Episode # 49 – The Importance of Being an ‘Authorpreneur’ (author/entrepreneur) with Joanna Penn

In Uncategorized by Julius S25 Comments

Joanna Penn cover

Perhaps no introduction is necessary but Joanna Penn is a force in self-publishing. Owner of TheCreativePenn.com, creator of the podcast with the same name, bestselling fiction author… In this episode Joanna and I talk about her transition from corporate life, to non-fiction, and now her recent decision to double down on her fiction writing. Joanna is a fantastic example of an author who embraces the business side of writing, and is a self-declared authorpreneur. Show notes @ http://www.rspcast.com/joanna.

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Day of the Vikings

Amazon Profile



Derek Murphy – Joanna’s book cover designer, a mutual acquaintance, and a talented man indeed.

Self Publishing Podcast – Sean recently mentioned in an episode the power of putting a face on the cover of your books.

CJ Lyons – Like Jo, CJ is always adapting her covers, website, her brand.

Wayback Machine – Want to see what someone website looked like years ago? Check out this “archive of the internet.”

Tom EvansWho helped Joanna get past her block of writing fiction.

Show notes:

Changing Covers

Joanna has recently changed her covers to see how that will affect sales. One of the wonderful things about being an indie author is that you can just switch these out whenever you want to test new things. In the new round of covers she decided to put a face on the front of them – she realised that this is more likely to attract the sort of person who is going to enjoy the books that she writes (this is for her fiction books).

Keywords in Non-Fiction

We have heard this a lot lately, keywords for non-fiction really matter. Put this in the title in the description. As Jo, and everyone else, says keywords and not really working for non-fiction.

Being an Entrepreneur

This is something she fully embraces and she is currently putting together a book about going beyond just being an author and becoming an entrepreneur.

Develop a ‘tag line’

Joanna has “Author. Entrepreneur. Speaker.” For her non fiction. “Thrillers on the edge” for her fiction. It gives the viewer the ability to make a split second decision about whether you are their sort of author. This keeps away reader who won’t enjoy her books, which is good, a sale to a reader who doesn’t like the book is not worth it.

On Multiple Author Names/Presenses

Despite having moved from mostly writing non-fiction to fiction and have one website for each, Joanna finds it difficult to maintain social networks for each and has rolled them into one. Maintaining two presences was just too much hassle and time that could have been better spent elsewhere. A caution against having too many pen names perhaps.

Getting onto Fiction

Joanna didn’t start writing fiction for a long time, largely because she was setting incredibly high standards for herself, saying she would only write something that was going to be a major prize winner. It took a conversation with Tom Evans to make her realize that she could get past this and write a successful and fun book that doesn’t have to be brilliant, award winning, fiction.

She still doesn’t make enough money to live off from her fiction alone so spends time doing other entrepreneurial activities that bolster her income (non-fiction, speaking, author consulting).

The benefit of fiction is that it is truly scalable and it doesn’t become out of date like non-fiction can. This is one of the many reasons why she wants to focus on it; each book she puts out is another addition to an asset which will continue to pay out for a long time.

Location Independence

Joanna and her husband used to have a lot of stuff, the sort of things you accumulate as a well paid couple. When she quit her job to write, they sold this stuff, and switch to a more minimalist lifestyle. Her husband was very supportive and it was this change that really allowed her to pursue her dream of writing (cutting a lot of the bills/expenses out of life).

Work Life Balance

You don’t need this when you love what you do. Sure, sometimes you will hit a wall, but the reality is most of the time when you are doing what you love you don’t really feel as if you need time off work the same way as you do while doing something that you are not passionate about.

That being said Joanna does ‘work’ really hard. Typically she starts work at 7am and works until she can’t do anymore, typically around 8 or 9pm. Again, because she loves what she does, this doesn’t feel like a strain, although at times she does need to step away from technology and go on a ‘digital fast.’

Becoming an Outlier

Now that Joanna has some level of success she wants to take it to the next level and become one of the major self-publishing outliers. By doing this she hopes to show the younger generation that being an artist is a viable career path in itself, and that you don’t have to do a ‘real job’ while being an artist. In order to do this though the indie author also needs to be a business person, if you are not, you are massively reducing your chances of success.

Joanna points out that you can be a writer and not a business person, but chances are you’ll also need a job as well.


Don’t worry that things don’t change a huge amount in a year, it’s really not that long of a time. If you look back four years through it seems like things have come really far.


“An entrepreneur is someone who creates value out of ideas”

“If you think that being a business person is somehow incompatible with being an artist, you are crazy”


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

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Julius SEpisode # 49 – The Importance of Being an ‘Authorpreneur’ (author/entrepreneur) with Joanna Penn
  • Holy Wow, I loved this interview–especially when Joanna spoke about young girls and women being told they can be creative, but there’s no way to make a living at it and they need a “proper job” in order to make a living, because this is what happened to me. I gave up the idea of the theatre and writing as a “proper living”, and am now kicking myself that I got such a late start and am now having to make up for lost time. My young cousin just graduated college with a degree in art history, and we have relatives who are so judge-y pants I wonder it doesn’t undermine my cousin’s confidence in the decision she made. And it makes me angry, because these relatives don’t know a thing about being a creative and are speaking from a foundation of totally wrong assumptions, misinformation, and opinions as though they’re fact. Yet no one blinks an eye that I’m writing professionally, because I also have a “real job”.

    Yes, I still have a day job, because I’m in my thirties had have responsibilities, but I’m working hard to make the the switch to full-time “authorpenuership”. (I love that word, btw.)

