OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
Five years ago today I started this blog with my first post: publishing 2.0 is an incredible opportunity for authors and book lovers.
That sentiment hasn't changed but …
A lot of other things have changed over the last five years in the publishing industry
Here's a few highlights that resonate for me.
- The first international Amazon Kindle was launched in October 2009 – and I was one of the first to get it in Australia. I was swiftly converted, leaving over 2000 print books behind when I moved from Australia to go 99% digital as a reader. My Amazon income was part of what enabled me to leave my day-job as an IT consultant in Sept 2011 to become a full-time author-entrepreneur.
- Amanda Hocking became the first self-published Kindle millionaire, swiftly followed by a whole load of other indie authors. Hocking also got a 6 figure traditional publishing deal off the back of her indie success, again, followed by a load of other indies which started to change the way self-publishing was viewed by the industry.
- Ebook sales overtook print sales at Amazon and Borders went bankrupt, changing the dominance of physical print bookstores
- Smashwords grew from a startup in 2008 to the #1 producer of indie books [Bowker report] with over 44,000 authors and 130,000 titles
- Kobo Writing Life launched, and has challenged Amazon over best business practices for international authors – multi-currency pricing and direct deposit payments are only done by KWL and KDP, and for non-US authors, this is fantastic.
- ACX.com launched, enabling indie authors to do joint venture deals with voice talent and audio producers, and exploit audio rights themselves. [As of Dec 2013, this is US only, but hopefully it will become international in 2014]
- The Alliance of Independent Authors launched, providing a stronger voice for a disparate community, fighting for indie rights, educating the media and encouraging quality production and creative expression.
- Hugh Howey signed a print only rights deal for Wool and it was optioned for film by Ridley Scott, making the hybrid author a new reality. Agents and publishers now openly pitch successful indie authors.
At the end of that very first post, I wrote:
“This blog will be focused on self-publishing, print-on-demand, internet sales and marketing and new technologies in the publishing arena.”
I know many of you have been reading the site for a while now, and I hope you have learned a lot along with me. But after five years, it's time to make a change and pivot my focus a little.
So why am I changing things?
(1) Self-publishing information is now everywhere
When I started blogging in 2008, self-publishing was not a cool and trendy thing. There were only a couple of people blogging about self-publishing that I remember clearly: April Hamilton @indieauthor ; Mark Coker of Smashwords; Joel Friedlander from The Book Designer; Penny Sansevieri from Author Marketing Experts and Aaron Shepard.
There were people in the non-fiction and speaking space who self-published openly, like Dan Poynter. There were also bloggers who sold digital products like PDF ‘ebooks', but the word ‘self-publishing' was still pretty dirty to most people.
Not any more.
There are now a LOT of blogs on self-publishing and they continue to proliferate as authors get excited about their opportunities.
This is fantastic but it means The Creative Penn is no longer unique in the content it offers. In the last couple of weeks, I've also been asked to blurb or review 7 different books on self-publishing, many of which cover the same type of topics from a different perspective.
All of this is valid and useful, and I love that there is so much energy in this space. But actually, the publishing part is just procedural for me now and I'm happy for other people to focus on blogging about it.
(2) I've changed … and this is my site 🙂
I started blogging in order to share what I learned on the journey of being an author. I continue to do this, but this site has to be fun for me too and I've changed a lot in 5 years.
In 2008, I was an IT consultant with one non-fiction book, no online platform, no social network, no podcast, no speaking career, with no clue of writing fiction and no idea about marketing. I was living in Brisbane, Australia and didn't know any authors at all. I was just starting to discover the world of self-publishing and online business.
In 2013, I'm a full-time author-entrepreneur and an Amazon bestselling author with over 75,000 books sold. I've just launched my 4th full-length novel, Desecration, my books are available in ebook, print and audio and are now selling in 22 countries globally. I'm doing joint venture deals for translation into German and Spanish. I'm a international speaker, and have been voted as one of The Guardian Top 100 Culture Professionals 2013 (UK). I live in London and most of my friends are authors.
I hope that encourages you, because although I've come a long way, I also feel I have a (very) long way to go. That's a good thing, because we can write until the day we die, and I want to be learning on my death-bed.
But frankly, I am bored with talking about self-publishing and the basics of the indie life. I want to take it up a level and provide more of a graduate level education around being an indie author and creative entrepreneur.
