The Self-Publishing Revolution Is Only Just Beginning. Reflections On My Stockholm Trip

I spent a couple of days in Stockholm last week, and did three events in just over 24 hours for Lava Forlag, meeting authors at all stages of the journey. Here are my reflections on my time there.

flying into stockholm

Flying into Stockholm

The indie revolution is expanding… and it is incredibly exciting to see the light dawning in people’s eyes.

The Swedish publishing industry is still in the old traditional, print dominated way of doing things right now. Ebooks haven’t taken off yet, Amazon hasn’t opened its .se store and authors are still focused on the route of agents and publishers to reach readers.

I was told that the biggest publishers are integrated with the media companies – in the same way as Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp owning Harper Collins, the Fox Network, The Times and the Wall Street Journal.

When big media owns all the publishing channels, there is little chance for the independent voice against such established behemoths. But change is coming …

I was asked to Stockholm by the lovely Kristina Svensson, an indie author who sees the digital future coming to Sweden in the next few years. I spoke to the audience of authors about my reality, the world I live in, where authors are writing what they want, publishing what they want, and in many cases, making a decent living from their words.

In my world, authors sell books globally, in ebook, print and audiobook format, they are paid monthly and they have creative freedom and control over timing – all without a publisher.

Joanna Penn speaking

Speaking passionately in Stockholm. Photo Credit: Petra Rolinec,

When I spoke at a packed gallery space in downtown Stockholm on Monday night, I saw the light dawning in some people’s eyes at the possibilities.

Some of those authors saw their future in my current existence – and that is truly exciting.

We take for granted our incredible reality these days and it’s only by stepping outside, to those places where the change hasn’t come yet, that we can really appreciate how far we have come.

I didn’t enter this author life via the traditional publishing route. As a business woman and an entrepreneur, I only pursued this author route when it became a viable business option as a self-publisher.

Embracing the indie way was natural for me, as someone who doesn’t like asking permission, who has no patience with waiting, and no love for power imbalance.

I have stopped speaking at events where the industry tries to cut authors down to size, where they negate creativity and try to crush us back into the box where they once controlled the rules. I don’t want to speak to groups that aren’t delighted at the explosion of expression that is happening now.

I don’t want to argue with people who don’t see my way of life as a valid choice. I don’t try to convince people that going indie is fantastic anymore. I only want to speak to those who are keen to learn about the new ways of being a creative in this exciting digital world.

Entrepreneurs create new things out of their heads – and the world we live in right now embraces entrepreneurs. It worships Silicon Valley startups. Well, we’re entrepreneurs too.

Writers are artists and creatives and entrepreneurs, just as the painter, the sculptor, the dancer, the dressmaker – and anyone who creates new things in the world.

Entrepreneurs don’t wait for permission, they try new things, they fail, they pivot, they keep going in the face of criticism.

The next big opportunity: Joint ventures with other creative professionals

Stockholm old city

Stockholm Old City

One of the sessions I did in Stockholm was a lunchtime seminar on “How to sell more books.” As none of the authors who were present actually self-published direct on KDP, discussions on metadata and keywords fell on rather confused ears. So I started with what seemed to me like the biggest issue.

There are 9 million people who speak Swedish. There are over 400 million who speak English. If you want to sell more books, then they need to be in English. Luckily, Swedes mostly speak excellent English but they still need help with translation and editing. I had the most number of questions about how this would be possible without paying half a years salary to a translator.

Here’s what you have to consider: the world has changed!!

Not just for you, but for everyone involved in the publishing industry. Editors and cover designers, who were laid off from big publishers, now happily freelance for indie authors. Many of them continue to work for traditional publishing, well as freelancing on the side.

In the same way, translators are discovering the joy of working in collaboration with authors. For years, they have been undervalued by publishers, treated as ‘workers’ rather than creatives in their own right. I’ve now partnered with six translators and I can tell you, translation is an art, it’s definitely a creative process.

You don’t have to follow the rules anymore. In fact, there are no rules!

Joanna Penn

Joanna Penn with Cas Blomberg, fantasy author, in Stockholm. Photo Credit: Petra Rolinec,

I’m about to start working with a Portuguese translator, who has books of his own in a genre similar to my ARKANE series. He wants to translate mine alongside his, so together, we can mutually promote, and it will be quicker to have more books out if he translates at the same time as writing his own. He’s currently working on Terry Pratchett’s books – and we’re doing a 50:50% royalty split, as I have done with all my translators.

This is only possible in a world where creatives just try stuff, take risks and ‘play’ together.

