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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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 Evans – Who helped Joanna get past her block of writing fiction.
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.
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”
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