Q&A Show On Self-Publishing And Book Marketing With Joanna Penn

In today’s show, I tackle more of your questions from The Creative Penn survey about self-publishing and marketing. The last Q&A show was one of the most popular of the podcast, so I hope you enjoy this one too.

joanna penn grinIn the intro, I mention that I visited Highgate Cemetery yesterday and if you’re a fellow taphophile, you can see my pics on Pinterest here. I also mention the ups and downs of Amazon this week, with Joe Konrath and Hugh Howey both singing the praises of KDP Select, while a report on working conditions in the New York Times has been getting a lot of negative press.

I also talk about my progress on the course website for the new Creative Freedom course and how I’ll be unveiling the roadmap video this week. It’s my attempt to demonstrate what most authors are missing in their author business and why most authors don’t make a living with their writing. You can get all the free videos at TheCreativePenn.com/freedom

99designs-logo-750x200pxThis podcast episode is sponsored by 99 Designs, where you can get all kinds of designs for your author business including book covers, merchandising, branding and business cards, illustrations and artwork and much more. You can get a Powerpack upgrade which gives your project more chance of getting noticed by going to: 99Designs.com/joanna

Special Keyboard - HelpIn the Q&A section, I go through:

  • Draft2Digital and Smashwords and the different sites they distribute your book to.
  • Paid advertising, hiring help for all that indie publishing entails, and the motivation behind being an indie author.
  • The different lengths of novels and novellas and the distinction between book series and serials and Wattpad’s model for serialized book releases.
  • The different audiences for print and eBooks.
  • Blogging and ISBNs and whether they’re necessary for a writing career.
  • On the advisability of crowdfunding for authors and the motivations for marketing your books.
  • Getting traffic to a website without a platform and the reasons for that traffic.
  • The hard work of being an indie author and the choices we make about what we want to do with our time.

If you enjoyed the Q&A, then you can get more videos and audios on making a living with your writing and managing your time at TheCreativePenn.com/freedom.

Continue Reading

How To Build Your Own Self-Hosted Author Website In Under 30 Minutes

Your website is one of the most important things to get sorted if you’re taking your career as an author seriously.

set up your author websiteIt’s your home on the internet and the hub for your books.

It’s how readers, agents, publishers, journalists, bloggers and podcasters judge how professional you are.

It’s where you can start to build an email list of readers.

A free site is not good enough if you want to take your author career onwards and upwards.

But your own site doesn’t have to be a big deal. It’s not expensive and it won’t take long to set up.

In this video, I take you through why having your own site is important, how to get a hosting account and set up your wordpress site, as well as using an example theme and how to start your email list.

You can watch the video below or here on YouTube. There are also step-by-step notes after the video.

[Please note: The links in the text and the video are affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage of the sale but at no extra cost to you. With the hosting, you even get a discount if you use my link. I hope you find the video tutorial useful enough that you will consider using my links so I can continue to provide free information. Thank you!]

How to set up your own author website video

Step by step guide to setting up your own author website

Follow this step-by-step guide and you’ll have your own author site set up in no time :)

(1) Why go self-hosted? [1:40 on video]

Plenty of authors use free websites. There are a lot of choices and you don’t pay a thing. But here’s why I believe you should successhave a self-hosted site.

  • Control. If you own your site, no one can take it away from you. Free sites are built on the goodwill (and marketing) of companies who own the real estate from which you are promoting yourself and your books. What if that company decides not to continue the service anymore? Also, if you’re an indie author, you understand that control of our own assets is one of the reasons we’re indie in the first place. So why wouldn’t you want control of your own site?
  • More functionality. If you use a free website service, you don’t have access to all the cool functionality you would if you self-hosted. For WordPress sites, this means you get to use awesome plugins which enable you to do so much more than the free sites.
  • More professional. Just as a book IS judged by its cover, so are you judged by your website. Readers, agents, publishers, journalists, TV producers, bloggers and podcasters will all visit your website – and they can tell a free site instantly. How seriously do you take this author career if you don’t invest in a pro looking site?

