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In today's show, I talk about my lessons learned from Thrillerfest 2017 on balancing ambition and contentment, the current publishing and book marketing environment, writing craft tips, the ethos of the working writer, and more.
In the introduction, I mention how China's online reading and digital experience is challenging the Kindle (Forbes), how second-hand ebooks might work now they have been ruled as legal in the Netherlands, and how Findaway voices will waive their audio book admin fee for Draft2Digital customers.
Today’s show is sponsored by my non-fiction audiobooks, How to Market a Book Third Edition, Business for Authors, How to Make a Living with your Writing and The Successful Author Mindset, available now on Audible. If you need some more inspirational audio that will give you actionable tips to make more money with your books AND stay sane while doing it, check them out here!
Today's show is presented by me, Joanna Penn (writing fiction as J.F.Penn).
You can listen to today's show above or on iTunes or Stitcher or watch the video here, read the notes and links below. Click here to see my photo album of the trip.
Balancing Ambition and Contentment. Lessons Learned from Thrillerfest 2017
Today’s show is a bit different as I am giving a round up of my 10 days in New York City. I was there for Thrillerfest, the annual conference of the International Thriller Writers but we also had a few days sightseeing as well. These are some of my thoughts on the trip and a big hello to the listeners of the show that I met there 🙂
[NB: These points are from my handwritten notes so there may be some error in reporting.]
(1) Balancing ambition and contentment is a never-ending task!
So first of all, I didn’t win the award for Best Ebook Original. James Scott Bell won, a great thriller writer and many of you will know him for his fantastic craft books. Jim is a hybrid author and a supportive member of the indie community, so it’s awesome that he won. And after all, how could I compete with a writing teacher!
You can listen/watch/read to an interview with James Scott Bell on writing discipline and mindset here.
The awards topped off a weird week for me. I spent a lot of it with chronic anxiety – what if I won? Should I immediately use that as a springboard to pitch agents, or do some kind of press release? What if I lost? Should I enter again? Should I try and win other awards? What did an award mean anyway? Was I really so insecure that I needed the external validation of an award? And on and on … 🙂
When I didn’t win, it was almost a relief, because I didn’t have to go on stage and give a speech in front of several hundred top thriller writers. But of course, I was also hugely disappointed, because I REALLY wanted to win. Awards are validation that our writing is getting better, and I’m taking the nomination as a sign that I’m on the right track.
Thrillerfest is always complicated for me and it generally sends me into a bit of a tail-spin.
On the one hand, it makes me dream of the lottery ticket that is traditional publishing mega-success because so many authors there are big names with big deals. I go through the usual imposter syndrome and extreme comparisonitis, and then an overwhelming desire to make it to the A-list table which means I start wanting an agent and a traditional publishing deal.
It’s like there are two of me. The introverted creative who wants to stay home and write in the quiet, to live simply, to practice yoga, walk along the canal, and build a long term career slowly by publishing the books I want to write and being in control of it all through my happy indie way. That side of me is an artist who values craft and is content with the satisfaction of producing a new book in the world.
Then there’s the other me who wants excitement and awards and cocktails and parties and applause and a seven-figure deal with TV and film and games and everything! Thrillerfest taps into this ego-centric part of me – but perhaps that’s normal. As writers who publish our words into the world, we all have to balance massive ego and crippling self-doubt, which I wrote about in The Successful Author Mindset.
I’m clearly not the only one. In a panel with some of the big names, someone asked, “At what point did you realise that you were a successful writer?”
Sandra Brown, romantic suspense author of 68 New York Times bestsellers said, “I don’t feel as if I am ever quite there. I live daily with the fear that I will never write another word.”
Heather Graham, award winning author of over 200 novels said, “I’m still waiting.”
David Morrell, author of First Blood, which became Rambo, who has won pretty much every award going with forty plus years as a writer said, “I’m stricken with inadequacy.”
And is there ever really a ‘top of the pile’?
I went to a panel on switching publishers and bestseller lists and listened to some very big names discussing how unfair the New York Times list was and how they had to keep trying different things to make it to #1 over and over again. One of the authors (who shall remain nameless) talked about sending people out on launch day into bookstores throughout the country to buy his hardbacks, then moaned a few minutes later about how self-published authors are getting reviews so soon on launch!
