blatch, as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is The Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Hello and welcome. It is The Self-Publishing Show with me, James Blatch.

Mark Dawson: And me, Mark Dawson.

James Blatch: It's a lovely day here in the United Kingdom and we are here to talk about self-publishing, self-publishing success and marketing. We have an interview that sums up all of that and I think will give you a little bit of inspiration and hope. Yes, but more about that in a moment. Actually, some very practical help.

Our Self-Publishing 101 course. I think the creme de la creme place to go to, in fact, I can tell you it has turned me into a commercially successful author. I've basically followed the 101 course over the last two years and you'll know that and I posted some of the details of my first year as a published author into our Facebook group with my actual figures, which I shared with you, and I do credit the 101 course and Mark's teaching for that.

So we open it for two to three weeks on May the 4th, May the 4th be with you. Easy date to remember. May the 4th, Wednesday, we are going to open Self-Publishing 101. You can get on the waiting list if you're not on it already, but if you're on our mailing list, you will get to hear about it. But the address for that is selfpublishingformula.com/101. Could not be simpler.

Currently going through the materials, me and Tom, making sure everything's up to date. A few things have changed here and there. MailChimp of course changed a little bit here and there. So just re-recording some of those sessions at the moment, but it's always as always up to date and once you're in, you're in. You get everything. You get everything that's added to over the years. Good. I think this is the year, Mark, for me to assert myself as an author. Book two. Novella.

Mark Dawson: Book two. Yeah. You never know.

James Blatch: Did some research yesterday on book three, the novella. Read about a really interesting episode. This is a fantastic thing to do. You can do it in the UK. I'm sure you can do it in America too. Basically all the secret government files go to a national records office when they're opened. They're closed, the minutes for the cabinet and so on, are closed and there's a 30 year rule which can be overruled but 30 years is standard. And after 30 years, so the mid eighties for me for 1950s records.

They're still sealed physically but they get moved to the National Records Office and you, as the member of public, can go and see them. So you sign up, it's all free, you get a reader's card. You book a day in the reading room. You research the documents you want. It's a bit of guesswork as to what's going to be in them, whether it's going to be anything of interest.

I look at where my dad was in the 1950s in Iraq and in Egypt, because it's of interest to me personally and that's where I delve in for stories. So I picked up 10 files, a lot actually, too much. Ordered them, went down yesterday. It's a brilliant system. You show your pass. They search you on the way in and way out. You're only allowed to take a laptop in. You have to open your laptop because they're terrified of people stealing these documents, which I think probably happens. They're valuable of course. Some of them are mediaeval. I'm looking at stuff from the fifties, but it's a huge records office. You go in there, your barcode tells you where your lockers are and where your seat is and your lockers are these transparent lockers and your piles of folders are in there.

You're allowed to take three at a time into the reading room. The reading room, you have an allocated seat, and nice and quiet yesterday as well. It was great. It's a nice big space. You're allowed to photograph, so you can take a camera. Can take photographs of the sheets, but you're not allowed to film or anything like that, and I looked at this first file. I put a picture of it on Facebook actually.

It was bright red, which looked very secret. It was marked top secret, top and bottom. It had letters between the Prime Minister, Anthony Eden at the time, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, and discussions of the top level of the RAF and the top level of the foreign office about a problem I knew nothing about that I haven't spoken to my father about yet, but he was based out of this base at the time.

There was a group of people called the Assyrians. You often hear this word Assyrian. It's like a biblical expression for a tribe in the Middle East and they were, unfortunately... At the wrong time, they didn't have a state in the 1940s or 30s. Whenever it was that the UK and other countries drew the lines and made up the Middle East. They were left stateless as a people, but they had a long connection with the UK and we actually had something called the Assyrian Levies which I'd never heard of, which was a British run military force, like the Gurkhas I suppose, that they were members of, and they staffed RAF Habbaniya, just south of Iraq. Big RAF station. They staffed it, they ran it. They ran the shop. They did the mechanical work. There were 10,000 of them.

But, the Iraqis were chuntering about throwing us out. The treaty that we'd signed in the 1930s was coming to an end. They didn't see any prospect that we were going to be allowed to stay. The Ba'ath Party had just been established, which of course was Saddam Hussein's party, and things were looking very unhealthy for the Assyrians. They were very worried about what would happen to them, they were already being beaten up occasionally by the Iraqi police.

The archbishop of Canterbury wrote to Eden and said we needed to do something about... We owe these people something. We should resettle them in the UK, and of course there's discussions... It's unbelievable some of the stuff you read in these minutes. There was one guy from the, I think senior from the RAF, he said, "Why don't we release 50 to 100 of them from Habbaniya and see what happens to them and then after that, we can decide what to do in the future." So basically, if they're murdered these 50 to 100... Very unethical experiment, I would say.

Mark Dawson: Do you think? Yeah. Little bit.

James Blatch: Yeah. Anyway. So the devils in the detail. I always think so, you can read about history. You can say, well, the British were then the Americans went to the Bay Of Pigs, whatever but when you start reading the letters between the president and the head of the CIA or the mother of a soldier, or in this case, the Assyrians and the archbishop of Canterbury, that's for me, where the stories come from. That's where you get the little glimpse into an individual on the ground in the middle of all of that and this was their experience. So I'm starting to generate stories and discussing that with my dev editor, Andrew. So that was a really interesting and fun thing to do.

Mark Dawson: Your dead editor?

James Blatch: Dev editor.

Mark Dawson: I thought you said your dead editor. That'd be interesting.

I've been there before. I did some research for my Soho novels. So, 10 years ago probably. Did the same thing. Found basically the files that the police have put together with the evidence from the murders of a guy called Gordon Cummings, he was known as the blackout ripper, that no one really knows about, but he killed four or five people in about a week.

I've seen the kind of crime scene photos and autopsy reports and all that kind of stuff. So yeah, it is very interesting and I was, same as you, I got the files out and then took a digital camera and took hundreds of pictures so that I could look at the files again subsequently without having to go back to queue to do it. So yeah, it's definitely, if you're writing that kind of historical fiction, it is really interesting to go down there. It's interesting anyway, but I had a good time to head there as well.

James Blatch: What I really like are there are so many files and this is so niche, some of the areas that we look into, that I was probably the first person since those files were declassified to ask for them and I've tied them back up and they go back into thing and that might be it for anyone ever looking at them. Yeah, there were photographs in there as well in some of them and of course I saw my dad's name occasionally, in the later files. He was a junior pilot then. I think he was mentioned in one of the letters about a detachment somewhere.