So what's changing?
I will still provide a road-map for the basics of self-publishing, for people who are new to the game.
I've just re-written and re-released my Author 2.0 Blueprint which the most up-to-date information on self-publishing. It's 87 pages and contains everything I want to share about self-publishing as well as some tips on writing, editing and marketing. It's free and you can sign up to get it here, if you haven't got it already!
So that is all freely available and I'll update the information over time with any major changes.
But The Creative Penn will now focus on two main areas, which are topics that we can all continue to learn about:
The craft of writing is something we all care about, and we all want to improve. I don't think any of us can get enough of reading about writing, and using that information to improve our own skills. I am a writer, and so are you, so this will continue to be a pillar of the site.
With the release of Desecration, I feel as if I have started to find my true voice. I've always been honest on this site, but I want to go deeper, so expect some more personal posts. Not often, as I still want to provide actionable information, but I've been holding back. No more.
Yes, I love the craft, and yes, I love writing for writing's sake but the myth of the poor author in the garret annoys the hell out of me. I also find myself increasingly angry about the lack of education for authors/writers/creatives around business, and I want to change that.
An entrepreneur creates value out of nothing, and authors certainly do that. I believe the essence of creative entrepreneurship is to make stuff and sell stuff … but of course, the details are the interesting part!
Back in Sept, I did a round-up of my last 2 years as an author-entrepreneur, including my income sources. I used to only receive income from ebooks from the US and UK, now I receive income from ebooks, print, and audiobooks, selling in 22 countries, as well as speaking and online training.
Yes, I'll still massively excited about everything to do with self-publishing, and I'll still share major developments, but I want to go beyond the questions of a) how do I publish a book and b) how do I start to market my books.
I want to know what else is possible.
I want to learn about how to exploit more of my rights – how to work with translators effectively, how each of the international markets work and how to reach people there, how to turn my books into treatments for film/TV options, how to collaborate with other entrepreneurs.
I want to stay on the edge of the latest marketing experiments, going beyond the basics to what others are doing in different industries that we can learn from. I want to know how we can use emerging technologies, like 3D printing, to involve people in our creative worlds.
I want to up my speaking game, travel more, speak more to bigger audiences and spread the word about the opportunities for creatives further.
I want to interview amazing creatives and discover new things that excite us and inspire us to greater heights. I want to share guest posts from creative entrepreneurs doing amazing things.
I want to step into the next phase of my own author-entrepreneur career.
And I want to share the next step of the journey with you.
If you'd like to join me on the journey …
You can subscribe to the blog here if you'd like to get posts every couple of days, and you can get my bi-weekly update email by signing up to the Author 2.0 Blueprint.
As well as continuing to write on the blog, I'll also be producing:
- The Creative Penn podcast – now at 170 episodes and counting. Available on iTunes and other podcatchers.
- Videos – YouTube.com/thecreativepenn – now at 222 videos and counting
- Sharing on Twitter @thecreativepenn
- More on my fiction site, JFPenn.com, and writing more books!
I'd love to know what you think about this change. Please do leave a comment or question below.
Margarita Morris says
I’m just starting out on this journey, having published my first book, so I’m still reading all your earlier posts and learning lots. But I think you’ve made the right decision and look forward to learning even more from you in the years ahead. Good luck!
Jamie Chavez says
Fantastic! I’m still along for the ride. 🙂
Fabulous! So excited. I will continue to follow- I’m very excited about the new direction you are going in. Woohoo! Congratulations on 5 years 🙂
Greta Boris (@GretaBoris) says
Love it! I reached indie author publishing techniques overload. I need some inspiration to keep moving forward and you’re always great at that.
Best wishes for continued success. Thank you for your honesty and enthusiasm. Also, I think you stand apart as one who is really interested in helping people. Good for you. I look forward to reading your comments in the future.
Shirley Carolan says
Joanna: Good luck on your new ventures! I’m so happy for you and to see you grow and still want to share with us. Writing is a noble profession and you exemplify that! Carry on!
