Today on my blog I am welcoming travel writer, Jules Brown into the Indie Spotlight.
Travel writer Jules Brown was born in Takoradi in Ghana, West Africa, and grew up in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. He took his first solo trip around Europe when he was 17, and has been travelling and writing professionally for over 35 years, starting with a pioneering guidebook to Scandinavia. He continued to write guidebooks for Rough Guides for many years, and if you’ve ever been to Sweden, Norway, Spain, Portugal, Italy, the UK, USA, Hong Kong or New Zealand with a Rough Guide, he may have helped you out along the way. Unless that restaurant you went to had closed down; in that case, it wasn’t him.
These days, Jules writes independently published travel books – memoirs, guides and adventures – based on his travel-writing life and on new trips and journeys.
He still doesn’t know what he wants to do when he grows up.
Contact Jules here:
Hi Jules, welcome to my blog! What made you decide to publish your books independently?
When I wrote guidebooks for a living, I was published by mainstream publishers and it always struck me how long it took to get a book into the shops. Often the information was already a year out of date by the time your book was published and then later, of course, the internet basically did for mainstream guidebook publishing. Who cared what restaurant I’d been to a year earlier in Barcelona when you could just go and look at TripAdvisor or read a locally based blog and see what was hot this week?
I started writing a travel blog in 2015 and after a while it occurred to me that I had the makings of a travel memoir in the blog-posts I’d written. The eventual book – travel tales from a ex-guidebook writer – wasn’t the sort of thing that would get picked up by a publisher, but I did think it would be fun to self-publish via Amazon and, later, Smashwords. I taught myself the ropes and after that it never really occurred to me to publish my new books in any other way.
I’ve even kept up the guidebook-writing using the indie-publishing model, on the basis that I can get my books out there into people’s hands much quicker than any traditional publisher.
So the first in my Trust-Me Travel series, to Montenegro in the Balkans, came together very quickly after my trip to that beautiful country. I can also write those guides in the way I want, rather than following an established framework, so I like to think my Montenegro guide is much more relevant to the sort of traveling that people do these days.
That sounds perfect. What are the benefits of being an indie author?
For me, the main advantage is how responsive I can be. I can pretty much publish once I’ve completed the content, so for something like Not Cool: Europe by Train in a Heatwave, I could make a mad train trip around Europe, write it up and hit publish when I was ready. I also like being able to tweak the content if I need to and experiment with different covers, blurbs and other details – all that would be impossible with a traditionally published book. The feedback is pretty instant too, and I love the interaction with readers via reviews and social media.
It can’t all be good, though. What challenges do indie authors face?
The main challenge is that, of course, if you go down the self-publishing route you have to do everything yourself – decide on pricing, marketing, advertising, publicity, covers, you name it. I like that aspect of it, but it’s not for everyone as it’s very time-consuming. The content is entirely down to you too – no team of editors or proof-readers, unless you hire them – so I’d say you need to be a fairly confident writer or be prepared to pay for help and advice.
I’m lucky. I was a professional writer for thirty years before I came to indie-publishing, and I’ve worked as an editor and proof-reader too, so I don’t get put off by the mechanics of the actual writing. The challenges for me are more on the marketing side of things – having to think of my books as a product and working out how to show them to their best effect.
What advice would you give to aspiring indie authors?
Just keep going! The other challenge is that you write on your own, in a little bubble most of time, with no publishing house behind you to encourage you when you flag. But really, the best advice I’ve ever had – and which I still struggle with, to be honest – is not to compare yourself with others. It’s really easy to look at indie authors in the same genre topping the charts in your category, or being everywhere on social media. You have to make your own peace with why you’re writing in the first place. So you don’t sell many books? Does that matter? Does the writing itself, or the act of self-publishing, make you happy? Yes? Great, just keep going!
What have you learned from being an indie author?
Really, two things. The importance of good covers – I’ve really learned this the hard way, as you’d be hard pushed to have worked out what my first travel memoir was about from the cover. So getting a cover designer to work on my new books has been crucial. I have to accept that I can’t do everything myself. And secondly, the importance of establishing a series, if you’re serious about trying to sell books as opposed to just writing them. Again, it wasn’t really something I had considered until I had published my first two, unrelated, books and it proved difficult to get any kind of read-through going between them. Now, everything I publish is going to be a whole lot more carefully planned!
So actually, three things! Because accepting the need for a series meant that I thought again about my titles and how they should fit together better. Accordingly, I re-launched my first travel memoir with a new title and cover, so that it better reflects what people can expect when they (hopefully) pick it up. So the same book is now called Don’t Eat the Puffin: Tales From a Travel Writer’s Life and I’m much happier with that as a concept!
Yes! Covers and titles are so important! I really like these newer covers you’ve just had done and I think Don’t Eat the Puffin is a far more engaging title than its predecessor.
