To say the world of publishing has changed in the last 10 years would be an understatement. Laughable, almost. The biggest change being, of course, the state of self-publishing. That term used to come with disdain from “real” writers and the traditional publishing world. It was vanity publishing, really—what you did if you couldn’t secure a book deal with a real publisher. Now, self-publishing, better known as indie publishing, has grown into a thriving business where authors have more control and are making more money than ever before. Want proof? See the latest report from Author Earnings. At the forefront of this rise of the indies is Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn. In this interview she shares tips for indie writers and wisdom from her own career.
Also known as thriller writer J.F. Penn, Joanna Penn has been one of the positive and uplifting voices in the indie community, always on the cutting edge of trends. Her podcast, The Creative Penn, is on its way toward 300 episodes and she has sold almost half a million books in 74 countries… as an indie author.
Where You Can Find Joanna
- The Creative Penn (Sign up to get your Author 2.0 Blueprint FREE!)
- Joanna’s books
- The Creative Penn Podcast
- Subscribe to Joanna’s YouTube Channel or connect on Twitter!
A Few of My Favorite Creative Penn Episodes
- How to Write a Book Description with Bryan Cohen (of the Sell More Books Show)
- Optimizing Kindle Categories, List Building, & Facebook Advertising (with Nick Stephenson)
- Publishing Trends in 2016 (with Jane Friedman)
Listen to Create If Writing – Episode 030
(You can also find me on Stitcher and iTunes.
Like the show? Subscribe or leave a review.)
“The most important thing for anyone– regardless of whether they’re an author– is to decide what is their definition of success.”
The Big Takeaways – Tips for Indie Writers
- Following your curiosity is the most powerful way to be able to keep your enthusiasm for your projects.
- We are living in such an exciting time for writers!
- Non-fiction often sell better than fiction because they help people.
- She doesn’t write what doesn’t interest her, even if it’s something that sells. Instead she follows her curiosity.
- If you have a split focus, you will always be something like 50% into each thing. You will likely have more success going 100% at ONE thing. (Need some focus? Check out my Foundation Series!)
- BUT choose what your measure of success is and then make that intentional choice. For Joanna, that means keeping the fiction and the non-fiction.
- Being a creative professional is a totally viable living in this current time with our global market and the ability to publish our work.
- Some people have the starting energy; some have the finishing energy. You also need the MARKETING energy.
Fiction vs Non-Fiction
- Fiction and non-fiction are separate beasts and you have to treat them differently in the writing and the promotion.
- Fiction tends to be harder to build a list and promote, mostly because people are more easily convinced to sign up or buy something that helps them or solve a problem. As opposed to fiction, which is primarily about education.
- For building your fiction list and marketing, think of your own behavior as a reader.
- If a reader reads 3.4 of your books, then they will remember your name. But often they won’t after just one book.
- The key to making more money as a fiction author is by writing in a series. It’s more valuable and gets readers hooked on your voice and your work.
- We are in a binge culture, so often people will binge on ebooks.
- Once you have something regular and become a habit, people will follow you to the end of time. This can apply to podcasts and fiction series. Consistency is super important.
- If you want to supercharge your launches and growth, paid traffic through Facebook, Twitter, or Book Bub can really help you to find and grow an audience QUICKLY.
- Like anything else, learning to get results from Facebook ads (or other paid advertising) takes testing and trial.
- We need to keep a balance between creating and promoting.
The Question We Need to Ask: What is going to leave a lasting legacy? Our tweets, Facebook, and podcasts will disappear. But books can make us money for the rest of our lives, plus 70 years past when we die. What can I do today that is going to have a lasting impact?
I was really interested in the fact that her split is 50/50 in terms of income and that the crossover of people who are interested in her fiction & her fiction. If you wear a lot of hats, you do need to find that balance that works for YOU. I also loved thinking about the idea of creating binge-worthy content. A few years ago it was all about being snackable, but I love the idea of being binged. And binging.
This was the second time (in a row!) I’ve talked about needing to hire a Finisher. Am I the only one who needs one of those? I just love to START.
Leave a comment letting me what YOU think about the state of indie publishing! Have you self-published? Would you? Let me know!
Christopher Hunter says
I think the indie publishing industry is growing given there are so many avenues and methods for a person to get their books to the public.
Tim Heath says
Hi there from Estonia!
Just came across your YouTube podcast, as an avid listener/watcher of Mark Dawson’s podcast. Was nice to hear Joanna (having heard lots about her from Mark’s show)…I’m a five year+ author of six novels, who is just working on a pen name series of 7 stories that I want to experiment with. (I’m not writing under a pen name because of questionable content!) Just because it’s different to my thrillers––plus I get to see what happens to both ‘authors’ as my approach will be different with the new one.
Am also a Christian, though my books aren’t written that way.
God bless from Tallinn!
Happy to join the conversation (and podcast?) if you ever want. I’m leading the #BooksAreNeverFree conversation, more of which you’ll see on my website.