Mark McGuinness says
Awesome. Here’s to the next 5 years…
Dan Erickson says
Yes there have been a lot of changes and we have all been given new opportunity. Congratulations on your success. I am also working in that direction. But I have to wonder if the entire art of writing has been cheapened in a sense. Along with these changes have come dropping prices in books, thousands of people writing books (many who may not really have the skill). What is writing becoming? A cheap commodity rather than an art. What are writers becoming? Products rather than people? These are some of the topics I’ll be discussing on my blog over the next few months. I hate to sound like a fuddy-duddy, but I think we need to critically understand what is happening. It may not ALL be a good thing.
Joanna Penn says
Hi Dan, I totally disagree with in terms of what’s happening with writing. I think this is the BEST time in the history of the world to be a writer, to start writing, to learn more about writing. It’s not cheapened, it is just becoming more egalitarian. The more people writing, the better, in my opinion. In terms of skill, well, we learn to read – and we can learn to write.
Art and creativity are a human right, in my opinion, we are a creative species. What’s happening is democratization. In the past, only rich people, who could afford the ‘right’ education could write books – mostly, only independently wealthy white men wrote books to be honest. Now we have a global outpouring of creativity on the internet and it is SO exciting.
This blog is about the meeting point of art and business. This blog is art, as much as my fiction is. I am creating something new in the world. My writing enabled me to stop being a corporate slave, how much more empowering can it get!
I want more people to write, more books in the world. This is not a zero sum game, not by any means. My books now sell in 30 countries – I’d like to read books written by other authors in those 30 countries. I appreciate your opinion, but I am happy to say I violently disagree.
Jean Reinhardt says
Joanna, I have a tear in my eye reading your reply to Dan. I understand his concern about quality writing and a changing perception of what an author is. People will read what is written and then judge for themselves whether a work is good or bad. I left school at a young age with the minimum education required at the time. I have wanted to be an author since I was a teenager but never had the confidence to try. My poetry lay hidden in a box for decades. It was a ten week motivational course that gave me the courage to step out of my comfort zone. If my work was to wait in a slush pile for someone to notice it I might have given up; I’m getting older and don’t have the time. Using the technology available to publish my books, I can directly reach the readers and let them decide if they like what I have to offer. I am trying very hard to improve my skills as I go, writing for an online magazine and I am on my fourth book. This would never have happened but for people like Joanna and the internet. The Gutenberg press made the written word available to the masses in it’s day and in their own language; thus opening up a literary world to people other than the wealthy. There was nothing wrong with that change and society benefited greatly from it. Technology today is the continuation of that process.
Joanna Penn says
Thanks so much for commenting Jean- you’re a fantastic example of exactly my point!
I feel that the free university online courses like Coursera and Khan Academy are doing the same for education – democratizing it so we can raise all boats together. It is truly an exciting time to be alive!
Ross Mountney says
I agree Joanna. Although we ideally want good work to be published there’s also the case of allowing people to choose what they want to read rather than that being censored by the major publishing houses as it has been. I published a story about home education which has helped so many but it’s not something big houses wanted to take on as it’s niche market. So as Indie writers we are getting more work out there to those who need it. And let’s face it – there’s plenty of crap published by big houses too – so what’s the difference! 🙂 Let people be their own judge. I think things will find their own level.
Ross Mountney says
Forgot to add my congratulations to you and that this is a super post. Why would you not change? You wouldn’t be learning otherwise – and it’s your learning which has benefited so many of us. Thank you! x
Shaquanda Dalton says
I think the change is great Joanna. I love the concept of author-entrepreneur because we do more than just write great books. We are awesome business men and women and since we can write there’s nothing we can’t do!
Joanna Penn says
I love your attitude Shaquanda 🙂
Dan Erickson says
Thanks for your response Joanna. I appreciate your view. I do agree that this is a great time for writers. I do agree that the Internet has leveled the playing field. But I think that world-wide, free-market capitalism also comes with a price. I’m not certain what that price is, but it seems that it can create division between the haves and have-nots. I love the art of writing, and appreciate business, but I wonder if/when business trumps art? I’m a college educator and I see the same thing happening there: training programs rather than arts and humanities education. I am glad you are doing well in your personal and professional journey and meant no disrespect in my comment. I just tend to look at things from a different angle. But I think it would require a much longer and personal venue to have that discussion.
Jason Kong says
Congratulations, Joanna! I’m happy for you and your new direction.
Gina Fava says
Congratulations, Joanna, on your achievement! You should be very proud of all you’ve accomplished in those 5 years, knowing how much you’ve impacted other people’s lives, including mine. I’m proud to be an indie author, and an author-entrepreneur.