The good news: It doesn’t have to cost you much anymore to have a professional looking website that you control with all the functionality you need. Let’s get into it!

(2) Get a domain name and a hosting account [4:01 on video]

A domain is your address on the internet – usually your author name or business name e.g. JFPenn.com or TheCreativePenn.com. You can get domain names at lots of places (I use GoDaddy.com) but you can also use the hosting site as I go through below as part of the setup which is the super easy option.

Hosting is basically a way to store and run your website on the computers of a specialized hosting company. You essentially rent space so people can access your website from all over the world.

bluehostThere are lots of options for hosting but I recommend Bluehost for my author clients and I’ve even built my parents’ sites on it, so I can vouch for it personally.

Why choose Bluehost? [5:14 on video]

  • Great 24×7 support by email, online chat or phone
  • Reliability – up time average of 99.9%
  • Ease of use – so no tech headaches
  • WordPress officially recommends 3 services and BlueHost is one of them
  • No limits – unlimited disk space, bandwidth, domains, email accounts – so your site can grow
  • Affordability – a few $ a month depending on which plan you pick – and you can get a discount off the advertised price through the link I share in a minute
  • Plus 30 day money back guarantee, so if you change your mind, no worries.

How to set up your account on Bluehost, claim your domain and install WordPress [7:44 on video]

Click here to go to the Bluehost site, so you can get your reduced hosting plan.

bluehost1The first page will give you an option – either you have a domain or you need to get one. In my example client setup, I chose to get the domain from Bluehost.

Then set up an account. It doesn’t matter which country you’re in.

Next, choose your account plan. The page will show a reduction if you use my bluehost plansaffiliate link, TheCreativePenn.com/bluehost. I recommend the Plus plan, mainly because you are likely to want to build other sites and have a scalable account. But of course, you can start small and upgrade later. Once you choose the plan, you will need to enter your payment details.

If it all goes through, you’ll get a confirmation email saying your account has been created and your domain has been assigned if you bought one through the site. You can now set up a password for your account on Bluehost. This is your administration password so keep it secure.

install wordpressNow you can install WordPress software and Bluehost makes this super easy. You will either get a pop-up which says Install WordPress or you can click the icon on the Control Panel. Seriously, you just click the button :)

Once it is installed, you will be given your login details. Keep this safe as it is the Administration access to your new website.

bubblyCongratulations! You now have an author website! [15:37 on video]

But it’s not exactly functional yet as you need to add content and also install a Theme.

The Theme is basically the design, the look and feel, or the ‘skin’ of the site. What’s brilliant about WordPress is that you can change the Theme over time, but the content remains. I’ve changed Themes four times on The Creative Penn in 6 years and it’s a perfectly normal part of developing your online presence on the internet.

This is also why I don’t recommend paying someone thousands to set up a custom design, because inevitably you will change it anyway!

You can get a Premium theme with SEO (search engine optimization) and Mobile compatibility for under US$100 and you’ll get a guide on how to configure your own site.

[If you’re scared of techy stuff, I would really urge you to give this a go. It is incredibly empowering to get to grips with your own website and it will save you a LOT of money and time going forward.]

studiopressI use and recommend StudioPress.[18:26 on video]

I use the Author Pro theme for JFPenn.com and Beautiful Pro for TheCreativePenn.com. But there are tons to choose from – just search WordPress themes and you will come up with many :)

My suggestion is to spend an hour looking and then make a decision. Don’t let this lead to procrastination! You will likely change it anyway, so just make a decision and get building.

But whatever Theme you choose, you download it as a .zip file onto your computer and then go to Appearance -> Themes on your WordPress dashboard and upload it. Activate the Theme and then you will need to customize it. Each Theme comes with a guide for how to make it look like you want it to.

I spent 34 minutes doing a demo on the video, which included book cover design for my example client!

Then you add your information to the site. Here’s a quick overview (and in the video at 23:34 mins, I take you on a whizz-around my sites!)