Oh yeah and it was a brilliant little story which might become an anecdote in one of my books about this detachment of 213 Squadron to Greece, and they had 113 Squadron providing transport aircraft to take the men out, the airmen on the ground, to take them out and when they got back... All these letters... It starts off back to front, actually. The file starts off with, "Well done, fantastic trip Greece. I'm sure the profile of the RAF is very high now", lots of back slapping and then there's this series of letters, because when they got there, some squadron leader in the RAF told the 113 transport pilots they couldn't stay in the same hotel as 213.

They had to go down the road and pay for their hotel. So when they came back, they wanted recompense. They wanted their expenses paid, which somebody did on the ground in Egypt because they were then going off on another detachment and then a group back in London, they said, "Well, we're not paying because they should have stayed in the main hotel." And then suddenly you get these 15 letters going backwards and forwards about these seven people who are told by 213, "You can't stay in our hotel, you transport people."

I love that sort of thing. It's hilarious. And it happens today, of course. Anyone who's served in the military would long drawn out stories about expense claims. Yes. Anyway, so that's probably going to be a novella, which I will give away, I think. What do you think's the good word count for a novella to a giveaway?

Mark Dawson: 20,000 words. Something like that.

James Blatch: 20,000. Seems ever so short, doesn't it?

Mark Dawson: It's not that short. That's a decent size. Yeah. No longer than that, I wouldn't say.

James Blatch: Yeah. Good. Okay. So we've done Self Publishing 101. Rambled about my book and my national archive visits. We should also mention that the live show, we are really close to being able to announce the schedule. You've shared it with me, Mark. I think it looks brilliant and I'm really excited about it. Can't wait to get there.

We do have a few tickets left. They have gone really well over the last few weeks. There's been a bit of an uptake, but selfpublishingformula.com/spslive, if you want join us in June in London. There are going to be many hundreds of us there. We're going to fill the room. It's going to be great fun. Yes. And I know a lot of our friends from America are coming over which I'm very excited about.

Mark Dawson: It'll be good. Looking forward to that. Also got, I think next month, I've got Craig Martelle coming here for, I mentioned the other day, for spending a night here and hopefully the barn will be ready. He may the first visitor in the barn, which is pretty much nearly done now.

James Blatch: So I think by tradition, I'm your first visitor in the new wings of the house.

Mark Dawson: Normally you are. Yes, absolutely. So I have to get you in, first of all. You can road test it. Make sure everything's working. And yeah, as I mentioned too, off air, we've got a couple of Ukrainians coming to stay with us for, well, for six months probably. Maybe longer. So they're coming on Wednesday. It's been a bit of, this is nothing to do with the self-publishing of course, but has been a bit of a wrangle trying to get a system that is definitely not fit for purpose to get into a position where we can get visas for them but they came through last week. Thursday I think it was, Wednesday, Thursday. So yeah, we got tickets for them yesterday, so they'll be flying from Frankfurt to Heathrow. On Wednesday we'll go pick them up and then bring them back and see how that goes. So this space here, as soon as I'm in the office over the way, this will become some space that they can use and the bedroom will be below, where you stayed before. So yeah, going to be a busy weekend.

James Blatch: That's a great thing to do Mark and they're very lucky people because you live in this most beautiful house and beautiful village. I had a wander around the village last time I stayed there. It's a chocolate box English countryside village. It would be the opening shot of most rom-coms set in the UK.

Mark Dawson: It is nice.

James Blatch: Yeah, beautiful.

Mark Dawson: The village also is coming together. There's a meeting on Wednesday that Lucy went to where about 10 people turned up and there's going to be at least one other family, I think, hosting in the village, possibly two. And then everyone else is ready to help. So we've got people offering free English lessons and my son's school is going to take the young lad on.

He is eight years old, same as Samuel. So the two of them will begin the same class probably and there's a Russian speaker in the school. So it's going to be yeah, challenging, but I think... I'm pleased that we are doing it. It'll be something I think that they will benefit from. Obviously not just them, I think we'll get a lot of it as well, the family, and the kids will see the kind of things that you can do to help other people. So yeah, we're pleased.

James Blatch: That's great. We have a family moving into the close as well. I said to John, who is actually Ukrainian, one of our neighbours, we've said to him that we'll take turns in buying the shopping and doing stuff. It shouldn't be something he does by himself. And my Ukrainian flag's out. I put a Ukrainian flag out the front of the house, much to my daughter's chagrin. She seems anti... Not anti. She's not pro-Russia or anything. She just doesn't like the idea of draping flags around, nor do I, but I'm doing it because... I've done the cycle ride last week and we... It's a long ride, 90 miles, which is too far from me. I was killed at the end of it. But we cycled through a village called Olney, in Northamptonshire and every other building had a Ukrainian flag on it, and it looked amazing and I felt quite inspired.

Mark Dawson: We were in Great Yarmouth last week. So that's a seaside town in Norfolk actually, not too far from where I came from and there's a pleasure beach. So kind of the fair there.

James Blatch: I know. Great Yarmouth pleasure beach.

Mark Dawson: Yeah. I normally they have a line of lots of different flags. It must be 50 flags and it was British flag, Ukrainian flag, British flag, Ukrainian flag. It looked really good and you've seen a lot. The house in South Walden, the next door neighbours have got a massive flag outside. Just kind of people...

James Blatch: Your place needs a flag pole. You could carry off an actual flag pole in your front garden.

Mark Dawson: And we've got builders in at the moment so I could probably ask them to put a flag pole up.

James Blatch: Yeah, there you go. And just to point out, that's not a euphemism.

Mark Dawson: Yes, exactly.

James Blatch: All right, on that Partridge light note... Okay, let's move on to our interview today.

I really enjoyed chatting to Benedict Brown, his name is. He is British but he lives in Spain with his French wife who's very cosmopolitan and you'll hear from the story this is somebody who's a very, very everyday me type person who's come to writing and you, hopefully, listening to this thinking can I do this, can I make success of it, and let's follow his progress. Here's Benedict.

Benedict Brown. Welcome to The Self-Publishing Show. So you're English. You're in France. We've just been talking a little bit of French because computer's in French, but basically we're covering Europe here.

Benedict Brown: Not quite. I'm in Spain, but my wife's French.

James Blatch: You're in Spain, your wife's French, but you're you are English.

Benedict Brown: I am. As far as I know. Yes. Welsh Irish English.