I plan to stick with your postings as you continue your journey, as every article is so informative and helpful. Thank you for all the help in sailing these waters. Much luck to you and continued success!
Charles Beddingfield says
Hello Joanna. I follow your blog intermittently, having at best indifferent broadband connection, and particularly enjoy your podcasts. Spurred to action by your example, I’ve started podcasting myself. Good luck with the interesting changes proposed.
An interesting exchange also between yourself and Dan Erickson. Although we who self-publish are pretty much over our traditional inferiority complex, I think there remains an elitist prejudice. On BBC Radio 4 a few weeks ago I was just about pole-axed by a remark from a well known and very successful writer who complained about a percieved prevalence of bad eBooks. I’m sure we would all agree that there are bad eBooks out there, but there are also many well written and well presented self-published eBooks too, and because you can try before you buy using Amazon’s Look Inside and Try a Sample features nobody need buy a badly written book. It is usually obvious from the first chapter whether you might like any particular author’s style or subject matter. The elitist remark showed a sort of reverse Luddite attitude to eBooks, since many writers formerly excluded by the limited capacity of trad publishing are now able to make a living from whatever talent nature’s hand dealt them. They may not all have the colossal talent of that elitist complainer but why should they be denied the opportunity to use whatever they do have?
You are quite right that the eBook revolution has democratized writing. The new technology has lowered book prices generally and sent to the wall some of the old established retailers and publishers. That may be a cause for lament by some, and possibly means that it is even harder for authors in the traditional mould to make their fortunes, but it also means that many more authors can now make a living, which I think a better thing in the end.
Joanna Penn says
I totally agree Charles, and I just ignore the nay-sayers these days, because they can’t be convinced. But they will come round … my Dad was so anti-ebook, so virulently anti-tech a few years ago, but now he’s addicted to his iPhone and his Kindle Fire … times change.
I also agree on customers, they’re not stupid and ebook readers especially will download a sample first and buy only if it is good enough. I find myself deleting a lot of ‘well-known’ names now in favor of lesser known authors who have written more engaging books.
I’m a little late finding this post after some travel and visitors, but I want to wish you the best, Joanna, in this new direction. Congratulations on embarking on an exciting new phase! It’s a joy to read your posts and tweets and novels. Whatever you want to discuss, I’m keen to listen. You are generous in providing advice and clear how-to’s, as well as modeling what you speak about. Bravo and onward!
Good for you! It’s inspiring to hear where the past five years have taken you and I will be pleased to continue to hear what happens as you take new paths. I wish you continued success and great thanks for all you’ve shared.
Margaret Curley Sanborn
Paul Coleman says
Love the change. More leading edge stuff, more elite stuff. And more personal stuff, such as which beer you drink. 😀
Joanna Penn says
aha! I can tell you that right now – I don’t drink beer at all, haven’t for years. I’m gluten free, for preference and health reasons … I prefer pinot noir, or a cocktail with an umbrella in it 🙂
Michael Mardel says
all the best with your changes, Joanna – I’m sure I’ll enjoy your next phase.
Jen Lancaster says
Joanna, Thank you for your Author 2.0 book, it contains much great advice. Pity though that the Hyperlinks don’t work — you need to go through the PDF to make them active. In the PDF, select Tools — Advanced Editing — Link Tool.
Joanna Penn says
Hi Jen, that was the first version as sent out – but the next day I sent out a new link with the hyperlinks as all fixed up – you should have received that email as well. The blueprint download page now has a version with working hyperlinks, so please email me if you can’t get access to it. Thanks.
You’ve continued to evolve and it makes so much sense to evolve the Creative Penn as well. I love the idea of a Creative Entrepreneurship school. Can’t wait to see how the school evolves. I think you’ve tapped a ready need in the market for authors especially the marketing biz aspect.
Wishing you continued success
Valerie Willman says
I’m basically new here. I’ve utilized your resources before, but only occasionally. The last time I went through your site, I was just completing my own self-publishing journey and so felt the information a little redundant to what I was already hearing around the interwebs–as you noted in this post.
Therefore, I’m super excited about the new direction of your blog. I’m now subscribed so I can get every post. I’m also looking forward to your more personal entries.
Joanna Penn says
Thanks Valerie – I’m re-energized myself, so the next few years will be exciting 🙂