Final Chance To Get My Courses For Authors. 25% Off. Limited Time Offer.

Would you like to learn more about book marketing, becoming a pro writer, writing a novel or writing fight scenes?

Big Sale If you’ve been following my annual author-entrepreneur reports about my income split, you’ll note that I have been reducing my online course sales and ramping up my fiction, effectively swapping income streams over time.

I started out with a business model of education through video courses, but now I focus more on books and sales through other online platforms.

Well, now I’m biting the bullet and pulling down my courses. And it just so happens to coincide with Cyber Monday :)

There’s a law change in the EU which means I will have to do a ton more compliance paperwork if I keep selling direct from 1 Jan 2015, and because my intention was to stop doing these over time, this has just accelerated the change.

So this really is your last chance to get these great courses!

This is not one of those fake sales, it’s actually the end! And you can get 25% off by using the voucher code: PENN when you check out. 

The 25% code is valid until 12 noon UK time 31 Dec. If you purchase, there’s a money back guarantee if you aren’t happy, plus the courses will be available to view online for another 6 months as well as being downloadable so you can keep a copy for yourself. Please email me with any questions: joanna AT

TheCreativePenn_Course Buttons3Secrets of Successful Book Marketing

Learn everything we know about book marketing – produced in video, audio and text material with CJ Lyons, who has sold over 1 million indie books. Goes into everything from branding and author websites, to book covers, pricing and online sales pages, to PR and online marketing, plus launches and lots more.

Was US$149 => Now $111.75. Save $37. Click here for more details.

TheCreativePenn_Course Buttons4Secrets of an Author Entrepreneur

This goes into the detail of how to become a professional author, and tackles managing your creative self and mindset, productivity and managing your business. Produced in video, audio and text material with CJ Lyons, who has sold over 1 million indie books.

Was US$69 => Now $51.75. Save $17.25 Click here for more details.

TheCreativePenn_Course Buttons5How to Write a Novel

From idea to first draft, lessons learned from writing a first novel and from first draft to finished novel. Produced in video, audio and text material with Roz Morris from Nail Your Novel.

Was US$99 => Now $74.25. Save $24.75 Click here for more details.

TheCreativePenn_Course Buttons6How to Write a Fight Scene

Everything you need to write action and combat scenes, with author and martial artist, Alan Baxter. Produced in video, audio and text material.

Was US$20 => Now $15. Save $5. Click here for more details. 

business audiobookBusiness for Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur Audiobook with ebook in multiple formats

I will be putting this on Audible *at some point*, but for now, I will be withdrawing the audio from direct sales. It’s 6 hours of me narrating the book plus some little extras when I explain in more detail.

Was $24.99 => Now $18.75  Save $6.25  Click here for more details.

Remember, you get 25% off by using the voucher code: PENN when you check out for any of these products.

Once again, this is a final sale and Dec 31st is a hard end date because of the law change.

If you have any questions about the EU VAT issue, please read this article. If you have any questions about the courses, please email me directly or leave a comment below.

I hope you find the courses useful for your 2015 writing adventure!

Self Development. We All Need Mentors At Different Points In The Journey.

I love to learn, and I’ve been sharing what I learn on this blog for almost 6 years now!

still learningI had an email from a lady the other week and she asked me, “How do you continue when things are tough?” This could be about writing, or just life in general, but for me, it’s about constantly learning from others and changing based on what I learn.

When I first started this site, my mentors were people making a full-time living online and the mindset of entrepreneurship – which helped me escape my day job.

Then I learned about writing books and non-fiction, and then about writing fiction and deeper creativity. I feel like I circle around these topics, learning new things from new people all the time. I devour books every week, writing copious notes in my many Moleskine notebooks. I’m a learning junkie, but I also try to put things into action, and this keeps me constantly motivated.

There have been some key mentors in my life, but all their teaching has come from books, seminars and online programs, not from 1:1 discussion.

These people put their knowledge out in multiple formats to help a broader spectrum at one time, and I now try to do the same. When people email me asking to be mentored, I say ‘go read my books, read this blog, listen to the podcasts, or come and hear me speak’ that’s how I pass on the mentoring relationship. I hope you will do the same with what you learn.

Our mentors change over time, so I wanted to highlight some of mine at the moment.