James Blatch: So welcome from Spain. Great to have you on the show and I'm interested in hearing your story because I hear you wanted to be a children's author then stumbled across self-publishing and I'm looking at you now on Amazon and you are very successful in your chosen genre. So let's talk about how you got from that position to today.

Benedict Brown: I've been writing for a very long time. I think I've been writing for... It's easy to work out. I started my first novel on the eve of the millennium because everyone was sick in my house. All my friends were sick. The party I was supposed to go to was cancelled and I was a moody teenager and I decided to start writing a moody, terrible book and that awful book is still under my cupboard somewhere in my house in London and I continued writing and when I went to university I studied literature.

I did a master's in creative writing in Wales and yeah, I just fell into kids books. I've always enjoyed kids books so that's what I started writing. I thought that would be the commercial thing that would save me from having to do a job in an office somewhere and it never quite took off.

After university, I stayed in Wales for a while, but there's no jobs so I moved to Spain to become an English teacher. I lived in Barcelona for about seven years and I wrote all that time. I was writing kids books the whole time. I was following the traditional path.

I was trying to get an agent, I was trying to get a traditional publisher and I got quite far along that path in the sense of having great feedback on my books. Every book I wrote... I probably wrote about 10 in those 10 years, and every book I sent off to an agent will get good feedback. I would work with agents for a long time, typical story that a lot of people will have experienced, and in the end it would always fall at the last hurdle. The agent would suddenly disappear and stop replying to my emails so I don't know if I'm a horrible person or something or the editor wouldn't be interested in the end.

It was quite demoralising experience for someone who'd studied writing, who'd given a lot of myself into this writing and eventually I just changed. I tried all sorts of genres within kids' books, all aged groupings and...

James Blatch: I was going to ask, were you writing children's middle grade type novels, or were you writing picture books, because children's books does cover quite a...

Benedict Brown: I ended up doing pretty much everything. I have written picture books. I mainly did middle grade, but I also then by the end of it... Because through that period, I realised what wasn't working and what people kept telling me. The biggest thing was that traditional publishers were saying, "Well, if you don't have a YouTube following, if you're not a footballer, then why would we publish your kids' book?", or... I literally was told that by an agent I'd been working with for six months who loved my book. That you're not John Terry or someone, you know? You're not David Beckham so...

James Blatch: Did you play left back at Arsenal? Otherwise, we're not...

Benedict Brown: Exactly. Which as, to my knowledge, no I haven't. And so, yeah, so by the end of it I was writing for older teens. I wrote a very... I started off with silly fairy tales and I finished with a book for 16 plus about mental health. About borderline personality disorder.

James Blatch: You covered the gamut there.

Benedict Brown: The gamut. That's the word. Yes.

James Blatch: And why children's books? Did you enjoy them as a child and you wanted to be a writer in that genre?

Benedict Brown: Yeah. I do love kids books and I continue to read kids books. My favourite book of all, probably, is the Philip Pullman books but I never really tried writing anything as ambitious as that. And I think the big thing, which a lot of people probably felt at the time, was Harry Potter. I literally was thinking, How can I not work? And I thought well, I'll be the next JK Rowling. Simple.

James Blatch: There, there is something so romantic about the idea of her sitting down in this cafe, or on the train to Scotland and her life changing through the words she wrote. There's something magical about that, which I guess is why it's such an eternal story. It does inspire people.

Benedict Brown: Yeah. And the eternal story of lots of money is also a nice element of it.

James Blatch: Yes. The billions help. Okay. So in the end that must have just petered out for you. Did it?

Benedict Brown: Well, no. Quite the opposite actually. I just never gave up on it until... So I guess that took me through to 2019. I moved to Spain 2006 to be an English teacher and all that time I was working as an English teacher, teaching English as a foreign language and in 2019 I joined another writer's website and I think that was one of my issues as well.

I didn't have any other writing community and I think that's one of the amazing things in the last few years I've found and also I have to say thanks to you and Mark because you do provide the community side of things, not just the courses, which is that I found other writers now who can help me, but back then I was writing totally alone.

In 2019, I joined another website and I met a writer whose book I gave a quick feed back on, read the first couple of chapters and told her what I thought, and she read my book about the boy with borderline personality disorder and that had quite an impact on her book. She changed from third person to first person.

Anyway, cut to six months later. Not much contact with that person. Just thought it was one of those passing contacts you make online. She sent me a message, sent me an email saying how well she'd been doing self-publishing the murder mystery that she'd written then and her name's Karen Baugh Menuhin, and she is one of the most successful writers self-publishing in 1920s mysteries now and she has had a phenomenal success, really, and she has been very big help to me, but that first email was incredible. I was in bed. It was about seven in the morning. I was supposed to be getting up for an English class, and I woke up my wife who I... There's one thing I never do-

James Blatch: You don't wake up your wife.

Benedict Brown: I don't wake up my wife. She's actually asleep in the room next to us right now.

James Blatch: It's funny. It's exactly the same in my house. Even if it's her birthday or mother's day, there's very strict instructions. She's not the person you bring breakfast to in bed.

Benedict Brown: Oh, absolutely. I literally have not woken up my wife for any other reason in the last... We've been married 11 years this year. But I saw the income that my friend Karen was having and a big part of our story is that we had a very, very low income. I was earning about 15 grand a year as an English teacher working and literally working nine months a year because that's the terms, but it was a very bad job basically.

I'd avoided the office jobs that I had been desperate not to do but I'd taught English for 15 years, and loved it and it's a great experience, but I was earning very, very little money. My wife was a graphic designer. We live in the north of Spain, which is not a very, very wealthy area and so our cost of living, phenomenally low, but our income, terribly low.

James Blatch: Matches that.

Benedict Brown: Yeah, exactly. Or even less, you know? And so that meant, seeing this email from my friend who was... I can't remember if it was six grand a month or what exactly she was making at the time, but she's gone way, way beyond that, but this was early on. She'd had two books out at the time. She was really, really doing very well for herself and I said, because I'd always thought and this is what I didn't know as a kids writer, was that you couldn't self-publish because you can put a book on Amazon, but no one's going to find it because there are a billion books on Amazon and there's no chance at all. Whenever I saw anything about self-publishing, I dismissed it thinking there's no chance of us, especially for kids' books.

And so the day I email, I said, "Okay, I'm going to be a crime novelist apparently. I'm going to write murder mysteries", and so yeah, I woke up my wife and I said, "We can do this. You're a graphic designer. I'm a writer", and from that point I haven't written anything for kids from that day.

James Blatch: Wow. That's what I meant when I said it petered out. The ambition to be a children's author's what ended when you had this revelationary email.

