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is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date.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.
Martin Molsted says
I really love the change and will continue to read your stuff. I think it’s a smart move. As I find most “self-publishing” info out there too basic for me, I hope you will continue providing insight into how to arrange joint venture deals with translators etc and dig deeper into the more challenging aspects of this business.
My debut novel, Chasing the Storm, has so far been downloaded more than 35 000 times – much thanks to the info provided on your blog!
I owe you a big THANK YOU Joanna!
Pat Taylor says
Your journey is an inspiration to us all, but I agree with you the best is yet to come.
At first ebooks were just a copy of a novel displayed on a screen in the same traditional format. I am interested in how novels will change in many ways: interaction leading to alternative plots; side story routes for those interested in particular aspects; ability to select reading versions e.g. quickie, normal, or in depth; blending with music (which can bring me to tears) videos or even games. Yes I know this is not pure writing but it is creative and would mean that a novel could be reread in different ways.
In fact the term novel is too traditional. Perhaps there is or could be a new word to describe such new digital novels such as ‘Dovel’.
I’m looking forward to your new direction.
P.S. To be even more inclusive (not just the affluent) there needs to be a cheap solar powered tablet.
Scot C. Morgan says
Pat, I agree. I really like the possibilities you outlined for what a digital book could be. I, for one, will be looking into how to make some of them a reality. I know work is being done with music blended in. I’m really interested in exploring the interactive reader experience. Embedded video clips would be amazing. Also, with the unlimited pages of a digital book, doing a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure 2.0 is very possible. I see know reason why such a book couldn’t be done for an adult readership, allowing them to help to craft the final story they experience. Of course, that would mean some serious outlining on the part of the author, and may bring the book to 1500 pages or so. But I think such a book is in my writing future.
Thanks for the ideas.
Charles Beddingfield says
Interesting debate about interactive eBooks. I have some experience to pass on if anyone is interested. I tried this with my novel Sunset over Salhouse Broad, the eBook edition of which has two endings and gives readers the option to vote as if they were on the jury at the trial of one of the characters. Like Pat and Scot I figured this was a feature just made for eBooks, and why be hidebound by the conventions of paper?
A glance at the reviews on Amazon UK will show that some readers love this Marmite feature and some don’t. SoSB rose after launch in February to the dizzy heights of 4868 overall in July on Amazon UK, and then garnered some of those critical reviews which may or may not be responsible for its subsequent decline in the amazon ratings. I have re-edited to address these issues and it will be interesting to see how future reviews go. The eBook edition will continue with the interactive endings but the paper edition which I’m working on now (including an improved jacket design) will go with one ending and offer the other as an appendix for those who disagreed. Hope this insight helps someone. Glad to discuss if anyone wants to.
Clyde Smith says
I was just going through my list of blogs I check weekly and removing the self-publishing blogs since I’m not working on a project right now and feel like I don’t have to keep up with shifts in the basics on a weekly basis.
So you’re the only one from that category that stayed on my weekly check list with this news.
More importantly it sounds like a smart move for you and I hope it goes well. Especially since “going well” likely includes new and interesting writing for us!
Clyde Smith says
Hey, have you checked out John Butman’s Breaking Out?
It might be quite meaningful for you given the shift you’re making.
Ernest Polmateer says
Actually your change in focus comes at a time when I personally have been looking for more in depth information about the business end of things. I agree with you, there is a plethora of information out there on publishing as well as more and more on writing. We could all use more information about writing and I, at least, could use a great deal more about business as it applies to writing and publishing for indies. I think your change in direction is coming at exactly the “write” time. Oh yes, thanks for your great site and for just being there as an inspiration to everyone else out here.
Nicola Lees says
I think the change of focus towards entrepreneurship is great – documentary filmmakers are also having to face up to becoming entrepreneurial as well as creative too, so I’ll be interested to see where there might be some synergy between the approach of an entrepreneurial author and an independent filmmaker.
If you are interested in interactive storytelling you might want to explore what interactive documentary makers have been doing over the past few years – Canada’s National Film Board is particularly active in this area. I’ve put together a list of some of the interactive docs I have found most interestinf on scoopit – http://www.scoop.it/t/tvmole-s-interactive-documentary-list
Michael Thomas Finn says
Thanks for clearing the waters for me…… I am semi-retired and am finally committing to my passion of a career in fiction writing. (It has only taken 45 years of resistance) As a newbie the amount of “how to” available is overwhelming.
With no bad habits to break, I am going to use you and your business model as my muse…. I will keep you posted along the way of my journey to the right side of my brain.
Michael Thomas Finn