Pages are the static pages like About, Contact and your Book pages. Posts are used if you are blogging or podcasting, but that isn’t necessary for authors. It’s only if you want to produce regular content. Widgets are used for the front page, sidebars, top and bottom area and are important for the extra links you want to show. Plugins are extra little add-ons that let you do cool stuff e.g. add social share buttons.

wp101For more WordPress tutorials, I recommend WP101.com, which will guide you through everything you need to know.

Or you can just muddle through with trial and error, as I did, and still do to some extent! As long as you’re happy to play around and you back your site up (Tools -> Backup), you’ll be fine.

Book Marketing: Start building your email list [30:01 on video]

One of the most important things you can do to market your book is collect emails from people who might be interested in buying it.

You can start this as soon as you have a website, or if your book is available already, you can start now as well. It’s like that old saying about ‘when’s the best time to plant a tree?’ It’s years ago, or it’s today. Every day you wait is another day that goes by when you’re not collecting interested people’s email!

Not starting an email list early is one of the top things that people regret, so definitely put it on your list!

aweberThere are two services that most authors use: I use and recommend Aweber. You can also use Mailchimp. Either is fine.

Each site will enable you to create a form on your website by copying and pasting some code. (It’s easier than it sounds and there are plenty of tutorials at either free stuffsite.) Then you can start collecting emails.

Just having a simple form on your site is a good start, but if you want to really build your list, you will need something that makes people want to sign up.

I use a free thriller on JFPenn.com and the Author 2.0 Blueprint on TheCreativePenn.com.

For your freebie, it needs to be some useful or inspirational for non-fiction and entertaining for fiction.

There are lots of options, but there are definitely ways to supercharge your email list signups.

10K readersI recommend watching the free video training series from Nick Stephenson on building your first 10,000 readers.

You can also read a case study here of how I used Nick’s tips to massively increase my own email list.

So there you are.

You now have your own author website with a professional looking Theme and you can start capturing emails of interested readers.

Happy creating!

Discipline And Practice In Writing And Swordfighting With Guy Windsor

Sometimes I just have to interview people I think are super cool and today I talk about swordfighting with Guy Windsor :)

I haven’t yet included a swordfighting scene into my modern day thrillers, but it might have to happen, because this was a lot of fun :) We also talk about how the discipline and practice of martial arts applies to writing, facing fear and deep and meaningful stuff on art and death.

stores2015In the introduction, I talk about the breakdown of my income – you can see it here broken down by revenue type, fiction vs non-fiction, format and retailer. I also mention the next in the free Creative Freedom video series on productivity which has been getting a lot of great feedback. Plus CrimeFiction.fm with Stephen Campbell, a great new genre podcast and the success of Audiobookblast for promoting audiobooks.

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 for your support!

guywindsorGuy Windsor is a swordsman, author and entrepreneur. He researches and teaches medieval and Renaissance Italian swordsmanship and runs The School of European Swordsmanship. His latest book is Swordfighting for Writers, Game Designers and Martial Artists, with a foreword by Neal Stephenson, which is pretty epic :)

You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher, watch the video or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and full transcript below.

  • The origins of Guy’s passion for swords and sword fighting.
  • The importance for entrepreneurs and artists to be good at their art and also at business.
  • swordfightingWhat writing and martial arts have in common including skill building and dealing with fears.
  • Practice and discipline and starting with achievable goals.
  • Using tools to create accountability and making mental adjustments about how we are categorizing our writing. Is it work or is it fun?
  • The myth of talent and the reality that those who are good at something have worked hard to become good at it.
  • How we learn by doing and the importance of feedback
  • The mistakes authors make when writing sword fighting scenes
  • Reconciling the intermingling of art, beauty and death.
  • The Maker renaissance and how that is also occurring in sword-making.

You can find Guy at GuyWindsor.net and on twitter @guy_windsor

Continue Reading

How I Make A Six Figure Income With My Writing

I love the transparency of the indie world.