Benedict Brown: Yeah, but it was more of a cliff edge. I jumped from the cliff. Yes.

James Blatch: And all that writing you did, wasn't a waste of writing, right? Because that's how you found your voice and found your writing ability.

Benedict Brown: Oh yeah. I mean, I don't think I'd have been able to do... So I have just finished my 13th novel since that date. That was late 2019. So it's just over, looking at the data, it's just over...

James Blatch: Two... 21. Well, no, it's a year and a bit, isn't it?

Benedict Brown: Sorry. I'm so lost because I live in a world of books and no calendars. The first year of COVID was 2020?

James Blatch: It was.

Benedict Brown: Okay. So, just over two years. Yeah, just over two years.

James Blatch: You've had 2020, 2021 and a little bit of 19 and 22. Two and a bit years.

Benedict Brown: Yeah, exactly. I published my first book at the end of 2019. Yeah, there you go. That's it. Yeah. And so, yeah.

James Blatch: 13 books?

Benedict Brown: And I've had 13 novels and about seven novellas in that time. So just over a million words.

James Blatch: You're not teaching... TEFL I think they call it don't they? Not teaching English as a foreign language anymore?

Benedict Brown: That's the next part of the story. I published a book in that December. That was maybe a couple months after I got that email. I had actually started writing a murder mystery years before. So I went back to it and I started my first series, which is called The Izzy Palmer Mysteries, and it did nothing obviously. My lack of belief in self-publishing was proven correct. But I persevered.

I started, with Karen's encouragement, I started trying Facebook ads and I didn't make much money at the beginning putting five pounds, 10 pounds a day on, but I was covering the costs. I was getting some readers. I was getting some reviews, which is one thing my family were not interested in helping me with so it was the very, very lowest level of publishing, but it was a start. And so that was for the first three or four months and then I went to the conference. I went to the self-publishing live conference.

James Blatch: The show in March, 2020.

Benedict Brown: This is March, 2020. Yeah. And as everyone knows, it was days before the lockdown. So I flew home from Spain. I flew to London from Spain. My wife came with me. We stayed with my mom and I was... It sounds like I'm making this up to get on the podcast, but I really was inspired by my day out up in London and by the possibilities that I saw because I'd published one book.

I'd more or less written this second, but I was working full-time managing an English school teaching mainly kids and Spanish people who wanted to learn English. I was working full-time. Then I saw these inspirational people, especially a panel of, I think it was five women, who were all making under 100,000 I think?

James Blatch: Yes. Yeah, that was a panel that we knew would be a useful one for people to listen to because yeah, we talked to some of the millionaires, the Marks and there were few others. We had Louise and so on, but it's accessibility. It's that person who's gone from a full-time job to living and earning as a writer. Not necessarily becoming a millionaire, but having a decent salary a year from it.

That is a very, very accessible and tempting thing for people, like me as well.

Benedict Brown: Yeah, absolutely. So I think I've proven now I didn't have much money. I'd left Britain in 2006 and I worked for 15 years in a job that gave me a great lifestyle and gave me the chance to have fun in the summer and go to music festivals and do fun things but in 2018 we had a daughter and she's now four.

James Blatch: Oh, they're expensive.

Benedict Brown: They're quite expensive. They do not come cheap and we were comfortable. We were fine because we live in a cheap place, but I suddenly saw, and I saw this talk by five self-published authors from all over the world from America, Canada, Britain, I think and they were all just doing well. They were not spending billions on advertising. They were just making enough to support themselves or support their families and we realised... We had a major advantage that we don't have massive costs living here.

We realised that we could move away from teaching. My wife was still on maternity leave. She did not want to go back to her incredibly lowly paid job. I mean, less than a thousand euros a month, she was earning, despite being an incredible graphic designer who got her degree from a fancy university in Paris.

We live in a country where there are no high salaries. We'd seen, first with my friend Karen, and then this day up in London, where we saw the possibilities of just devoting my time to the thing I'd been learning how to do for 20 years. Doing the job I had the training to do. So instead of writing for kids, we were already writing for adults.

We flew back to Spain. Lockdown happened the day we arrived in Spain. I think we were probably even breaking the rules a little bit driving home from Madrid to come home. And it was a very draconian lockdown here in Spain. We were not allowed to leave the house for, I think it was two months. I mean my daughter was-

James Blatch: Yeah I remember that.

Benedict Brown: We're in the countryside here, in a little village, just near the city and the fields are right behind us. There's a donkey we can go and visit with my daughter every day, but we weren't allowed. We weren't even allowed out of the house for a walk kind of like in Britain. So there were two things there. I had a lot of time to write and lots of people have time to read.

I had one book out, the second book came out probably a month into lockdown and I was spending at the beginning five, 10 a day, but then I was putting up the spend on Facebook ads because people were buying my book. And this is just one book out. I didn't have a huge back list to rely on, but people were buying it.

And that was incredible. I was getting feedback on it and people were sending me emails about it and people were enjoying it and people were demanding more. So I put the spend up to maybe 40 or 50 a day and again, I wasn't making a lot of money, but we were covering our costs. I've never lost money. I didn't have a lot of money to invest. I didn't have 10 grand that I could say, okay, we're going to throw everything at it and then get the rank and people will find it and make money that way. No I didn't. The whole way through, up until today, I've incrementally put up my spend on ads and it's worked. And it's absolutely worked so by the time-

James Blatch: And we should say... So the beginning stage. You're where I am now in this stage of your story in that you've got one book, another book just being published and breaking even, or making small profits on the day. It's a really encouraging sign of that stage because as indie authors, we tend to make our money from read-through once you've added more product to the shelf and it's such an important point to make, because it can be disheartening for people who aren't aware of how the economics of indie publishing work, that they put a book up, they can't make money on it, or they make five pounds a month and they, or five euros a month and they think I just can't do this anymore and they give up without realising that the economics of this are that you're going to lose or break even on books one and two but it's three, four, five. That's where you can start to make money, which I'm guessing is where we're going to get to with your story.

Benedict Brown: No, I gave up. That was it. Game over. I just want to tell everyone you have to give up. That's why I've come on this podcast.

James Blatch: Well done. Thanks very much. And thanks for joining us.

Benedict Brown: Cheers. No, I think the thing is I was used to not giving up. Instead of writing a couple of kids books and then saying, "Oh, I'm not good enough", or, "The system's horrible", I kept going and I had more success while still never making it. I didn't make any money from my kids' books. I think I got a $250 advance from a guy who said he was going to make one of them into a movie and obviously it never happened, but $250 was pretty good money for me back then but then suddenly, yeah. So with the second book out, I started to make money. Yeah. It was probably premature to do it, but I gave my first book away.

