A Day at Amazon Academy


I just spent a fascinating day at the launch of the Amazon Academy in London, on Wednesday. The location was the HQ of their new fashion label (yes, they do clothes too!) in Hoxton.

Amazon laid on a range of lectures and expert-led panel discussions to demonstrate what’s on offer which included KDP (Kindle), Alexa and Amazon Marketplace workshops. There were guest panels in the morning and break-out sessions with Q&A in the afternoon. It wasn’t just for authors – there were also experts who spoke on Amazon Web Services (for serious techies and programmers) and a new service that targets entrepreneurs in the food and beverage space. Professional, entertaining, friendly.

img_3774The company is forging ahead with interesting ideas and isn’t resting on its laurels. The event was a well-planned, precision-executed taste of corporate America before a taste of vegetarian (other diets catered for too) lunch.

Deputy Mayor of London for Business, Rajesh Agrawal, told an amusing anecdote about arriving penniless in London from India in 2001. He spent weeks working on a business plan which he took to the bank hoping for a £10,000 loan. He was turned down. He returned a few days later with a request for £20,000 for a car…which was approved. And guess what he used the money for? He quickly added that the bank has been paid back in full!

img_3771Lessons learned? The company treats its writers as valued customers. Despite its size, Amazon demonstrated a human face and will continue to trial the Academy concept.

As a writer, what did I take away with me? Lots of great tips!

In particular, I learned from the mouth of author/entrepreneur Mark Dawson:

  • have at least one free book on offer;
  • build a loyal following via interaction;
  • have a well though out and researched marketing plan before you begin to spend your budget,

and from the Founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors, Orna Ross:

  • develop your own email distribution list as one of your key pillars in your marketing plan,
  • speed up your operation by using a database manager like Mailchimp and
  • don’t start spending money on advertising until you have at least three books out there.

So far, there have been two other Amazon Academy events on this side of the pond: one previously in Dublin and this one in London. And there will be one more in Newcastle coming soon! After that, Amazon will review feedback to see if they will do it again.

And I, for one, hope they will.

Author Event: Ben at the Travelling Through Bookshop


Ben was one of three authors this evening who were selected by Novel London to read the opening chapter of their latest novel at the Travelling Through Bookshop and Cafe. The event was packed to standing capacity only.

This event’s theme was “an evening of international fiction”. A recording will be uploaded at Novel London soon, as well as at their Youtube site!

Novel London is a literary event where writers read their opening chapter to an intimate audience. The evening features a diversity of novelists and takes place in bookshops and venues in central London.

Did you miss the event? Sign up to join Ben’s private mailing list and be the first to know about future events with Ben!

Novel London 1st Chpt Readings at Travelling Through Bookshop & Cafe

Novel London is pleased to announce an evening of international fiction at independent bookshop – Travelling Through Bookshop and Cafe, in Waterloo, London on Friday 7th October.

Join us for a great literary night out that brings people into bookshops and connects readers with audiences – in person and online.

Three novelists will be reading the opening chapter to an audience, which will be recorded for the web.

1. BEN STARLING is passionate about gender equality, marine conservation and boxing, all central themes in his work. His interest in marine life has taken him across three continents over the past three decades. He is Oxford Univeristy’s only ever quintuple boxing Blue (varsity champion five years running), was Captain of the university boxing team, competed until recently, and continues to coach. Ben graduated with a Master of Arts and a Master of Philosophy. He was born in the USA, but has lived in the UK since childhood.

Ben will be reading from his novel, Something In The Water.

2. HELENA HALME is a Finnish author based in London. Her books include The Englishman, a best-selling romantic novel, which won an Awesome Indies badge on publication. Her other titles are The Navy Wife, a sequel to The EnglishmanCoffee and Vodka and The Red King of HelsinkiThe Finnish Girl, her latest novella, is a prequel to The Englishman.

STEPHEN MARRIOTT will be the compere for Novel London in at Travelling Through Bookshop and Cafe.

He is a travel author who prefers to walk the roads less travelled. His passion for travelling under his own steam, all began when he walked out on a fifteen year career in the investment industry and kept on walking. This journey eventually took him to the foothills of the Pyrenees and a walking adventure across Spain on the historical Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. The adventure inspired his debut novella Candyfloss Guitar, a #1 Kindle Store book.

You can learn more about Stephen and his http://bit.ly/AmazonCandyflossGuitar


Travelling Through Bookshop and Cafe is located close to Waterloo Station, on Lower Marsh Road. It is a modern fusion of independent bookshop, cafe, culture hub and art space with a specific focus on world culture, art and travel.

To view previous recordings, please go to http://bit.ly/1E7yU1k

Join us the Facebook Page: http://on.fb.me/1WoNZUz

Follow us on Twitter @Novel_London

Or visit the website: www.novellondon.co.uk

This is a free event but please purchase a drink of snack from the bar during the breaks.

A very special thank you to our sponsor, Reedsy:

Ben Live – Upstairs at the Ritzy, London

Ben live – storytelling at Upstairs at the Ritzy, London, UK, September 19th, 2016.

Ben Live at The Torriano, London


Ben – Live storytelling at The Torriano, London, UK, September 14th, 2016.


Ben Live at the Hackney Picturehouse, London

Ben – live storytelling at Hackney Picturehouse, London, UK, September 12th, 2016.

September Ben-isms


So who hid a tub of Haagen-Dazs triple Belgium chocolate macadamia nut and Icelandic toffee brittle cappuccino Cornish cream with special reserve 1814 Napoleon brandy and smoked goat snot sprinkles ice cream in my freezer? And why is it looking at me like that???

There is a bike on the roof of the house opposite. Can only mean one thing: ET is staying there.

Sprained fingers? Torn nails? Bloody knuckles? .44 magnum. Sherman Tank. Nuclear weapon. How far would YOU go to open that recalcitrant pistachio?

As our favourite Vulcan might have said, “It is summer. It is cold. Therefore I have a summer cold. Entirely logical, Captain.”

Theory of the Day – older people are always complaining that time passes quicker as you get older but here’s my MATHEMATICAL PROOF they are wrong: if you become a father when you are 24, when you are 25, your son/daughter is 1 and 1/25th of your age (or 4%). If you live to 100, your son/daughter is 75 and now 75% your age. That means the young are constantly catching up so time must be passing faster for them. 😉

MY SOLUTION TO THE US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CRISIS: the Mexicans build a wall around the Donald (I think they’ll be happy to pay for it).

My Tesco “Baby Plum Tomatoes” taste of absolutely nothing. Is that three breaches of the Trade Descriptions Act?

I was sitting in a park in Soho last night, and David “Haymaker” Haye – former World Cruiserweight and Heavyweight Boxing Champion walked right past. I looked at him. He didn’t look at me. I stared. No eye contact in return. Nothing. He must have been scared… No other explanation possible.

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