Other creative industries do this very well – look at musicians and dancers, film-makers, actors – most other creative industries collaborate in every work. Authors seem to default to timidity. They say “but I can’t do that .. no one would work with me.” Really? Have you actually tried asking?

Collaboration is a (not so secret) weapon for indies. When you own your own rights, you can do anything you like.

You can put 12 books in a box-set and together, you can hit the New York Times and the USA Today bestseller lists. You can co-write with multiple different authors. You can write a single book with multiple authors. You can do promotions together. You can write books that feature each others’ worlds. You can do anything you like when you own the rights. Other creative professionals work together collaboratively. It’s time for authors to do the same. Try asking and see what happens.

Stop waiting, stop asking, stop begging to be picked. Embrace the opportunities in front of you. Create!

Photo credit: Petra Rolinec,

How To Write A Novel With The Snowflake Method With Randy Ingermanson

If you write fiction, or you want to, sorting out your writing process for a book is a core task.

snowflakeAre you a pantser? Are you a plotter? Or perhaps, you might be a Snowflaker …

Today I talk to Randy Ingermanson about his book, How to write a novel using the snowflake method, and how it can help those people who fall through the gaps. Plus, how to write 500 words a day as a habit, dealing with panic disorder and how our flaws contribute to our writing.

You can watch the video below or here on YouTube. You can also listen to the audio below or here on SoundCloud.

Randy Ingermanson is a physicist and award-winning geek suspense novelist, known as the Snowflake guy, America’s mad professor of fiction writing. His site, is packed with loads of information and inspiration on organizing, creating and marketing your work.

We discuss:

  • How Randy established his brand when he wanted to talk about the process of writing, as well as the aspects of his novels. He brings the scientific approach and step by step process to writing a novel.
  • How the Snowflake method works – from something simple and small, to growing it out bit by bit to something complicated and beautiful. The book is told as a parable, which ‘shows’ the method through a woman at a writing conference who wants to learn how to write and is frustrated when she can’t use the pantsing or plotting approach.

The importance of only using writing methods that work for you as an individual.

  • Tips on writing the one line that sums up your book.
  • The scene list and what a scene actually is. [This really changed my writing life when I understood the concept of scene.] Scene vs chapter. How to write a perfect scene. A chapter is a fundamental unit of reader decision.

“Most fiction writers have a major bottleneck in their process. That bottleneck is that they don’t produce enough first-draft copy.”

  • On writing 500 words a day as a matter of habit.
  • [25 mins] Randy talks about his panic disorder which affected his public speaking opportunities. We talk about our flaws and how we deal with them in a really honest way.

You can find Randy at where he has a brilliant free ezine, as well as loads more information on writing fiction. You can find his book, How to write a novel using the snowflake method on Amazon here.

Have you tried the Snowflake Method? Do you have any questions for Randy around writing fiction? Please join the conversation and leave a comment below.

The Lion’s Gate, Fighting Resistance And Mental Toughness For Writers With Steven Pressfield

I’m super excited to bring you this interview with Steven Pressfield, who has been one of my ‘virtual’ mentors for many years through his books and his blog. I’m definitely a fan girl! We talk about Israel and his latest book on the Six Day War, The Lion’s Gate – and we also go into the Resistance and some of his tips for writers around habits and mindset.

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.

Steven PressfieldSteven Pressfield is the author of screenplays including The Legend of Bagger Vance, novels around the classical wars of ancient Greece and modern warfare like Gates of Fire, and non-fiction works including The War of Art and Turning Pro, which I know are on the desks of many writers listening. His latest book is ‘The Lion’s Gate,’ a hybrid history of the Six Day War.

I’ve split the interview into two on video: you can watch our discussion about The Lions’ Gate here, and another on tips for writers here. You can also listen to the audio above or on the podcast feed on iTunes or Stitcher, or read the transcription below. In the interview, we discuss:

  • A brief overview of the Six Day War and the events that feature in ‘The Lion’s Gate’ as well as why Steven wanted to tell this story, after many years of writing books around classical wars
  • The concept of ‘en brera.‘ Why the Israelis had ‘no alternative’ at that time and perhaps, still don’t?
  • Our mutual love for the country of Israel, and the places that particularly resonated with Steven
  • Why Steven chose to tell the history in the first person POV, and his interview research technique, plus using the techniques of fiction in writing narrative non-fiction
  • the lions gate pressfield“The Lion’s Gate’ as the book Steven has been avoiding writing, and how resistance manifested during its creation
  • I have a quote by Steven  from The War of Art on the pinboard by my desk. “On the field of the self stand a knight and a dragon. You are the knight. Resistance is the dragon. The battle must be fought anew every day.” How we can fight resistance as authors.
  • How spirituality plays a part in Steven’s writing life and books, including his prayer to the Muse
  • From Turning Pro, “The difference between an amateur and a pro is in their habits.” The habits of a pro writer and the discipline to keep to the path.
  • Defining success as a writer– after multi-million books sold, being on Oprah, movie hits and more. ‘You have the right to your labor, not the fruits of your labor.’ It’s not about the rewards of writing, it’s about the writing itself. How it took 10 years for ‘The War of Art’ to find its audience.
  • On comparisonitis. Getting a handle on jealousy.
  • Balancing the demands of ego against fear and self-doubt – and how to stop self-censorship.
  • Mental toughness and being a warrior as a writer. This is not easy work. It’s a battle, and mostly, you’re on your own.
  • Thoughts on the changing world of publishing
  • You can find lots more about Steven’s writing process in his FAQ here