They discussed the honeymoon phase with a publisher and then the sales plateau moment when moving publishers can help to get fresh eyes and fresh energy involved. And to keep the money coming in. It was interesting because they sounded just like indies do when discussing the charts and money 🙂 Lisa Gardner said “This stuff will drive you crazy. Find the things that make you happy in your creative life.”
A number of them talked about the curse of the huge advance because they are so hard to earn out and it means the next contract is tougher. I also talked to a couple of authors who were doing really well in traditional publishing a few years ago, but now the money is a lot less. If the publisher moves the publication date, then the author doesn’t get paid that chunk of money and it’s out of their control. Many authors are looking at what they can do with indie, but the conference, in general, was a very traditional publishing focused zone this year.
So after all that angst, I return to my own definition of success, which has always been freedom.
Freedom of time, to never have to work for someone else again. I was even more aware of this when passing by the huge
skyscrapers on 6th Avenue that looked like a server farm, wondering how many of those who filed in every day were happy.
Freedom (to me) also means earning enough to live a good life, to support my family and travel when I like. I also measure my life by what I create, which means writing and producing and aiming to stay separate from the outcome of what happens after the creation is in the world. I’m actually living that life now, so I am content. But perhaps we all need a streak of ambition!
(2) The ethos of the working writer
I love going to Thrillerfest because the ethos is all about authors teaching authors and helping new writers. ITW is very welcoming to new writers, however they publish, and I have only ever had encouragement from the authors I’ve met there.
Lee Child was honored as ThrillerMaster this year, an award for those with over 20 years in the industry who make a significant impact in the field. He also taught a Masterclass, a full day session with a load of new writers, plus he spoke multiple times at the conference. He doesn’t have to, he’s rolling in it, but he continues to give his time and tries to help others.
The big names also launched Match Up, a book of short stories matching male and female thriller writers, the proceeds of which go to keeping ITW free to Members. Again, those writers don’t have to do it, but it’s giving back to the community, and that is fantastic.
This is the same ethos that we have in the indie community, at least that part of the internet that I live in! So let’s continue to share, to help other writers through our books and events and podcasts and Facebook Groups.
It was also interesting to note the difference between questions asked by new writers and those who know what being a writer actually involves. The professional writers are very clear about working hours, with most citing regular times and a clear number of hours or pages per day.
No working writer would countenance discussion of writer’s block. “Have you ever heard of trucker’s block?” as Lee Child said. The professional discussions were all about contracts, money and marketing more than craft or sub-genre.
There was a session on co-writing, and there is a lot going on, much more than you would expect. That includes the bigger brand names like Clive Cussler and Wilbur Smith, who are following in the tradition of James Patterson to expand their brand offerings under the big names, as well as those writing under one name and pairings of better-known names. Indies are doing a lot more co-writing now, and this is definitely a way to get more books out there faster. I’m doing more of it myself these days.
I was also encouraged to meet new authors who I had never heard of, who are making significant amounts of money and living a creative, happy life. This is a huge industry with many small niches and a lot of voracious readers around the world, and you don’t need to be a household name to have a fantastic career with readers who love your books.
One noticeable aspect of the conference was how much older the demographic was. It might be the cost of the conference but I was one of the younger crowd at 42. So where are the younger thriller writers?
(3) The Lee Child approach vs. the Heather Graham model
I love Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books and he is always an entertaining speaker, but Lee said at one of his sessions, “My career could not exist if I was starting today.” When he was interviewed in a separate session, he explained in more detail. His success was “a classic last era career in publishing.” His first print run was 18,000 copies and grew slightly bigger with each book. It took 5-6 books for him to break out, mainly through word of mouth in the independent bookstores. That eco-system has almost disappeared now and most publishers won’t invest in a new author for that long anymore. Lee has 21 books, all in the same series, and writes one per year.
He also said that there is, “No correlation between the quality of the book and success. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t.”
Compare this to Heather Graham, ThrillerMaster in 2016 in recognition of her incredible career. Heather has over 200 novels in multiple genres, spanning thriller, horror, romance and more. She writes cross-genre, multiple books per year and (it seems from the outside) she just gets on with her writing and family life.
You can’t plan a career like Lee Child’s, but you can plan a career like Heather Graham’s. It means writing what you love, year after year, and building an audience slowly. I was thrilled to be on a panel with Heather as the chair because she demonstrates what is possible, and she writes supernatural thrillers, so she is a great role model.
