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Joanna Penn is an author of three non-fictional books: ‘How to Enjoy Your Job’, ‘From Idea to Book’ and ‘From Book to Market’ and has recently published an action-adventure thriller ‘Pentecost’. She is also runs a highly resourceful and informational blog: ‘The Creative Penn’ where she writes content for those who wish to write or are interested in publishing, she also writes articles on how one can leverage internet for marketing and promoting their books.“I’m passionate about sharing everything I learn along the way in order to help you save time, money and heartache.” she says.There is so much that one can learn from her, her journey to becoming an author and transcending herself from a business consultant is truly inspiring. Fortunately we were able interview Joanna Penn, so read further to learn from the expert herself:Joanna, please introduce yourself to E-junkies.I’m the author of four books, including the recent action-adventure thriller, Pentecost, available on Amazon. My blog has articles, interviews, audio and video on writing, publishing and book marketing. It aims to help people achieve their dreams of writing a book and seeing it out there in the world. I’m also a speaker on digital publishing and social media marketing and I’m a business consultant. I love travelling, action movies, Pinot Noir and scuba diving. Plus I’m British but currently live in Brisbane, Australia.You always dreamed of writing your own books. How does it feel to see that dream come true?I have always been a bookworm so it is really fantastic to now have my books available. I love to get emails from readers or read enthusiastic reviews on Amazon. I’m now addicted to the writing process and the fantastic thing about writing is that you can do it for the rest of your life. So there are many more books to come!What is ‘The Creative Penn’ all about? What motivated you to start it?I started the site firstly as my own author platform, a place where I could market myself and my books/services. I also wanted to share the journey in order to save others time, money and heartache on the journey. I wasted so many years being afraid of writing and have made so many mistakes. For some example posts, here’s my journey through writing a first novel. I share everything I go through and also interview writers on my podcast every week and they share what they’ve learned as well. My goal for the site is to become the most useful and honest place for writers to find information on the internet. My aim is to be authentic about my journey and hope to help others on the way.How it has helped you grow professionally? Has it impacted you personally as well?The Creative Penn site has basically turned my writing from a dream into a reality. It has given me the confidence to write fiction and to share it with readers. I have also developed a speaking business and have spoken at a writer’s retreat in Bali as well as in Australia and through online webinars. I’ve been a business consultant for 13 years now and have wanted to change my career for a long time. Now I can see my transition over the next couple of years to becoming a fulltime writer, blogger and speaker because the income keeps growing. This has all been made possible by the global reach of internet sales and marketing based around my site.Is there anyone whom you look up to? Do you admire someone?There are so many people I look up to for different reasons but in talking about online business, I’ll nominate Tim Ferriss, author of Four Hour Work Week and Four Hour Body. Tim’s blog inspires me as it’s intelligent, thought provoking and also useful. He’s an incredible marketer but also seems to keep it very real in terms of sharing his thoughts and life through video. That kind of transparency and leadership is what I would like to emulate, as well as his entrepreneurial success.Which is the first E-book that you published? Share your experience with us.I wrote “How to Enjoy Your Job” on career change in 2008 in order to investigate how I could change my own life. I then proceeded to spend too much of my own money self-publishing and trying to sell it. That experience was depressing so I decided to learn about how I could use the internet to make the process more effective. That’s when I discovered you can sell your book on Amazon.com through print-on-demand technology and also found Smashwords.com where anyone can publish ebooks to Kindle, Nook, iPad etc for free. At the same time I discovered blogging and online shopping carts like E-junkie. So then I was able to publish How to Enjoy Your Job as an ebook and print book on Amazon, and then went on to write some books for authors that I sell direct from my site as well as through other sales channels. Basically, it was a learning curve but now there’s no looking back!Recently you’ve published your first thriller novel, “Pentecost”. What made you switch to writing a thriller?I always wanted to write fiction but I thought I had to be a Booker prize winning literary fiction author and that was just too daunting so I didn’t even try. Then after venturing into digital publishing, blogging and networking with other authors, I gained the confidence to try writing fiction again. I looked at my bookcase and realized I read action-adventure thrillers and I love archaeological, religious and psychological themes. So then I decided to write a book I’d love to read and Pentecost was born! It’s the first in a series so now the floodgates are open.