You can find Steven at and also BlackIrishBooks. You can find The Lion’s Gate on Amazon here.

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Happy Father’s Day! A Father-Daughter Self-Publishing Story

One of the great things about self-publishing is that it enables the fulfillment of dreams.

Arthur J Penn and Joanna Penn

Arthur J Penn with Joanna Penn, celebrating!

A physical book with your name on the front still holds a magic that ebooks can’t compete with. It’s proof that your work has turned into something that people may even read!

Last year, I helped my Dad self-publish his historical thriller, Nada, set in Sardinia during the Second World War. After querying agents and generally not even receiving a reply, I suggested we move forwards and do it ourselves for his 65th birthday.

When Amazon came and filmed me earlier this year (the full video should be out next month), my Dad came too – the Penn indie author dynasty! In the video, or here on YouTube, you can see a glimpse of our journey, with thanks to Amazon KDP and Createspace.

You can also watch the unboxing of Nada in the video below or here on YouTube.

In this article on Later Bloomers, Dad talks about his love of Sardinia and the real, historical characters that inspired Eleanor and Marco, as well as the dark history of Fascism.

If you like historical fiction, you might like to check out Nada.

A young woman’s struggle to free herself from the manacles of fascism and the bigotry of faith.

Nada CoverSardinia, 1934. On her eighteenth birthday Eleanor Cardinale is relishing the warm embrace of local festivals, red wine, and her first lover. Her passion is set against the backdrop of the island’s crystal seas, mountain crags and ancient magical legends.

But her joy is fleeting, for dark forces gather as she openly challenges her suffocating religion and Mussolini’s twisted vision of a new fascist Italy. The Duce is at the height of his popularity and Eleanor finds herself dangerously alone in her dissent.

Eleanor’s simple Sardinian life is shattered by a series of hideous crimes against her loved ones; savage rape, atrocity and finally murder by masked dancers in the fire and shadows of a demonic festival.

Is Eleanor willing to pay the ultimate price for freedom and independence?

NADA is a story of love, murder and revenge set in a time of Italian fascist expansion and ending in the early days of the Spanish Civil war. A historical novel, for fans of Robert Harris and Louis de Bernieres Corelli’s Mandolin.

Buy now in ebook or print format on Amazon

 Happy Father’s Day all the Daddies out there :)

Why Authors Should Consider Graphic Novel Adaptations With Nathan Massengill

Today’s podcast episode will get you super excited about the possibilities of adapting your work into a graphic novel. It’s definitely become one of my goals after talking with Nathan.

In the intro I mention the expansion of Nook into the UK and other European countries, some of the lessons learned from hitting the NY Times & USA Today lists with the Deadly Dozen box-set, an update on my own writing, and I mention the brilliant LearnScrivenerFast training.

The 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.

nathan massengillNathan Massengill is the author and artist for the Viscera graphic novel series. His comic credits include Wolverine, X-Men, Batman and other New York Times best-selling comics. He’s also collaborated with notable creatives, including Joss Whedon on Buffy and also with Christopher Nolan.

You can watch the video of the interview here on YouTube, or listen to the audio podcast above, or by subscribing here. You can read the full transcription below. Highlights of the conversation include:

  • Nathan’s background in comics and how the fans of comics really are super-fans
  • Why strong female characters are so interesting (and rare) in comics, and why Nathan chose to write one in Visceraviscera
  • Why we love superheroes and action violence
  • How Nathan actually creates comics
  • How the distribution works with comics including Amazon’s new Kindle ComicCreator tool
  • Why authors should adapt their books into graphic novels
  • How to find and work with graphic novelists
  • On crowdfunding for graphic novels

You can find Nathan at and Viscera comic at Nathan is also on twitter @NAMartist.  You can read the full transcription below, and please leave a comment if you have experience with graphic novels or have any questions for Nathan.

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