It’s so important for us to share information so we can learn from each other. I’ve just finished my 2014 -2015 tax returns in the UK, so I wanted to share my breakdowns in the hope that it helps you with your author business.

How does my six-figure income break down?

First of all, I am an author-entrepreneur. All my income stems from my writing but I separate that into books and blogging-related, since the latter brings me speaking opportunities and affiliate income as well as direct sales.

breakdown2015The business now makes an income that is 3x the UK average for a male and is a six figure business in USD.

I won’t specify exact figures, but in 2014, when I reported for the previous tax year, the income was just over 2x the UK average for a male, so it has improved.

The break down of income streams is shown in the pie chart:

  • 50% book related income, which includes audiobooks and print as well as ebook sales on all retail stores. This would be a full-time income for many people on its own, and proves that you can make a good income as an author, despite what the mainstream media suggest (but then they never seem to survey indies!)
  • 12% course sales from my own site
  • 25% affiliate sales which is basically a commission on selling other people’s products that I use and believe are useful
  • 10% paid professional speaking
  • 3% sponsorship for the podcast from corporate sponsors and Patreon

How does the book income breakdown by format?

format2015Here’s the breakdown by format.

Clearly ebooks are dominant, as they are for any indie author. But I wouldn’t be without my print sales either :) They are mainly non-fiction sales.

What is more interesting is that a year ago, I had virtually no audiobook income. I am super bullish on audiobook growth over the next few years and have really been focused on growing that area. I have 10 books in audio so I expect to see that figure grow next year.

How does the book income breakdown by store?

I love Amazon.

stores2015They changed my life and enabled me to leave my day job and become an author entrepreneur. I read 99% on the Kindle, I’m Amazon Prime and a dedicated Amazon customer.

BUT, I don’t believe in exclusivity for my book sales.

In 2008, I was laid off along with several hundred colleagues in one day during the global financial crisis. That was the last time I relied on one company for my livelihood. If selling books is not your main income, then fair enough :)

I also believe that, although Amazon may dominate in the US and UK, iBooks and Kobo specifically dominate in other countries and my income there continues to grow every month. Yes, they take some work to get moving, but in my opinion, it’s worth it for the long term global market.

I go into more details on the pros and cons of exclusivity in this article, but obviously it’s your choice.

How does book income break down by fiction vs non-fiction?

I now have 10 fiction books (plus a short story series) and 5 non-fiction books.

fiction non fiction income split

The bulk of my book income is from fiction

The first graph shows the % income for fiction and non-fiction. I make nearly 60% of my book income from fiction, which is pretty awesome actually as I’ve been working hard to develop a back-list.

The second graph shows the % sales volume for fiction and non-fiction.

fic non fic volume

Fiction sells more in terms of volume

You can see that I sell far more fiction books than non-fiction, and I have taken out the free books so this is just for paid items.

In terms of pricing, I have books ranging from free through $2.99, $4.99 and all the way up to $8.99 on Amazon. On Kobo and iBooks I have boxsets at even higher prices as there is no cap on the royalty rate.


What am I planning for the next financial year?

Obviously more books!

DevianceI’ve just released Deviance, the final book in the London Psychic trilogy. I’m writing a dark fantasy thriller with J Thorn in September, working title, Risen Gods.

I also have the next ARKANE book roughly plotted out, working title, Destroyer of Worlds … and a load more to come … For non-fiction, I’m working on a book on mindset for authors. Busy, busy!

But the big change is that I am getting back into courses.

TheCreativePenn_Course Buttons3

One of my old courses, retired in Dec 2014

Those of you who have been around a while know that I have had a number of courses over the last 6 years. I started in 2009 with the Author 2.0 course, then I sold modular courses and then I did several joint venture courses with CJ Lyons, Roz Morris and Alan Baxter. I closed all previous courses in Dec 2014 for two reasons:

a) the EU VAT law that came into law on 31 Dec 2014 meant that I would have to go through painful hoops to sell direct in the way I had set everything up. The law only affects digital products that are electronically provided with minimal or no personal input. That meant I was liable for the new threshold. But if you have a personal element to the product delivery e.g. live webinars, then the usual VAT threshold applies and since most of my income is from the US, that doesn’t apply. More here if you want the gory details on the tax rate. I will be including a personal element in future products, so future stuff won’t be affected.

b) the courses were dated. They were super :) of course, but it was time to close them down. Those of you who bought the courses still have access to them, but it’s time to reinvent my teaching.

c) I was overwhelmed and wanted to focus on my books, especially my fiction, and didn’t feel I had time for everything.