As I’ve mentioned before on the show, I am researching investing at the moment and there are a lot of parallels to publishing. If you put a monthly amount in a low-cost index fund every month consistently for years, you can retire wealthy. (I mention the great documentary, Becoming Warren Buffett.) It’s boring, but it’s almost guaranteed. Read Unshakeable by Tony Robbins for the details. [I’m not a financial advisor, this is not advice etc etc … :)]
Or you can chase that magic stock or bet your money on an IPO or trying to invest in something that beats the market somehow. It’s like the lottery ticket of traditional publishing. It can drive you mad trying to get something that is outside of your control. So, the lesson is to just to keep creating over time because building your backlist, becoming a better writer and continuing to build your readership will pay off in years to come.
Like diet and exercise, relationships and investing, slow but steady growth is effective and won’t drive you crazy. My message to myself is: don’t be sidetracked by the possibilities of success. It’s not in your control. Focus on writing the next book and serving readers.
We don't know how our creative work will be received. We went to the Museum of Modern Art, which is packed full of big name artists. I go every trip to visit Starry Night by Van Gogh, and it’s the only painting with its own security guard and a queue of people wanting to take selfies with it. It’s surrounded by Picasso and Matisse and many other famous paintings, but it is this one painting that inspires adoration. There’s no way that Van Gogh would have known how it would impact people when he painted it. So keep creating and putting your art into the world, because you never know what people will love. It might be the book you haven’t written yet.
So keep creating and putting your art into the world, because you never know what people will love. It might be the book you haven’t written yet.
(4) Getting to yes. Turning browsers into book buyers.
There was a session by a data group where they presented a recently updated study on the reading habits of thriller and suspense readers.
Physical retail is in decline, a trend that I saw in New York as well as here in the high street in Bath. What physical retail there is trends towards higher profit, higher velocity goods, which books are not!
There is an increasing fragmentation of the market. There is no longer the same volume of sales for the big names and it’s harder for mid-list authors to break through. The cultural imperative around what to read has shifted and not everyone is reading the same thing anymore.
Not everyone who reads, buys. Only 1 in 3 books read are new (29%), with 52% free (libraries, giveaways, free ebooks), 11% used, 4% gift, 3% subscription. But as commitment increases, revenue increases, so turning browsers into fans is the way forward.
Discovery is broken. Even major New York Times bestsellers are not known to interested buyers, so discovery is the big challenge. Discovery sources i.e. how readers discover a book, break down as follows:
- 20% physical bookstores. This figure was previously 40% so this is a significant reduction. This was the main finding that people talked about. With physical retail in decline, how can books be discovered?
- 19% author marketing
- 11% recommendations
- 11% digital marketing
- 10% e-promotions
- 8% e-tailer browsing
The lower the price, the lower the barrier to buy. 62% would buy a book under $2 immediately as an impulse purchase. 26% would buy a book over $16 immediately.
Conversion to buy factors, i.e. what turns an interested customer into a buyer:
- 31% book message – includes cover, title, description, category, topic, author story, branding, it ‘speaks to me’
- 26% known author/series
- 15% recommendations
- 8% special price (going up to 11% for an unknown author)
But 63% will buy if there is an author/brand/series relationship already, so the holy grail is to convert readers to true fans and maintain an ongoing relationship with them so they buy your books again and again. Indies know this and if you haven’t started an email list of readers already, get on it!
(5) Back to the bookstore: Amazon vs. Barnes & Noble
The discussion on the decline in retail was interesting, especially as I visited the Amazon bookstore inside the Columbus Circle upmarket shopping center. It was Prime day when I went, which was hard to miss as six different people tried to sign me up even though I’m already a Prime member.
The front of the store was dominated by devices, Kindle, Fire and Alexa. You could get a discount on everything as a Prime member and you could check the prices online with a scanner. It was definitely a funnel towards online and digital with clear links into the online store.
The array of books was dominated by traditional publishing titles and a lot of hardbacks, but the main difference to Barnes & Noble was the emphasis on reviews. There were sections like ‘Books with more than 10,000 reviews on Amazon.com,' and ‘New Hardcover fiction selected using customer ratings, pre-orders, sales and popularity on Goodreads.’