Robert McKee STORY conference

storyI’ve just returned from the 4 day intensive STORY course taught by Robert McKee, and it was absolutely mind-blowing.

I’ve now written 8 fiction books – from short stories, to novellas and novels, and I felt that this was exactly the right time for me to learn what he had to teach. I was going to blog about what I learned but seriously, I have 130 pages of notes and it was way too deep to try and capture in sound-bites. I’m also going to be processing for a few weeks before trying to incorporate it all into my 2015 creative works. It’s not about screenwriting, so much as story itself and how that resonates through people for maximum human impact.

If you want to check out this stuff, read the book STORY, and if you are serious about investing in your creative writing career, then take the multi-day seminar. He also has an online video program, Storylogue, but to be honest, I think the live experience is far superior (but obviously more expensive!)

Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch

perfectionDean and Kris have 30+ years as full-time writers and they’ve seen the full spectrum of what the publishing industry can offer – from trad pub deals, to indie, to owning their own publishing company and physical bookstore.

Their advice is completely devoid of any hype or short term tactics, it’s all about creating a long-term successful career as an author. They are also both prolific writers and incredibly humble, plus they’re fun, and seem to have a good marriage :) What better mentors to have!

I’ve read all their various non-fiction books and taken a number of courses. The ones that have particularly helped me are:

Steven Pressfield

Turning Pro Steven PressfieldTurning Pro is the only book I own in print, ebook and audiobook. Pressfield kicks my ass every time I read or listen to it, and I make sure to read it every January to assess whether or not I am closer to being a ‘pro.’

When I interviewed Steve earlier this year on my podcast, it was a true pinnacle, because talking to someone who had been a mentor to me for years was very special. You’ll hear it in my voice – I am a little star-struck!

I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Turning Pro in the last few weeks, trying to up my creative game. Pressfield’s books are really about mindset and what really matters, leaving behind the ephemeral to get to the heart of why we do what we do.

His quote from Krishna is particularly important to me right now: “You have the right to your labor, not the fruits of your labor.” Think on that before moaning about book sales!

Tony Robbins

money tony robbinsI’ve said before that I was so inspired by Tony’s self-help books and information that my aim was to become a professional speaker like him, and change people’s lives in the way he does. His book, Awaken the Giant Within, helped me to overcome a lot of mindset issues and start to create, another pivotal moment in my move from IT consultant to creativity. I’ve never been to one of his live events, although that is on my list for the next couple of years.

But Tony makes my list again at the moment because of his new book, Money: Master the Game. It’s his first book in many years and comes from his anger over the 2008 global financial crisis and how the lack of financial education costs people far more than they could imagine. I consider myself a decent enough business-woman, but I have made my share of financial mistakes, both in business and in property. I’ve been reading this book slowly, and will continue to re-read until I understand it and have made the changes necessary to my own financial setup. It’s incredibly value packed and may change your life! I have bought the print edition as well as digital as it is the kind of book you need to digest slowly.

Various podcasts

podcastI listen to podcasts when I do chores or go to the gym, or travel and I find it’s a great way to learn about new things and discover lessons learned from people in all walks of life. I’m loving the Tim Ferriss show at the moment and particularly enjoyed this episode with Kevin Kelly. I also like the James Altucher show, particularly this episode with Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame.

In terms of self-publishing and related topics, I also listen to the Self-Publishing Podcast (for laughs NSFW), the Sell More Books show (for news and marketing tips), the Rocking Self Publishing Podcast (for deeper interviews with top self-publishers), and I’ve just started listening to the Author Biz, about author-entrepreneurship.

Put away your self-development inner cynic!

I hope I don’t have too many cynics in my audience – after all, my relentless positivity would probably put you off over time! The world I live is in brimming with possibilities and exciting projects and a never-ending stream of learning and creating. If your world doesn’t feel that way, then you need a kick in the creative rear!

These are just a few of my mentors at the moment who help me push the boundaries of what I can achieve in my week, my year and my life. You will need to find your own mentors for what you need to learn, but DO find them. After all, if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room!

I’d love to hear about some of your mentors, now or in the past, preferably from books/seminars/courses so others can benefit. Please do leave a comment below and join the conversation.