    • TheCreativePenn

      Hi Cate, I’m thrilled you found it useful 🙂 I am so passionate about proving this to young people. It’s incredible how many people ask me how I pay the bills when I say I’m an author and speaker. It’s like they only have a corporate view of the world. Time to change the perception!
      I kick myself regularly about the late start as well – if only I had plucked up courage earlier – so I want to encourage everyone I can to get started! Maybe you should get back to the theatre 🙂

    • SimonRSP

      And I love the phrase “judge-y pants” ;). Well said Cate, “proper jobs” are just a construct of society. I think Joanna nailed it in the interview, you can be miserable working a job with great money, and completely happy doing something you love with a third of the cash. Money is not everything.

  • Marsha Mann


    • SimonRSP

      Thanks Marsha 🙂

      • Sorry I just found this! I’m so glad you liked the article.

  • 67% pay-cut and 1000% happier with life. Awesome to hear this from someone I admire as much as Joanna. It’s hard to explain this to people sometimes…they either think you are lying to them in order to save face, or that you are just being an ass. Truth be told, I just want the same for them. I get that same feeling from Joanna…that feeling that she really wants to see others succeed. Cheers.

    • TheCreativePenn

      Thanks Mike. I still have a lot of people thinking I am crazy. Particularly some of my family who consider owning a house and a car and all associated ‘stuff’ to be more important than living a life you love. Crazy talk! I fully intend to get back up to the money I used to make (and more!) so I can demonstrate that creativity pays – in the hope I can liberate more to this life! I’m glad you’re already converted!

  • Joanna, I love your approach to your career. You are a breath of fresh air and such an inspiration. I am currently penning my first novel at the age of 47 and I’d love to be able to make it my full time career/lifestyle. As you say there are no real boundaries or balance when you do something you love. You are brilliant the way you are willing to share your knowledge, experience and inspiration. I think you will achieve your outlier status – you have the right attitude. Thanks for sharing and good luck. Helen

    • TheCreativePenn

      Thanks Helen – last year I helped my Dad do his first novel at 65 so you have years and years ahead of you! I’m so glad you enjoyed the show!

  • Pingback: What Sort of Writer Do You Really Want to Be? Insights from Joanna Penn » Henry Hyde: Designer, Writer, Editor()

  • Excellent show, I can relate to hating a day job and quitting again and again to get away from it. Joanna your an inspiration!

    • TheCreativePenn

      Thanks Jeff – it took a number of years to make the jump, but I’ll never go back to Accounts Payable 🙂

  • Michael Coorlim

    A great interview. I’m proud to be a full-time authorpreneur. I will admit that it has turned me into a workaholic, but since I love writing it doesn’t really bother me much.

    • TheCreativePenn

      Workaholics unite! If you love what you do, it’s not a bad problem to have! I did have a digital sabbath this weekend though – went kayaking – felt brilliant 🙂 Back to it now!

  • Gillian

    Every interview with Joanna is always informational and entertaining. I can’t get enough of her honesty. I love that you don’t need a work/life balance when you love what you do. People always ask when I’m taking a vacation because I am always working, they don’t get that I LOVE what I do. Thanks for pointing that out girlie!

    • TheCreativePenn

      I’m glad you agree Gillian – I actually find time off annoys me, as I am so keen to get back to work. My exception is traveling for book research – we just came back from Barcelona and that was awesome 🙂 The Sagrada Familia will feature in the next ARKANE book!

  • Melissa AuClair

    LOVED this interview. Simon, you asked great questions. I listen to every Joanna Penn interview I can and each time- she shares something new, something to think about, and something I can start implementing right now. Joanna, thanks so much for diving deep. You help remind me of the amazing opportunities authorpreneurs have!

    • SimonRSP

      Thanks Melissa, really glad that you enjoyed the interview 🙂

    • TheCreativePenn

      Thanks Melissa – I’m thrilled you found it useful 🙂

  • Gregory Lynn

    Hey Simon, think you could take a look at this episode? I’ve been trying to download it for a couple weeks both through iTunes and the direct link and it doesn’t work. It doesn’t even start to download. It’s like there’s no file at the end of the link.


    • SimonRSP

      Hi Gregory – this is strange, I’m not having the problem myself so am struggling to identify the issue!

      Could you try this direct link to the MP3?


      Hopefully that’ll work – if not, just drop another comment and I’ll work something out 🙂

      • Gregory Lynn

        That link didn’t work, but I think I have narrowed down the problem a bit.

        The direct link, Itunes, the RSS feed, nothing worked. The web site worked fine, every link I clicked got me where it was supposed to go in a second or so, but every hipcast link went nowhere.

        So I tried to go to hipcast.com and it went nowhere and I thought it might be a hipcast problem. But, you couldn’t possibly be having a hipcast problem for weeks without noticing it–you’d know if nobody could download anything.

        So I tried to go through a proxy server that made it look like I was coming from London and I got to hipcast just fine, and I’m now downloading the Joanna Penn episode.

        Somehow, it looks like hipcast links won’t work when it thinks I’m coming from North Carolina in the US, but do work when they think I’m coming from London.

        That’s a good enough workaround for me, but I’m guessing not for you. You might want to contact hipcast and get them on it.

        If there is anything else I can do to help, feel free to e-mail me, the address is gregory dot lynn at gmail dot com.

        • SimonRSP

          Hi Gregory,

          I’m about to post this weeks episode. I’ve messed around with a few settings – please let me know if it works for you without having to use a proxy! Hopefully it’ll work this time :).

          • Gregory Lynn

            It downloaded in iTunes just the way it’s supposed to.

            Thanks a bunch.