Four years ago in Sept 2011, I gave up my job as a business consultant to become a full time author entrepreneur.
Things have definitely changed since I started out!
In the last month, I have reported on the breakdown of my six figure income and I have hired my husband out of his corporate job to join me in the business.
Here's what I have learned in the last year.
Lesson 1: Understand and embrace Plato's Chariot
I have written before about the struggle of maintaining my two author brands and the two halves of my business. I have attempted to divest myself of some things in the last year. I even considered giving up the podcast (shock horror!) but recently, I think I have finally understood why I need both halves to be happy.
The lesson of Plato's chariot is that there is a dark horse and a white horse and both must run together, in parallel, in order that the chariot may run straight and true and win the race.
J.F.Penn, my dark horse, writes stories.
She loves to get lost in a world of research and adventure and she is happiest alone, plugged into the sound of rain and thunderstorms, writing words that create books that readers can escape into. J.F.Penn is a chronic introvert, she does not play well with others. Her role model is Stephen King, beloved dark fiction author of millions of readers.
Joanna Penn, my white horse, is passionate about creative entrepreneurship and the empowerment of the creative.
She loves to teach people about how they can write, publish and reach readers as well as make a living with their writing. She loves to help writers realize their potential in this new world of digital opportunity. Her role model is Tony Robbins, self help speaker and changer of millions of lives.
Plato's chariot allegory is about the soul, but it works just as well for these aspects of personality. I need both of these to be whole. You mainly see Joanna here, happy and smiling but I also embrace what emerges when I let J.F.Penn run free on the page.
Now I understand I need both, I have begun to allow them equal space.
Can you apply this same idea of balance to your life?
For example, what about writing vs marketing? Or the artist vs the entrepreneur? Or your writing life vs ‘real life?'
Lesson 2: The indie movement is diverging from the traditional industry
While I don't like the ‘us' and ‘them' dichotomy, I am increasingly feeling it as the indie movement matures.
It's almost as if we are living a parallel life, creating and selling in a shadow industry that is not even measured by the traditional industry statistics. We are also less bothered about what the other lot is up to, increasingly focused on our own separate business models.
I think that the term shadow industry as applied to self-publishing was first coined by Joe Konrath, but has also been picked up by Author Earnings to describe the 30% of ebook sales that do not have an ISBN.
However much some people may care about ISBNs, many indie authors don't use them anymore.
You don't need an ISBN to publish an ebook on Amazon, where the majority of indies make most of their money. You don't need one to publish direct on Kobo, iBooks, Nook or Draft2Digital either. You can get a free one from Smashwords. You can get a free one from Createspace to publish a print book, but ebooks are where the shadow industry really lies and these ISBN-less indie sales are not counted in any reports trumpeted by the publishing industry media.
Indies can just get on with writing books that readers want to buy, selling them through the distributors and making an income entirely ‘off the grid.'
More and more I see indie authors who are doing well just getting on with it under the radar. You don't know their names. You don't have to. They are not submitting to publishers or agents. They are reaching readers and making money on their own terms.
And I believe this will become the model for more and more creatives over time. I make a good living without a publisher, without a ‘job,' as do many others.
As Orna Ross writes in her brilliant manifesto for self-publishing,
“I do not ask anyone for permission to publish, or for a pat on the back, or for a contract that insults my skills and existing readership … I acknowledge that I am more nimble, and closer to the reader, than any other player in publishing. I understand this gives me more power than any other individual publishing stakeholder (though only if I claim it) … I am proud of my self-publishing status.”
My plan for Author Entrepreneur Year 5
My plans and focus for the next year include:
- Continuing to build my fiction body of work as J.F.Penn. I have more in the ARKANE series to come, as well as a spin-off series from that. I'm working on my first co-written novel and will hopefully do more of that as I am learning the importance of collaboration. I also have a ton of other ideas to work on. Now my process is more organized, I expect to put out 4 more novels in the next year.
- Now I have my husband, Jonathan, working in the business, we are going through a process of streamlining and organizing TheCreativePenn.com site which is pretty huge after nearly 7 years of content in the form of text, audio and video. We're redoing email lists and will be changing the design as well as loads of other things. It's a big piece of work! I also have more non-fiction on the way and expect to do more collaborations with that too.
- I'll also be doing more online courses. I still love speaking live but I can't reach a global audience that way. The Creative Freedom Course is my flagship product now, but I will be adding a whole load more online training courses in the coming months to answer all the questions I get daily in my email inbox.
This indie movement will only continue to grow as it expands into the rest of the world, so I am preparing for massive growth in the coming years.
I look forward to sharing the next year with you!
Please do leave your comments below and join the conversation – I value each and every one!