Flickr Creative Commons: still learning by Anne Davies

Book Cover Design And Entrepreneurship With Derek Murphy

There are two things that are non-negotiable in my opinion for indie authors who want to sell books.

derek murphy coversProfessional editing and professional cover design.

In today’s episode, I talk about book cover design with Derek Murphy, who designs all my book covers, plus we discuss the importance of artists also being entrepreneurial.

In the intro, I talk about my writing updates on Gates of Hell and One Day in New York, as well as the STORY conference I am going to with Robert McKee. I also mention the Christmas thriller giveway – win 12 print books here. I’m speaking in Auckland, New Zealand on Tues 16 Dec, click here for more details, as well as at PubSenseSummit in Charleston in March 2015.

This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets kobo writing lifethrough the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.

Kobo’s financial support pays for the hosting and transcription, and if you enjoy the show, you can now support my time on Patreon. Thank you!

Derek MurphyDerek Murphy is an author, cover designer and entrepreneur at, as well as working on his PhD in Literature.

You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher, watch the interview on YouTube, or read the notes and links below.

  • Derek talks about his background in writing, studying at Taiwan University and his life abroad studying and writing, as well as fine art. He explains how he started an editing business and then moved into book cover design. In terms of marketing, book cover design business builds by word of mouth, whereas many authors won’t talk about the editing process. He’s traveled a lot internationally although he is American, studying in Malta in philosophy and theology and is now doing a PhD in Literature. We discuss academia vs entrepreneurship, and how to foster the latter by learning over time.

It’s important for artists to learn how to sell, as well as create, if they want to make a living from this.

  • book cover designWhat are the trends right now in book covers? For non-fiction, Bebas neue is being used a lot, and in fact, using fonts and words is prevalent in non-fiction in general, instead of being image heavy. For fiction, it depends on the genre.
  • A big mistake for fiction authors with covers – trying to convey the whole story of the book on the cover with aspects of every scene, so it is very over-complicated. You really only have a couple of seconds to catch attention, and that’s the job of the book cover. It needs to convey genre, and be good looking so the reader knows they want more. If the reader is attracted, they will read title, book description and then get a sample.

person-on-coverUsing a person on the cover vs using a theme on the cover.

  • We talk about the different cultural perspectives on covers – American covers vs European vs Asian. Cultural snobbery around literary covers in Britain does impact the design but may mean they don’t sell as well in America. Think about your target market and browse the categories in the country store for that market and make sure that your cover appeals to that market. Right now, we can’t upload different covers by market, but hopefully that will come at some point
  • Big name author book covers and big name author websites – often they are not optimized to sell books, because those authors will sell books anyway. Over-complicating your covers and website is a bad idea for indies. The point of the cover is to get attention in the genre. The point of the website is to attract people to your email list and show up in search.

The most beautiful thing on your website should be your book covers.

  • On color palette, emotional resonance and genre. It’s basic color psychology, which works all over the place e.g. what colors are used in hospitals vs boardrooms.
  • Top 3 bad things about indie book covers. Colors are a really obvious issue, and a color wash to neutralize the elements will help a lot. The font choice and effects are also important, and using drop shadows to make the font stand out is a classic error. You should use shading and font book marketing is deadchoice to make it stand out. An another issue is the amount of text on the cover. You don’t want to cram it full of text, especially for fiction in terms of quotes, sub-titles etc. We talk about the eBook Cover Design Awards on The Book Designer which is a great site to find designers and see what works.

Finding and working with a book cover designer

  • It’s not necessarily about them being nice! You don’t want to be the one doing the design, you don’t want them to do what you want, because you don’t know about design. Trust your designer because of their experience. I have a list of book cover designers here. To get a good cover design, you will be paying quite a bit.

On becoming more entrepreneurial

  • This is critical for authors and artists. You need to think about the reader, the product, the marketing, the business side – once you’ve at least written that first book. Marketing doesn’t work if you have a product that nobody wants. Think about creating value for other people. How can you improve other people’s lives? How can you entertain, educate or inspire? Derek talks about some of the ideas he has at the moment – he’s an entrepreneurial machine! We also talk about fear of failure and how you have to get past that as an entrepreneur.
  • Derek talks about his own novel, Shearwater, and what he’s doing with his own books going forward.

