Monday, August 1, 2011

Joanna Penn on Self Publishing

I have followed Joanna Penn online for quite sometime now. I’ve watched her publishing journey as she self published non-fiction to publishing her first fiction book, “Pentecost”. She also has written and self published 3 non fiction books. Joanna’s blog The Creative Penn is an endless source of information. Joanna is on twitter @thecreativepenn

Some would say she’s crazy going down the Indie Publishing route. Others would say it’s the only way to go.

After seeing her tweet…
@thecreativepenn oh my goodness, Pentecost is #277 in the US Kindle store , #12 in action/adventure #veryexcited!

I decided to interview this amazing woman...

Did you ever think about going down the traditional publishing path?

Absolutely, it’s what I always aimed for and I would still consider the right traditional publishing deal but for me, it’s about self-determination and the ability to do it yourself these days. I approached traditional publishers back in 2008 with my first book, a non fiction career change book. I had no platform, nothing differentiating me and not surprisingly, I was rejected. But I didn’t see this as the end, it was the beginning of my journey into adventures in publishing and marketing. I learned all about the industry and about internet marketing. I started a blog, a podcast and videos as well as social networking. I wrote more and learned about ebooks and then set up my own company and did it myself! Ironically, now I have a platform and an audience and have done it myself, I would be more attractive to a publisher but as yet, I haven’t tried again. The success of Amanda Hocking is an inspiration to me, as she got a print deal after successfully selling on the Kindle. John Locke is also an inspiration and he doesn’t need a print deal as he is selling millions on the Kindle. So yes, I do think about a traditional deal, but I’m happy going the indie route for now.

You have created a significant online platform. How do you set boundaries to spend enough time online – but not waste time?

I don’t waste time online, everything I do is focused on either

a) creating content - blog posts, podcast, videos, tweets - all these things are breadcrumbs leading back to my site and my books

b) networking with authors and readers - both of which are critical. Personal recommendations are imperative now, it’s still word of mouth, we just have more leverage.

You have to be committed to building a platform in order to build one and you have to be consistent. I haven’t had much time off the internet for 2.5 years but it is so rewarding and worth it, and it’s my hobby and enjoyment as well as something necessary for authors, so it isn’t painful.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt through self publishing?

You can be a successful author if you write something people want to read and you can get it in front of people who want to read it. Kindle and other ebook markets offer the way to self-publish now, but there are still millions of books out there. You still need the marketing aspect. Basically, all this is still important for traditionally published authors as well. The only thing missing is that someone else does the work of publishing.

I would add that indie authors MUST pay for pro editors. I had 2 editors and a lot of proof readers for Pentecost. Independent books must be as good quality reading as trade published and editors are the way forward for this.

What’s the most important thing to think about when marketing a self published book?

You still have to connect with readers as authors have always done. So if your book is not in bookstores waiting for people to walk past, you need to get it in front of them another way. That’s where online marketing comes in and you need to find your niche online. Start with something and then move into other spheres, don’t get overwhelmed. I started with my blog, then moved into podcasting, then twitter, then videos.

Marketing is not a bad thing, you’re not scamming anyone. Most of us are just writers with good books who want to get them into the hands of people who might enjoy them. That should be your focus.

So many great insights there Joanna! Thank you for hanging out on my blog for a moment. I must get my hands on your book Pentecost!

Thriller novel 'Pentecost' available in Kindle and print format

Check out the book trailer on YouTube


  1. Good post. I like that Joanna doesn't waste her time online. It's so easy to lose hours of your life surfing the net...especially if you like to shop online like I do!

  2. That's such a good lesson - write something people want to read and get it in front of people who want to read it - easy, no? :)

    Well done Joanna, and best of luck with Pentecost.

  3. Really interesting! It's so nice to hear from people who've gone that route - there are so many things to learn. Thanks so much! :)

  4. Thanks for interviewing Joanna, Michelle. Her good advice reinforces the idea that making an online presence is a crucial key. I was trying to do this back when I was doing my own publishing and find the same amount is still necessary even now that I have a supportive publisher. Every author must be responsible for trying to build their own platforms.

  5. Nice interview with Joanna, Michelle. I love how Joanna says that she leaves breadcrumbs that all link back to her book. I'm sure that is true but those breadcrumbs are very valuable bits of information as well. The service Joanna does for other indie writers is inspirational and motivational. She has really taken the bull by the horns with her hobby and is certainly worth the follow!

  6. Excellent post, Michelle and Joanna! I especially liked the part where you said "You can be a successful author if you write something people want to read and you can get it in front of people who want to read it." In the end, no matter what publishing route we choose, this is what really matters.

  7. Great interview. Learning, learning, learning about the writing and publishing journey...very informative! Thank you xo


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