Today I interview Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn and self-published author of the religious thriller, Pentecost.
For the full interview — a must-listen for anyone wanting to self-publish their own book — please listen to the podcast.
Summary of Topics covered:
Joanna’s amazing journey
Joanna Penn has had quite an amazing journey from the UK and a Theology major at Oxford (hence the religious thriller), all the way to New Zealand and Australia, and now back to the UK.
As a full-time IT employee, she started her writing career with non-fiction books such as How To Enjoy Your Job and the basic ways of marketing.
She once tried to do the full-time author route and take an extended period of time off in order to write “The Great American (Australian?) Novel,” and tried signing on with traditional publishers, but it didn’t pan out.
Intrigued with the rise of digital publishing, print-on-demand, and using social media as a marketing platform, she started a blog and podcast called The Creative Penn. Joanna immersed herself in everything going on in the industry, and became a trusted source for information, while also interviewing dozens of authors.
One recent post broke down the current publishing landscape into four quadrants:
Eventually, her writing solution was to go to her employer and reduce her workweek to 4 days per week, freeing up more time to work on her religious thriller, Pentecost.
Joanna then takes us through …
8 steps needed to self-publish a book
1. Choose your topic
Joanna always wanted to write fiction, and got her inspiration in Venice at the Pentecost dome at St. Marks.
Pro tip: All the top authors think in terms of a series… building a story around a character that readers can follow from story to story. Hook ‘em once, and they’re you’re audience for many books to come.
Joanna stressed the importance of hiring a pro editor. Yes, you can go through your own work, but you’ll miss something.
Pro tip: Release chapters and ideas out to your readers… they’ll help you out, feel involved, and become your biggest fans.
Book cover design is very important. Joanna used a freelancer at Thebookdesigner.com.
Pro tip: Once again, crowdsouce. Joanna posted several versions of her book cover online and let her readers vote. The winner surprised her, but was rated most favorable by a margin of 20%.
Getting the book into the right format can be a pain… pay someone to do it.
Pro tip: Check out Smashwords.com.
5. Upload your book go Amazon
Head to Kdp.amazon.com… it’s free to to upload in Kindle format, and your book will be live in 24 hours!
Pro tip: The Kindle has the largest marketshare of eBooks
Joanna started her book out at $2.99, the average price for indie books and based on a lot of research by excellent author/blogger Joe Konrath.
Pro tip: She dropped the price to 99 cents because her goal was to get the biggest audience with her first book, not make the most money. Sales took off.
7. Tracking sales
Two keys to success on Amazon are reviews and sales. The book rose to #2 in religious fiction, #2 in action adventure, and #300 overall.
Pro tip: Once Amazon’s algorithm gets involved it will start recommending the book to other buyers
8. Marketing an eBook on Amazon
As any good marketer knows, its good to be everywhere. She has the following:
- Blog Interviews
- Trying for awards
- Appearing on TV
- Public speaking
- And a book trailer
- Her favorite marketing avenue is on Twitter: @TheCreativePenn
- Don’t spend too much money on traditional advertising
- Check out Kindle Nation Daily, which Joanna used, with sponsorships for $99 to $299
- Success breeds success. Do well on Amazon, get good reviews, get good rankings, and it becomes a snowball effect.
- Write a good book. All the marketing in the world won’t help if the product is sub-par. Put in the effort.
- This is a new reality: It’s a bit of hard work, but everyone can do this.
Joanna also interviewed me on Skype video for HER blog. Here’s how it went.
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