James Blatch: Once you'd released book two.

Benedict Brown: Once I released book two.

James Blatch: You set book one to free?

Benedict Brown: Absolutely. No, just a temporary five day free promo.

James Blatch: Oh right, yes. Sorry. Yeah.

Benedict Brown: And paid all the promotion sites that I could get to push it. So like Fussy Librarian and Freebooksy, things like that, and it got up into the top 10 free books in the American and it had about 20,000 downloads and, again, it doesn't sound like that's going to help me much.

To test it, I turned it all my ads off and I had about a two month tail where I made a few thousand and so that was covering my salary and that wasn't sustainable but by the end of that I had the third book out and, again...

So for my first year we made probably my salary. I'd say. Which I've already pointed out was about 15 grand, 15,000 euros.

James Blatch: With two books.

Benedict Brown: No, I continued to release. From that point on I'd say I'd released about every two months. But that's the series had a lot of problems with it. I love it. I've got fans who are real diehard fans of it, but it was a cosy mystery that was set in Croydon and if anyone who is listening from abroad doesn't know Croydon, it is not-

James Blatch: Was it the 1920s though?

Benedict Brown: No, no. My first series was contemporary.

James Blatch: Oh yes contemporary Croydon is not a place to set anything apart from a sitcom like Peep Show, which you'll know in the UK. But 1920s Croyden, with Croydon aerodrome, I imagine would be quite a... A very different place to-

Benedict Brown: I was born five minutes from the aerodrome, James and you can still visit.

James Blatch: Oh were you? You're a Croydon man. So we should say if people are listening in America or other parts of the world, I don't know, is Jersey Shore or... No, I don't know. I'm trying to think. It's industrial high rise blocks. Not even industrial. 1970s high rise blocks.

Benedict Brown: It's just not glamorous and that was sort of the joke of my book. An Agatha Christie style murder mystery set in one of the tower blocks in Croydon.

James Blatch: So you were using it as an ironic kind of setting?

Benedict Brown: Yeah. And it's obviously by the second book I had her go to the countryside and investigating in a mansion but there were a lot of problems with my first book, because I hadn't read cosies at that point. I had read Agatha Christie my whole life. My family are massive murder mystery fans but I didn't know what the market was because I had just written a book that I thought, hey, this is original. This is something that is different and I didn't realise at the time that maybe different isn't what people want. Let's find what they're not reading. No, let's find what they're reading, it should have been my question.

James Blatch: Repeatable lesson number two here is standing out often is not the way to sell books, but to fit into genre expectations is key.

Benedict Brown: Yeah. I think that I've got more to add to that rule. I think with my second series, you'll see that it's important also to tweak it a little bit, but don't try and do the opposite. So don't try and set a cosy mystery in a very typical sort of urban environment is not... I haven't come across many others.

Anyway, so for the first year I continued with that series and again, we had a big hit at Christmas. Our Christmas book did really, really well, again maybe making maybe five grand or something like that. That would've been two to three months salary for me. That's how I was thinking of it, but there was always in the back of my mind, the thought that, yeah, we're making almost enough, but the idea is to keep... My wife wasn't working. She had three year leave after... In Spain, you can have a three year leave after having a child. We knew she'd have to go back in the February after that and we knew we were only making good money when we released a book.

James Blatch: Is that three years unpaid?

Benedict Brown: Yeah. Well first year or something's... Yeah, but yeah. You've got the option of three years. And so, I was aware that realistically... The English teaching, I could always go back to it. It was always available. And I thought, well, yes, we're making money, but we're not really excelling. We're not making enough of two people.

I was nervous that come the following September I'd have to go back to work because we were scraping through, but still successful if it had been a second job, for example. So that was the point where I finally gave into my friend's initial advice, which was write 1920s mysteries. Don't write mysteries set in Croydon. And again, my first series is very wacky, the characters are crazy, and I tried to do something a little bit more mainstream with my second series.

So this was as March last year, I think. Yeah, 2021. March last year, I released my first Lord Edgington Investigates mystery and it's set in the 1920s. I looked at what my friend was doing. I'm her editor as well, Karen's editor, and so I was very familiar with what was working for her and I kind... The main thing that I was thinking was I just don't want her to think I'm copying her too much and she's been super supportive, but I didn't want her feeling I'm just ripping her off.

So my thought was, how can I be a bit different? And I guess, because of my kid's book background, I thought I'm going to have a teenage narrator. I wanted to have the detective as an old man, a Lord, and it starts on his 75th birthday and he is narrated by his grandson.

So we get a murder mystery from the perspective of a 16 now 17 year old school boy, essentially, but everything else, in every other respect, it is a typical traditional Agatha Christie style mystery. So it is a little bit different. I didn't just write to market. I didn't just say, "Okay, what is the most successful person doing?"

I tried to find a niche that would be interesting to people and I also thought what's sweet? What's cute? In the same way that some people have cats heavily featured. I put a dog in it, because Karen had a dog in hers, and I have the perspective of a very funny, sweet chubby 16 year old boy and people love it. People really, really relate to his perspective on things and you've got this superior Sherlock Holmes figure in his grandfather and it worked.

I put the other series aside. I continue to write in the other series. It doesn't make me much money still, but I continue to write in it, but it's back list. So it's bubbling away in the background. I'm not spending anything on it.

James Blatch: But the Lord Edgington books are commercially successful?

Benedict Brown: Very much so. Yeah. I'd say we made, as I said, maybe 15 grand our first year publishing and we made over a hundred grand, over 130 grand I think it is, the second year.

James Blatch: So your wife didn't have to go back to work?

Benedict Brown: No. So we actually negotiated her to leave her job with... Because she was supposed to go back, so she had to go back for one day or something and then they let her go. She's incredible. She's a professional graphic designer. So she's very much part of what I could do and again, it was another advantage that we weren't paying for you website design, we weren't paying for covers. She does all my ads for me. And so, we definitely had advantages.

When I went to the conference I saw, well we are already way ahead of people just sitting down to write, because I have my experience. We have these free services essentially we can rely on and that's the thing I've done all the way through to now is that I've, except for advertising, I've barely paid for anything because I have done professional editing. I am lucky to be married to a graphic designer, which is, I think the first tip to any writer. Marry a graphic designer.

James Blatch: Yes. Get married to a graphic designer. Is that what you put in your profile advert on the dating website? Amongst the requirements?