One particularly good section was the ‘If you like – you’ll also like,’ which clearly uses the Also-Boughts for data points. There were also printouts of customer reviews underneath most of the books displayed. I couldn’t find any Amazon Publishing or indie titles so I asked and they said they had no way to find out. This isn’t that surprising since the bookstores would be run by different teams, but I’d expected to at least find some APub books. In general, though, I’d recommend the store and I ended up buying, Long Story Short: The Only Storytelling Guide You’ll Ever Need by Margot Leitman.
I also visited Barnes and Noble on 5th Avenue, which I would have expected to be a premium site. But it was shabby and the books weren’t laid out that well, with the upstairs fiction section particularly crowded. It had a lot of non-book stock and it was difficult to even find a Nook device. They were hidden at the back towards the magazines. It was hard to buy a book as well, with two staff at different desks refusing to take payment and directing us to a cashier. In the end, we put the book back and bought it online at Amazon. Compare this approach to an Apple store where every employee has a mobile payment device. Little tip B&N: make it easy for a customer to buy!
(6) Miscellaneous interesting things
“For First Blood, I set out to write an action book that didn’t feel like a genre book.” David Morrell. Use at least two other senses to bring depth to your writing, don’t concentrate on the visual all the time. When you think the book is done, change the font, print it out and edit again. All authors have tics. Figure out what they are and fix them in the second draft.
Val McDermid talked about writing her radio play, Resistance. Radio plays can be a great form of writing. Actors like doing them because they don’t have to learn the lines and they can fit them in between projects so you can get some really big names. It’s all about the words, so the writer has more control than a screenplay.
“A great thriller needs two things. Unfortunately, nobody knows what they are.” Lee Child.
He did go on to say that you need to open loops and engage human curiosity. Ask a question and then don’t answer it in order to keep the suspense going. Set up a question and don’t answer it until the end. Then add in multiple shorter arcs with smaller questions. Lee used to work in TV and said that after the remote control was invented, they would add trivia questions in before the break, so people would stick around to get the answer. This creates a narrative engine that drives the reader through the book so they have to know what happens and why.
Other quotes from Lee Child. (He did a lot of sessions because he was ThrillerMaster this year.)
- On book marketing. Be a nice person. Never talk about the book. Make them like you and they are more likely to buy.
- Readers are not like us. Most people are not habitual readers. When you read as a writer, it’s not how other readers read.
- As a writer, you have to hold contradictions in your mind at the same time. Writing is an art form. Writing is a job and I have to make money with it.
- On choosing a publisher. “Go where the love is.” How you are treated is very important.
- On the constant questions about the Jack Reacher movie: “A book is the ultimate product. Anything else is secondary. A book is not a chrysalis or a pupa waiting to be something else, like a film or TV show.”
In conclusion, Thrillerfest was a challenging few days for me and as ever, it’s a regular highlight in my writing career. I meet amazing authors, I am inspired and I always learn new things. I highly recommend joining ITW if you write thrillers and the conference is fantastic. In 2018, George RR Martin will be ThrillerMaster so it will likely be a bumper year in terms of attendance. Perhaps I’ll see you there!
You can read my reports on previous years here:
- 50 things I learned at Thrillerfest 2012
- Writing thrillers. 50 lessons learned at Thrillerfest 2014
- Ambition, writing tips and being an indie at Thrillerfest 2015
You can find my thrillers in ebook, print and audiobook at www.JFPenn.com and on all the usual stores.
Pamela Hegarty says
Believe me, you are not alone when feeling a little crazy trying to balance ambition and contentment! You have a wonderful talent for creating insightful as well as informative posts. Great overview of Thrillerfest. Your books, blogs and impressive body of work continue to be an inspiration to thousands of writers. Thanks!
Joanna Penn says
I don’t think the struggle is ever over 🙂 Glad you found the show useful.
Annamarie Muirhead says
Hi Joanna, I sure love your podcasts, this on was especially interesting, I hope you did get time to enjoy NY as well. Not that i would ever visit something like that. I do not like crowds of any kind anymore now, too old to do things I hate.
Also my writing is just at the beginning and will serve me well I hope to the end of my life. I also happy I found you again after having listened to you years, then took another route. But the time is right for me whatever and where ever it gets me.
I am very inspired by your comments, information about publishing and MARKETING.
