Podcast 12: Joanna Penn on How To Be an Indie Author-Entrepreneur
Joanna Penn, NYT Bestselling Indie Author and popular podcaster, has a masters degree in theology from Oxford. Joanna then spent 13 years working in IT consulting. She would implement accounts payable into large corporates.
Like many cubicle slaves… she was paid well, traveled lots, had what you are “meant to want” in life and was miserable.
She tried everything to get out of IT. Like starting a scuba diving company in New Zealand (which tanked). She did property investing in Australia, which she couldn’t care less about. She tried lots of things and always went back to her day job.
Three years ago she left her day job to become a full time author and professional speaker.
LEAVING YOUR JOB (4:37)
Joanna was earning very good money as a freelance contractor in IT, and the tradeoff was massive. She was miserable every day and needed to make a chance.
They decided to make a number of choices that would enable her to make the change and would like people to understand, “There is no point in earning super, super huge amounts of money if you’re miserable.”
Joanna thought of it as she had climbed one ladder for 13 years, she was starting to climb another ladder. She is 3 years into that now, and in 10 years she will be earning way more money than she was.
There was fear, because when you go from the top of one ladder to the bottom of the next ladder, your self esteem drops, your income and the way people perceive you. She blogs every year about the things she learned. She found a new community, twitter is great for that. She moved from Australia back to London, and that was a big change.
She got to a point in her life, that if she wasn’t going to try to make herself happy, it was just a downward spiral.
LUCAS SHARES A PERSONAL STORY (6:29)
Lucas came up with an idea to create a wedding registry for other stuff, when a couple is already set up. He tried to sell his idea to vendors, and the couples were the ones that would have been interested.
He never asked himself, How do I get noticed by wedding couples? Instead, he tried to sell to the vendors because he knew how to find them and talk to them. So he asks this question next.
HOW DO YOU GET NOTICED? HOW DO YOU BECOME A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR?
“Whatever you do, you have to learn whatever it takes.” Joanna did not did not have any background with marketing or the internet. She spent 3 years,(while working full time), getting up at 5 am, and would write the book stuff in the morning. In the evening she would blog, do the podcast, professionally speaking, doing interviews and meeting people in America, reading books and learned internet marketing.
You can read her blog. All of this in in The Creative Penn archives blog. She tells us that it is about seeing the long term view. She won’t ever sell her business, The Creative Penn. She is not under a deadline to write 50 books by the end of the year, however it is a goal of hers to write 100 books by the time she is 50.
Joanna coaches you to think in terms of the Olympic periods. Every four years there is an olympics and you generally remember where you were at that last Olympics, at what point in your life.
She had pretty much nothing in one, and then a business and her books in the next. You have to take it one day at a time. She had to carve out the time, and learn new skills to make these changes.
As long as you have an attitude that you can learn this, and you can play, you can do it.
RESOURCES THAT HELPED JOANNA ALONG THE WAY
Joanna wrote a book, How To Market A Book, that encapsulated everything she learned over the years. Marketing is different for fiction and non-fiction. Ask yourself, Who do you want to be like? Who can you look at and model? Different ways of social media and different types of marketing work for different people. Random advice may not be helpful or matter. Do what you enjoy, Joanna is on episode 200 of her podcast, and it doesn’t really pay, but it is marketing, she gets her book out, and it is fun.
Reframe getting noticed, put out useful and valuable content and integrate it into your life.
WHAT CAN ENTREPRENEURS LEARN ABOUT ABOUT AUTHORS, ESPECIALLY SELF-PUBLISHING AUTHORS AND THE RISE OF THE SELF-PUBLISHING INDUSTRY?
Joanna thinks it was the other way around. Very few authors were entrepreneurs, most relied on a publisher and agent to do most of that stuff for them. The indie authors that are making the money, don’t wait for permission. They are bootstrapping it themselves, and keeping all the money for themselves.
They have all the control about what they write, when it is their own money, they don’t have someone telling them what to do.
They can have multiple streams of income. The manuscript can be turned into e books, audio books, print books, translations, and there is more than one way to make money.
PUTTING IN EFFORT TO MARKET YOUR START UP WITHOUT RELYING ON LUCK (19:09)
A lot of self-published authors are dropping out of the game because they don’t want to do all this stuff. Joanna is an author and an entrepreneur. She believes that you are an entrepreneur if you are doing all those things to promote your book, otherwise you are just an author.
WHAT IS THE MOST SURPRISING THING ABOUT BECOMING A BEST SELLING AUTHOR?
The more fiction you writes, the more ideas you get. Many authors have a hard time getting it all down fast enough. She has about 9 or 10 books at the moment she wants to write. The question is how fast can she get them all down.
Joanna now has an editor that really works well for her. She has booked her with a retainer, and they can do this on an ongoing basis. She never believed that would happen several years ago.
She didn’t always believe she was creative. She came upon a book, The Success Principles, by Jack Canfield. It suggested using affirmations, and one of hers was, “I am creative, I am an author.” This was in 2005, she was so crushed from corporate life that she couldn’t even say it outloud.
A year later she came up with her name, http://www.thecreativepenn.com. Then it started snowballing, and she started talking to other people, opportunities come up like doing Spanish, German, The Frankfurt Book Fair. She never could have seen all these opportunities coming up, and the most surprising thing is how much exciting stuff there is out there.
She never would have given up her job if she didn’t believe that she could have made money. She is a businesswoman and it is important to her. Now she can see where it is going and it is all exciting.
MYTHS ABOUT BEING A PROFESSIONAL, SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHOR
The biggest myth is that you do it all yourself.
You should pay a blooming good editor for a start if you want to take this seriously.
Joanna doesn’t like the term, “self-published author”, and that would be the myth. She has 11 contractors, that she pays almost every month. She finishes the manuscript, then sends it to her designer. She has a cover designer, transcriptionist, bookkeeper, virtual assistant, and all kinds of people that help her in her business.
Another myth is that you can just stick it up there and make millions. We all know that you need to put the work in.
THE BEST THING ABOUT THE AUTHOR/ENTREPRENEUR BUSINESS (26:00)
Freedom. Tony Robbins said to come up with one word you use to evaluate everything. Her word is Freedom. She controls everything; she doesn’t have to listen to anyone, she is responsible for all of her income, she works wherever she wants, she is free.
WOULD YOU RAISE VENTURE CAPITAL FOR YOUR NOVEL IF YOU COULD?
Joanna wouldn’t take funding at first because it would take away her freedom. Once her book is out, she will take funding to get her book put out into the world. She wants to create from the space of where she is, then it is great to work with lots of people all over the world.
As an example, she would love to sell her rites to a Chinese publisher, and have her books out in China, like Dan Brown and The Da Vinci Code. Her books are Dan Brown meets Lara Croft basically. She has a goal, to be the first female, to write the James Bond novel, in the James Bond estate. She would be willing to write that one under the guidelines that it would come with.
“There is no point in earning super, super huge amounts of money if you’re miserable.” @thecreativepenn #CraftsmanFounder
“Whatever you do, you have to learn whatever it takes.” @thecreativepenn #CraftsmanFounder
“Reframe getting noticed, put out useful and valuable content and integrate it into your life.” @thecreativepenn #CraftsmanFounder
Show notes written by Fiverr’s ariacreative
Audio mastering by Fiverr’s ginakane
About the Author
Lucas Carlson is a hands-on consultant, author and entrepreneur. He helps founders discover opportunities for growth, both for their companies and for themselves. He was the CEO and founder of AppFog, a popular startup acquired in 2013 after signing up over 100,000 developers and raising nearly $10M in venture funding from top angels and VCs.