Benedict Brown: Exactly. I narrowed it down to graphic designers, yeah. And so, the Lord Edgington books came out and the first one, I could already see... I think in the first month it made more than any of the other books had made in their first months. I think it was probably double and another thing, a really good sign that it was working, was that the of costs of ads were so cheap. We always use the image. We always choose a cover image now that will work well with advertising. We've tried to think about that. We've tried to be a bit cynical about what we put on the cover and tried to have very beautiful stately homes and a nice old car. And so, early on I could see it was going to be successful.

James Blatch: What sort of cost per clicks were you getting then?

Benedict Brown: I've never had it phenomenally cheap, adverts. I think it's probably the genre, but I was getting 15, 16 Euro cents a click, which now has steadied out around 25 cents. Obviously new books as soon as you put them on, they're cheaper, but if I compare that to 30 cents that I'd been getting with my first series, it was a really good sign that this could work.

That first book has continued to sell and it's got people into the funnel and I've just released, I think about a month ago, I released the fifth book in the series. The Christmas book was insane. The Christmas book in a month, we covered both our salaries. This is my key factor. The salary. I'm still thinking from two years ago.

James Blatch: Yeah. In blocks of salaries.

Benedict Brown: Exactly. Yeah. And I hope it will continue like that, but we're very much reliant on the Facebook advertising and long may it continue.

James Blatch: Yes. Well, that's fantastic. Lots of lessons here, but a key one is just understanding genre and looking at your cover, which is absolutely spot on for genre, but it goes deeper than that. I guess, by the time you sat down and wrote Lord Edgington, you were thoroughly conversant with the genre expectations for the reader. So there's no mismatch at any point.

The Facebook advert says this, the book cover says that, the blurb says this, the writing says this and if all of those match up, you are absolutely in the ballpark to do well and I'm guessing that's where you with this series.

Benedict Brown: Yeah and the only slight drawback was that Amazon always thinks they're young adults. They always think they're for teenagers because of the teenage narrator and I've asked them to remove them from the category several times and they just refuse for some reason, or I've been unlucky getting through but yes, I think that's the key thing. That there's no massive disconnect between your advertising and your sales page on Amazon.

James Blatch: Yeah. So we're having a few books, I'm not going to say who it is, but we've got a few authors now. There was one series I do find it much, much harder to market and the conversation we're having is just about this. It's not about the quality of the writing. We know that's there, but if there's a match of expectation between the advert and what the book delivers and so on, that's always what you have to look at. And the cover's such a key part of that as well. Your cover looks terrific on Murder at the Spring Ball. It could not be more in trope or whatever the word is, for the genre. I think it's great.

Benedict Brown: And I think we've also gone for quite a luxury look.

James Blatch: Yes. Aspirational.

Benedict Brown: It doesn't look tacked together. We spent a long time on that first cover and then since then it's a template that we can go back to. The fonts and the frame of it.

James Blatch: And obviously your wife's designed this so if people want to go on onto Amazon, look at Benedict Brown, I'm now looking at the second book in the series, A Body at a Boarding School, which is great as well. And so when you design the cover, you're already thinking about the image.

When you say the image for the advert, are you using just the image in this case of the second book, it's of a boarding school, or are you talking about the whole cover itself lends itself to...

Benedict Brown: What we do is we do one photo without the frame. I'm going to hold it up so, because I've got the book here.

James Blatch: So, if you're watching on YouTube, you'll see this. Yep.

Benedict Brown: There's a green frame around the first book and there's different colour for each book. So we create one image with a frame, one which is just the photo we've bought and filtered. It's got a special look and a sort of painterly look on it. And one with the whole series of books and one with just the new book to make it clear that I'm selling a book, because that sometimes helps, to tell people exactly what you're doing.

I upload those four images and I create an ad. Not a dynamic ad. I create an ad with four different ads within an ad set on Facebook so that each one is served and so that all of them are used. The one without any frame, without anything is always the most successful because people like a pretty picture. People really enjoy seeing a nice house or whatever.

If I go back to look at that first ad, which I still run, I think it's got almost 10,000 likes on it. And then the other ones aren't used as much but I think that works for us. I think having all those different options of ads within the same campaign means that maybe someone won't click on just the picture, because it's just a pretty picture, but maybe then they'll see it later with the book or with the series of books and they'll realise what it is or they'll like it more or they'll be more interested in it and that works really well for us and I know other authors who've done similar things to that.

James Blatch: I think it's so important when you get a cover and you commission a cover today to ask the designer if they'll give you a version of the cover without any text on it, which then with really simple cropping enables you to run a really sharp looking image, because one of my most successful ads for my second... No, for my second cover of my first book is exactly that. It's a square cut of the textless cover. Of just the aircraft against the clouds and people just love that image. It does really well. That can be done relatively simply. You don't need to necessarily marry a graphic designer to be able to do that.

Benedict Brown: No. I'm not brilliant with Photoshop, but I could have knocked up the ads. I think most people could.

James Blatch: Well, this is such a great story. I want to ask you a couple of questions. You talked about doing creative writing course. I've never done this or looked into it but occasionally talked to people.

I'm curious as to how useful creative writing courses are.

Benedict Brown: I should be careful because I'm still friends with the lecturer who taught me, but I would say that it did a number of good things for me. I was 23 or something when I finished and I was living in Wales and I love Wales, my mom's Welsh and I always wanted to stay in Wales, but they just weren't many jobs available for me.

I'd done editing and proofreading and these kind of things, but there wasn't much around and I think because I had that master's, I thought of myself as a writer and I thought, "Hey, I've got a master's. Aren't I great", because I was an arrogant 23 year old and I didn't just take a job in the management programme at Woolworths or some rubbish shop.

When I broke up with my then girlfriend, when I was living in Wales there I decided, rather than taking another job, I would become an English teacher in Spain and I would use that free time that gave me to write. It gave me that commitment. It gave me that belief.

In terms of what I learned about the craft. It doesn't compare with spending 10 years writing, obviously, but it gave me the chance to have an excellent writer, a guy called Jem Poster whose books I love, historical novelist, gave me the chance for him to read my books and for him to look at my work and for him to give me confidence and support me and also to have a little community.

There was only five people on my master's. It was the first year they'd run the master's. And so, it was a sort of slow down version of what you can do online now but I do think... Actually I know the thing that I learned most of all from my master's was how to take criticism and that is something that is so, so, so important for any writer. To not just think if someone says to you, "I think it could be better if you did this or I think more people would like this", to go, "Oh no, I know better. It's my book."