What’s changed?

champagne corksThe biggest change is that my husband has now joined the business. Yes, I have hired him out of his day job :) and yes, I will introduce him when he’s settled in!

This makes a huge difference as I now have help with the technical side of things and can focus on creation. He will also be doing a lot of the customer side of things and it means we can get back into courses.

I get so many emails every day and I am so passionate about teaching what I learn that it’s crazy NOT to do courses again. I can’t physically speak everywhere and this introvert also does better alone in front of the computer than with crowds. (I do emerge occasionally, honest!)

I want to share how to do everything and help YOU write, publish and market your books as well as build a business. I also want to be able to retreat to my writing cave and create stories :)

Creative Freedom Banner 250 x 250Now I can do both.

So, there are courses to come soon as well as a community for those who are serious about building a business as an author.

The first will be the Creative Freedom course – and you can watch a FREE video series where I start to go through the top questions people ask.

Video 1 is 11 ways to make money as an indie author and Video 2 is 7 ways to find time to write and build your author business. Click the image below to get the first free video.

freedom small

OK, that’s about enough for this year. THANK YOU for your support and I’m super pleased to be able to continue helping as much as I can on your author journey.

Please feel free to ask me any questions about this in the comments below.


Productivity And Working Smarter, Confidence For Writers And Breaking The Rules With Chandler Bolt

I love meeting people who challenge me by what they accomplish and how they work.

Chandler Bolt has inspired me with his focused and ‘work smarter’ approach and today I interview him about how he does it. Here come the productivity tips!

DevianceIn the intro, I talk about the launch of Deviance and the Desecration promotional approach, plus how Amazon’s Follow button now seems to work (see the pic here). I also mention the free video series on 11 ways to make money as an indie author and thank you for all your wonderful comments. Over 2000 people have now watched the video and I’m super happy that it’s going down so well :)

99designs-logo-750x200pxThis podcast episode is sponsored by 99 Designs, where you can get all kinds of designs for your author business including book covers, merchandising, branding and business cards, illustrations and artwork and much more. You can get a Powerpack upgrade which gives your project more chance of getting noticed by going to: 99Designs.com/joanna

chandlerboltChandler Bolt is the author of 5 non-fiction books and is one of the entrepreneurs behind the Self-Publishing School training program and the recent Self Publishing Summit, which was fantastic.

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

  • Working smarter, not harder at writing and the value in keeping things simple.
  • Chandler’s three-step process for writing a book and why getting the first draft finished matters so much.
  • On timed writing, tracking time, using Parkinson’s Law to gather momentum, and the tools Chandler uses to support his timed writing.
  • On confidence, fear and working hard despite a perceived lack of validation. Also the best ways to develop confidence, including the willingness to fail.
  • SPSLaunchAdThe beginnings of an entrepreneurial approach to life, the value of starting, no matter what that looks like, and the importance of not comparing your success with anyone elses. And how putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves can strip away the pleasure of being entrepreneurial.
  • On falling into the business of self-publishing, the reduction in barriers to making art and the legacy that is left by being creative.
  • The value of learning from those who are just two steps ahead.
  • The key learnings from the self-publishing success summit, including the concept of having a system behind a book at the ‘backend’, the importance of pre-sales, and the message of discipline and consistency, even when validation is not offered.
  • Ambition and the underlying values behind it of growth, learning and contribution.
  • On the future of publishing and the prediction that the balance of power is shifting to the artists’ hands.

You can find Chandler’s free book and video series at Self Publishing School.

Continue Reading