OK, last question…What can we look forward to seeing from you next?
You’d think not being able to travel – at all – for a year or more would have caused me problems as a travel writer, but luckily I have plenty of stories still to tell. I have a second travel memoir coming out in the summer, called Never Pack an Ice-Axe: Tales From a Travel Writer’s Life, and I’ll be working on a third memoir throughout the year. Then it depends! If we can travel, I’ll be heading out from the UK by train and finding a story for my next travel adventure. If we can’t I’ll be working up a travel memoir based on my birthplace in Ghana and the trip I made back there forty years later with my parents.
Thank you very much for joining me today on my blog, Jules. I wish you good luck with all of your latest projects!
Don’t Eat the Puffin: Tales From a Travel Writer’s Life
It’s the job of his dreams. Get paid to travel and write about it.
Only no one told Jules that it would mean eating seabirds, repeatedly falling off a husky sled, getting stranded on a Mediterranean island, and crash-landing in Iran.
The exotic destinations come thick and fast – Hong Kong, Hawaii, Huddersfield – as Jules navigates what it means to be a travel writer in a world with endless surprises up its sleeve.
Add in a cast of larger-than-life characters – Elvis, Captain Cook, his own travel-mad Dad and an eye for the ridiculous, and this journey with Jules is one you won’t want to miss.
Add to your goodreads To Be Read list here:
Never Pack an Ice-Axe: Tales From a Travel Writer’s Life
Expected Publication: June 2021
Genre: Travel, Memoir
You’d think a long-time travel writer would have some great travel tips. You’d think. Jules learns about travel the hard way, whether it’s setting out on his first European hitch-hiking adventure, writing about offbeat destinations for Rough Guides, or braving the backstreets of Naples on the hunt for the world’s best pizza.
Not everything goes according to plan – what happened in Bali stays in Bali – but during a life in travel, Jules racks up enough good advice and top tips to fill a book. Just not this book.
Hit the road with Jules – from Scotland to the South Pacific – and you’re guaranteed a good laugh (and an occasional sob). As long as you don’t listen to his advice, you’ll be absolutely fine.
Pre-order Never Pack an Ice-Axe here:
Not Cool: Europe. By Train. In a Heatwave
A laugh-out-loud train journey across Europe with a travel writer who should know better. Inspired by the budget InterRail trips of his youth, veteran travel writer Jules Brown thought he’d try and visit 9 cities in 9 countries in 9 days. Sadly, that wasn’t his only mistake.
It soon turned into a hot and steamy adventure (no, steady on, not that kind) by rail across Europe, taking in Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, Ljubljana, Zagreb, Liechtenstein, Zürich and Milan.
A tale of relaxing train rides to famous tourist destinations and guidebook sights? Not so much. All aboard for an offbeat travel adventure with a very funny writer seriously in danger of losing his cool.
Add to your To Be Read list here:
Buy Not Cool here:
The Travel Writer Chronicles: Travel, Meet Writer
In an exclusive free ebook, Jules recounts how he first became a travel writer. There’s also an episode or two from his early days as a Rough Guide writer, as well as some tips for anyone who fancies following in his footsteps. Or for anyone who simply loves travel and writing. He’s guessing that’s you?
Follow the link to join Jules’ Takoradi Travel Club for your free ebook and other giveaways.
Trust-Me Travel Guide to Montenegro: Your Next Adventure. Sorted
Jules presents a new type of guidebook: the Trust-Me Travel Guide to Montenegro, the small Balkan country with a sparkling coastline and a mountainous green heart.
“I’m more about quirky trips and one-of-a-kind adventures than plain old destinations. I like to weave word pictures and write inspiring features, rather than just list museums, hotels and restaurants. This isn’t a guidebook to the whole of Montenegro, far from it. It’s not a guidebook at all, in the traditional sense.
Instead, I’ve used my 30+ years of travel-writing expertise to describe selected trips and experiences along the coast, out on the lake and up into the mountains. I hope you’ll be inspired by the writing and trust me when I say that these trips, tours and walks are all easy to do on your own. I only include the things you need, and none of the stuff you don’t.”
Add to your To Be Read list here:
Who is next on Indie Spotlight?
James Allinson is a husband and father of two.
Initially a wannabe children’s author, James soon became sick of non-swearing heroes and the crushing restraints of morality and, driven by the maverick lack of focus that has dominated his entire life, stopped writing books for kids and instead started writing childish stuff for his own amusement. Fortuitously (for the world of literature although not necessarily his bank account), this resulted in the accidental birth of a hilarious – albeit apparently, unmarketable – comedic fantasy series about a poncho-wearing, vegan dragon named George.
Ideally, James would love his books to earn him a fortune, entertain his readers, and attract the absolute least number of violent threats possible (in that order).