There was a couple of people in the group who started off like that. Who were too sensitive to take any feedback. So that was a major advantage. I would never be arrogant and say, "I think everyone has to do a master or has to study in a university or has to do any kind of creative writing course", they're very helpful, they're fun, but you do not need a qualification to be a writer.

James Blatch: Taking criticism is very important. I worked in the BBC. It was news journalism but nonetheless we put out a programme. So it had a kind of creative environment and after the programme, there was a meeting which was occasionally very brutal, and even if they didn't say it to your face, you heard them saying it to somebody else immediately afterwards. So in that environment every day you learn to take criticism.

I don't think anybody takes criticism well to start off with. It is something you need to learn and understand the importance of it and the usefulness of it to improving and I guess again, we come back to working by ourselves. Not necessarily in contact with the rest of the community for quite a long time. So it's a bit of a shock when someone posts on your cover in the group saying, "This is completely wrong for the genre, what are you thinking?" Of course you can take it personally. That's fine. Take it personally. Deal with that.

Then put it to one side and react in a way that's going to be useful to you.

Benedict Brown: Yeah and that's been helpful for reading reviews on my books as well. I'm very happy that there really aren't too many reviews, well one star reviews, or at least written ones and I remember when I got my first one on my first book and it is such a nasty... Anyone go and look at my... On A Corpse Called Bob, my first published book, there's someone who really is not happy about the fact that my detective ate a lot of carrots in my book. They are furious about that.

James Blatch: Wow. That's ridiculous.

Benedict Brown: That was tough to take but you get through it and I think that's what's good about working in a group or working with other authors or having feedback on your work is learning how to take that feedback.

James Blatch: Absolutely. The one star club. We're all members of that. Most boring book ever, I think is my one star, my first one star review.

Benedict Brown: Oh congratulations, that quite a compliment.

James Blatch: I should put it on the wall at some point. Yeah. So, that's interesting. I sort of thought you might say that about the official creative writing courses. I've heard that before, but that's not to say that it's not the right thing for people to do and doesn't give you a foundation.

Benedict Brown: Yeah. Or the contacts. It also can give you important contacts. I met some really great agents. The course I did was brilliant. I'm not faulting it at all and they introduced us to a lot of industry people. So things like that, if you're going on the trad route, which is the only one I knew at the time, it was very useful.

James Blatch: Very useful. Let's talk a little bit about plots before I let you go. In terms of your stories, Agatha Christie I guess was a big influence. It's a different genre for me, although there's a bit of some mystery in thriller.

How do you work out your plot and then what do you do in terms of preparing to write it?

Benedict Brown: I'm dreadful that plotting. I am a pantser. I have tried to sit down and think what could happen in a book but basically I start with a setting and I start with the twist. So I think that's the hardest thing to have in a mystery, is to come up with an original twist, and I am very proud of my mystery plotting in the sense of they are very neatly plotted and I generally surprise my readers.

It's hard to be original. I'm sure that lots of people have written all my twists before, but I've never sat down with and Agatha Christie and said, "Okay, I'm going to do the Death on the Nile twists now", because she came up with all of them basically and what I do is I have an idea from... When I'm writing another book, something will come to me, it'll be like, "Oh, what about if..." I'm trying not to give away any of my twists now. What if a man named John is the murderer? Something original, not just called John.

That's what I start with. I start with the setting and what's the end result going to be and on two or three books recently I've had to change because all these great ideas I came up with when I was sitting down to write murder mysteries for the first time, I'm running out of them. So now I don't always know what's going to happen, but that's what I start with. As I write, and I write pretty fast, I write about 5,000 words a day, and I use 20 minute timers to keep me really, really focused and-

James Blatch: You write in 20 minute bursts and you then have a break?

Benedict Brown: Yeah. I don't always have a break, but the reason I do the 20 minutes is because I write down... And this is all thanks to, is it Chris Fox? The writing guru?

James Blatch: Yeah.

Benedict Brown: He's got a book, I think it's called 5,000 words per hour and I absolutely owe him my gratitude because he gives to you a spreadsheet when you buy that book and in the spreadsheet, you can enter how many words you've got at the beginning and at the end of your sprint, and it'll tell you how many words you've written and how many words you've written an hour and things like that and it's fantastic.

So that's why I do 20 minutes for, it's to check that I'm writing fast enough, because if I sit down in the morning and I try to do writing without focusing on it, I'd probably write 500 words in a few hours because I'm so easily distracted and there's the news to read and if my daughter's home she'll probably come and ask me to play something.

I think one of the most important things you can do is really focus on your writing. People talk a lot on the Facebook groups about how people can be releasing 10 books a year or whatever it is. It is absolutely doable if you're not just sitting down and waiting for the inspiration to strike.

The fact I am so focused is what delivers the ideas. It's what shapes the plots. There's something subconscious in it. Sometimes I'll wake up in the morning and I'll have solved a problem. It sounds a bit hippy-ish I suppose, but there's definitely a lot going on in the back of my mind and when I try and push it to the front, it doesn't work. I have to keep writing and that's how it evolves.

James Blatch: I want to ask you about a particular thing that happens in mystery books and mystery stories a lot, but I think it pertains to other genres as well, is that when you know the twist as the author, you're not pantsing to that degree, I think there's something, I want to call it the clunky red herring, which slightly aggravates me a little bit and I'll give an example.

Of course, red herrings are absolutely part and parcel of how the mystery works. A whole chapter might be dedicated to misdirection, and then it turns out you go off somewhere else. It's ruled out. But then as a reader or a viewer for film, you think back to how that happened and it doesn't make sense and the example I can think of is in Mare of Easttown, which is a pretty good series. So Kate Winslet.

A really good series, but in the middle of that, her ex-husband lies to her about having contact with a girl who's been murdered and a big misdirection for the entire episode and then when it's revealed later that he'd helped her out because she was absolutely impoverished and an abusive situation at home, it made no sense on planet Earth that he would say to a police woman, his ex-wife police woman, lie about and potentially get himself in jail.

That annoyed me, because that's a really clunky example but I think I'm being a bit harsh because I think it's probably an occupational hazard.

You do need to misdirect. Is that something you're aware of?

Benedict Brown: Yes, absolutely. I am someone who is obsessed with mystery plots. I saw Mare of Easttown and I was very disappointed for that, and also because I thought the twist was a bit unfair and because it's a huge big budget murder mystery, same with Knives Out, which I thought was a really enjoyable film, but I just think that if you're going to write something that big, if you're going to create something that big, it has to be a mind blowing twist and I like to think I've come up with some great twists.