You can find Derek at his website and also at as well as on twitter @creativindie

Please do leave any comments or questions on book cover design below and join the conversation!

Beating Self-Censorship And How Embracing The Shadow Helps My Fiction

I recently did an all-encompassing interview with the lovely Deb Ozarko about changing the status quo.

red wineWe talked a lot about going indie, self-publishing and creative entrepreneurship, but we also got into some deep and meaningful topics.

I must admit to being fueled by pinot noir for the interview, so I opened up a lot about some of the things that really matter to me :) If you’d like to listen to the whole interview, I suggest joining me for a glass!

You can listen to the whole interview here [1 hr 44], or you can watch or listen to the 5 minute clip below or here on YouTube.

desecration deliriumIn this part of the interview, I talk about:

  • How I finally stopped self-censoring, and how my fiction helps me work out what I believe
  • The theme of good and evil is resonant in all my fiction, as well as aspects of my own travels and experiences
  • How I want to tell a good fast-paced story to keep people reading but that I also want to tackle deeper topics that leave you thinking afterwards
  • Carl Jung and the Shadow side, and how embracing it can make a person whole

I also talk more about Desecration, London Psychic Book 1, and what it means to me. You can find Desecration in ebook, print and audiobook formats here. The sequel, Delirium, is also available.

Do you use the Shadow side in your creative work? I’d love to know your thoughts so please share them in the comments below.

Top image: Flickr Creative Commons red wine by Wes Peck

Why The Writing Journey Is Just Like Skiing

Everybody wants to know the best way to write, to publish, to market.

skiingBut although there are tracks to follow and experts to emulate, there really is no single right way to do anything in the author life. We will all have a different journey.

Imagine that you want to ski down a hill.

Even if you don’t ski, hopefully you’ve seen enough Bond movies to know how it works! It’s similar to our journey through life and also applies to writing, marketing and any kind of business or career.

Here’s why.

(1) Your path is not a straight line. You have to zigzag.

Even though you know the general direction you want to head in, you can’t direct yourself straight down the mountain, or you will certainly have an accident.

Even pros have to change direction and turn their skis across the slope. There is no direct path, so don’t expect there to be.

There’s also not just one path – everyone has a different route to get down, so you can try to follow other people’s example but you will end up carving your own path. In my book, Career Change, I talk about all my various failed businesses before I found my true path as an author. It’s a zigzag journey for us all.

(2) It’s easier to turn once you’re moving.

You need some momentum in order to turn on skis, so you actually have to get moving before you try.

In the same way, you actually have to start writing in order to have something to edit and improve. You have to start with a crappy website so you can learn how to make it better.

You have to start marketing somehow so you can learn what works for you and improve over time.

(3) You can’t learn it all from books: you have to get on the slope.

You can’t be a great skier by reading about it or going to seminars or watching YouTube videos. You actually have to put in the hours skiing.

The same applies to writing, publishing and marketing. People often assume that I have some kind of degree in marketing, but I don’t. I’ve just been out there every day for five years learning on the slopes – emulating the pros, yes – but mainly doing it for myself.

(4) You’re going to fall over and it’s going to hurt. But you get better over time.

If you’re afraid of falling over, you will never be a good skier. Because you will fall, it happens a lot and it has to happen if you’re going to push yourself to get better and go on more advanced runs. So be prepared to fall, to fail, and to just get up again. Keep writing, keep putting your words out and keep experimenting with marketing.

(5) Some days, the weather is perfect and you can see for miles and the sun is shining and it’s amazing!

This is meant to be fun!

Yes, being an author can be a career and an income, but it’s also a passion. The reason we keep going back to skiing, keep going back up the slope, is that there is exhilaration and joy in the process, not just the outcome of getting to the bottom.

Some days, the weather will be perfect and we will have amazing runs on pristine, soft snow. Other days, the icy cold will make us grit our teeth to even manage one run and we wish we hadn’t bothered. But we keep going back because we love it, and those amazing days when it all falls into place make it worth it!

What do you think about this? Does a zigzag journey accurately reflect your writing life? Please do leave a comment and join the conversation below.

Top image: Flickr Creative Commons ruapehu skiing by Airflore