What are the challenges that a new writer is likely to face in spreading his work on web?Like any business, you need to find a market for your work. For writers, your market consists of readers and then an associated group of book bloggers, editors, agents and publishers depending on which route you choose to go down with publishing. If you start a blog, it takes time to grow so the biggest challenge is making it through the initial stages when no one knows who you are at all. But if you persist through the first couple of years, it starts to change and more opportunities come your way. The challenge then becomes finding time to focus on writing instead of marketing!How do you market your books? What do you do to promote them online?I’m basically part of the content marketing school as personified by Copyblogger and the Third Tribe idea. I market my business by being a useful source of information. My blog is my home on the internet and I focus most of my energy on growing that audience through articles, audios and videos on writing, publishing and book marketing. I also have a weekly podcast on iTunes and a YouTube channel. I’m very active on twitter @thecreativepenn and also on Facebook/TheCreativePenn.For fiction promotion there are other types of marketing like directly advertising to Kindle readers. You can read about how I launched Pentecost here – there are lots of tips for anyone wanting to launch a book.Please share your views on Social Media as a promotional tool.Social media takes a lot of defining but essentially I’ll assume you mean anything where people can have a conversation and express themselves. I tried using traditional media for my first book. I targeted journalists, did interviews in national newspapers, made it onto national TV and also did radio shows. I sold fewer than 50 books with this method. Social media is therefore revolutionary! You don’t need permission from anyone. Just put out quality, useful information and engage with people. Sales will result indirectly but it’s also an intrinsically rewarding process. So I think social media is fantastic as a promotional tool as long as you focus on delivering value.What’s your take on E-commerce? And how so you think it encourages aspiring authors?I use E-junkie to sell my ebooks directly from my website in multiple formats as well as some mini-courses I have developed. It’s brilliant to have Paypal notifications of sales everyday. My market is mainly in the US so most mornings I wake up to sales, even little ones make me smile. Three years ago I dreamt of making money while I sleep, and it’s happening now. It’s not much and I still have a part-time day job but the tools are now available for anyone to have an online business. It’s so empowering!Currently, what are you writing? What do you plan to publish next?I’m currently writing the next novel, Prophecy, which has the same main characters as Pentecost. The ex-Israeli forces Oxford University psychologist Morgan Sierra and Jake Timber from ARKANE, a mysterious secret British government agency investigating paranormal phenomena. The book will be based across different exciting locations including Jerusalem, the Paris Catacombs and a chapel made entirely of human bones. It will be another fast-paced, high stakes, action-adventure thriller like Pentecost!That sounds quite interesting. Other than writing, what are you passionate about?I love traveling, which I also incorporate in my writing. I make sure that each of the scenes takes place somewhere that evokes the traveling senses! I’m a huge reader and I love learning. I do a lot of online courses and listen to podcasts. I also love blogging and the community of bloggers which has been a surprising thing and incredibly rewarding.Many aspiring writers would draw inspiration from you. What would you like to advise them?Firstly, write what you love to read. These days there is a market for anyone online as you can target very small niches globally. Also, learn about the different publishing options available to you and weigh up the pros and cons of each. You don’t have to wait for an agent or publisher to get your book out there anymore. You can publish your own book on the Amazon Kindle and sell direct to the reading masses, as well as on the iPad, Sony Reader, Nook and other devices. If you go down the independent route, use professional editors, cover designers and ebook formatters to ensure a quality product. Finally, get started on your author platform before you have a book you need to sell. Whether you want a traditional publishing deal or you want to go indie (independent), you need to be able to sell your book to an audience and it takes time to grow that online presence.
Thanks Joanna for an insightful and a truly motivational interview. We will be looking forward to your next thriller ‘Prophecy’. :)