So no, I don't think my plots are unfair and actually when I have a big arc group who help me publish so quickly because... I read my books three times before publishing. I edit them very, very carefully, but I wouldn't be able to catch all the mistakes without my arc team. And I have a little questionnaire for them when I send them my book and one of the first questions is this mystery fair? And I'm not making it up I promise. I'll send you the questionnaire. Because I think you have to trick people without being gimmicky.

James Blatch: I'm really pleased you think about this so much because I'm not a mystery writer, but as a consumer, it's something that increasingly irritates me.

Benedict Brown: I am very critical of mysteries. Not having a go at the authors, but I mean when I read a mystery, and even Agatha Christie. I read an Agatha Christie a couple weeks ago, I was just really annoyed because I thought that's just completely unfair. But I do, as I said, I think I'm a tight mystery plotter and I often get emails. People saying they were really surprised by the twist and where the book took-

James Blatch: It's credibility isn't it? Is it credible that person would've acted that way? And, oh what was it. The other series is Lost isn't it.

Benedict Brown: Don't get me started on Lost. One more thing I say is that my books are funny and that... I mean, both series are.

James Blatch: Knives Out was a comedy, right?

Benedict Brown: Yeah. Yeah. True. But I don't market them as comedy mysteries. I don't say they're that kind of thing but I talk about the humour obviously, but I use comedy to misdirect people because people have expectations of what's happening with characters. That's something I've studied over a long time and I think that comes out in my books and I think if you reread a book once you know the killer you'll realise what I've done with some of the funny situations.

James Blatch: Ah, okay. Okay. Well look, this sounds absolutely brilliant. I'm so happy for you. I'm so impressed as well, Benedict, with your perseverance and making really good decisions and then enacting them and I'm delighted for your success. I couldn't be more happy. So it's been really lovely hearing the stories.

Benedict Brown: Thanks James. And also to you. It sounds great what you're doing and good luck for the next book.

James Blatch: Hey it did remind me actually. So this morning I got my first ARC email back and it's absolutely... People, freeze the screen and read that. It's absolutely brilliant for somebody to come back and say just what we've been talking about. That wouldn't happen, this wouldn't happen. Taking criticism is neither here nor there. I'm so delighted with somebody being this critical over the small bits of my book.

Benedict Brown: Absolutely.

James Blatch: He was very nice about the whole book though.

Benedict Brown: Very good. Well done. Another thing is, that I'd like to say to other writers, is that I've been very lucky to meet people through my books who help me enormously. I've got an American couple, she's a former British history professor and they found me through my contemporary books. They think they're the best ones, but they have become my second readers. They've become my first level of arc team and because of them... I want them to overstep the mark.

I want them to rip my books apart and tell me what's wrong because I don't want to publish a book that isn't good enough. I don't want to let my readers down. So I absolutely, like you getting that email where you've got all these things you need to work on, that's brilliant. That's absolutely brilliant. I'm publishing every two months, so there's a limit to how much time I can spend on it, but I will listen to criticism and it's what you need. It's what all writers need.

James Blatch: It's absolutely part and parcel of the process. Tom Milkey. I should give a name check out to my first arc reader who's giving feedback. So thank you. Yeah. That's brilliant. I'm feeling buzzing for this. So are you staying in Spain? Why is your wife there, out of interest, Why is she there? What's she doing there because she's French, but you decided to go to Spain...

Benedict Brown: So I moved to Spain to become an English teacher and on my first day in Barcelona I met my wife and that is a very long, complicated story, which I will turn into a book one day because we did not get together. She had a fiance.

James Blatch: Wow.

Benedict Brown: I didn't steal her. I didn't steal.

James Blatch: You murdered her fiance. That would be one of your books.

Benedict Brown: That would've been an inspiration yeah. She always wanted to live in Spain. So she moved back to Paris where she's, near Paris, where she's from and to convince her to come and live with me in Barcelona I had to promise her we'd move away to real Spain, so we're now in the north in Castillo, near a beautiful mediaeval city called Burgos. We are living her dream of living in Spain. She's a quarter Spanish, her grandfather's Spanish. And so yeah, we love Spain. We're lucky to live in a really, really beautiful place. People here are very friendly. I love Britain. We go back every summer, but we're quite happy here.

James Blatch: Well it sounds lovely. Really lovely. And you'll come back for our conference this year for a bit more inspiration?

Benedict Brown: Well, if you're buying the drinks, James.

James Blatch: Of course I'm buying the drinks Benedict. I will buy you a drink.

Benedict Brown: Hey, you've got your first book out.

James Blatch: Exactly. Second book. That's where the profit comes.

Benedict Brown: Okay. Okay. Great.

James Blatch: Brilliant. So thank you again, Benedict, so much. I've really enjoyed the interview and look forward to catching up with you in person later this year.

Benedict Brown: You too. Cheers James.

James Blatch: There you go. Benedict came, interestingly, I hope people noted, he came to The Self-Publishing Show live in June and March 2020 and has not looked back since then. The inspiration that he felt in the stuff he picked up in the room has set him on a path to, well, I mean, as he said in the interview he was earning 15,000 a year or something teaching English as a foreign language and he's now six figures a year selling his Agatha Christie style, cosy mysteries, which I'm quite motivated to read one actually. They look really well put together and I'm interested. I'm always interested in reading different genres from time to time. So yeah. Well done Benedict. I think you must have inspired him, Mark. I don't know if it was you or me who inspired him at the show. One of us.

Mark Dawson: Probably not me, though he is probably one of our excellent speakers. I actually said this to, slightly tangential, but I spoke to Rachel McClain who won the Kindle Storyteller Award at LBF last week and she said, I think, that we'd done a webinar or something just... No, actually it may even have been the show. Can't remember. It was something just before the pandemic and I said something along the lines of, "someone, either listening to this webinar or in this conference or more than one person, will break through and become a successful author in the course of the next couple of years", and she took that as her inspiration and said that I am going to do it now.

James Blatch: I remember you saying it and I think what you said is, "the next time we hold this show, they'll be on the stage".

Mark Dawson: Yeah exactly, and she will be so yeah. So that's pretty cool.

James Blatch: Let's remember that. Yeah. Okay. We can wrap up. All right. Let's remember that when we introduce him. Right. That's it. Thank you very much indeed. I can you need to go and we've done our bit, so thank you very much indeed, Benedict, the team behind the scenes as well. All that remains for me to say is this is goodbye from him.

Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me. Goodbye.

James Blatch: Goodbye.

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