You managed to create an interest in what was a subject on my “hate list.” Many thanks for all you are doing for me and many tousands of others. A.
Belinda Pollard says
This is a fantastic post, Joanna. One to bookmark and read again for all the many and varied tips. Congrats on being a finalist for such a prestigious award. That’s an amazing achievement – and a great marketing line! 😉
I love that people like Sandra Brown and Heather Graham still aren’t quite sure if they’ve arrived. I guess it shows that “success” is a mirage, and never feels like we expect it to. You are so right that we must find contentment in our own purposes.
Joanna Penn says
Thanks Belinda, and I did speak to Sandra Brown later and thanked her for being so honest. Amazing that she still has such self-doubt!
Jenny Wheeler says
Fantastic episode Joanna! You gave us a real feeling of what it was like to attend Thrillerfest. The most comprehensive, and selfless report. And I especially respect your transparency about the anxiety attacks. You really do give 120 per cent to your audience. Many thanks for underlining the “keep going and it will happen” motif too, Very encouraging for those of us who are just beginning. Thanks again!!
Joanna Penn says
Thanks Jenny, it’s always a bit of a worry when I get so personal, so I’m glad it resonated with you.
Pete Bauer says
This was a great, great podcast. As someone working on a new adult thriller series, this sort of info and your personal stories are gold. As always, thank you for being so open and generous!
Joanna Penn says
Thanks Pete! I’ll keep sharing.
Robin Storey says
Your post really resonated with me, Joanna. I’m glad I’m not the only one who seems to be ‘two people.’ Although I love being an indie author and am committed to continuing down that path, I can’t help being seduced, every now and then, by the prospect of an advance, an agent/ publisher and all the bells and whistles that go with a successful traditionally published book. It usually happens after I’ve been to a writers festival, where the emphasis is invariably on traditional publishing. Then afterwards it’s back to reality. 🙂
Joanna Penn says
Writer’s festivals are definitely running the gauntlet because they challenge many of the things we hold dear. The pull to literary acclaim is much stronger there – but then I get so much out of them in other ways, I will keep going!
Danie Botha says
What a succinct and inspiring post, Joanna!
It was reassuring that you shared “your angst” and how you returned to your definition of success—freedom. Freedom of time and to work for one self.
The thoughts of Lee Child also resonates, “There is no correlation between quality and success. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t.”
But to put writing in an even better perspective, your reference to Van Gogh’s Starry Night—we don’t know how our work will be received.
Knowing all this, we still write.
(And in the process, hone our craft and learn to become better marketers.)
For how can we not write?
Joanna Penn says
Glad you found it useful, Danie!
Great Podcast this week. Your review of Thrillerfest has put it on my to do list. Congratulations on achieving the shortlist. Winning isn’t everything – there is a great Irish Author, Donal Ryan, who has won 6 prestigious literary prizes as well as being short listed for others, who this year had to take up a full time job because his writing (3 novels and a short story book) don’t pay his bills. Given the choice of recognition or financial rewards I know which one I would rather have. With recognition comes attention and expectation and pressure and I would prefer to remain anonymous because then you retain your freedom.
In the Royal Navy we used to have a phrase for what you are doing – you almost said it in the podcast – you are “living the dream”. If you ever reach the top of the ivory tower all you will see is another ivory tower even higher and you might discover that the real fun was the journey and not the destination. So carry on living the dream Jo, because whilst you are on the journey you are so much fun (and use) to us followers.
Bit deep but hey 🙂
Joanna Penn says
Thanks Christopher, and yes, I read about Donal Ryan. Good point about him returning to the day job 🙂 I’ll get back to writing!
Robert Scanlon says
One of my favourite podcasts of yours ever! I really enjoyed the snippets from the conference and the way you mixed them in with where you (and many of us) are at in your own quest.
Seems as if there are really only two ‘rules’:
1. Write to a routine
2. Relinquish any idea of one day knowing your writing is amazing – even the big hitters still have fear of failure or never pulling it off again!
(Possible these are my two biggest areas of Resistance right now, hence this podcast resonated!)
Thanks a lot, Joanna, for all the effort that went into this. Sometimes nice to have a change from an interview, especially when it’s a report back from a conference many of us can’t attend.
Joanna Penn says
Glad you enjoyed it, Robert – and yes, just getting back to writing is the key.
Barbara Strickland says
Fantastic reading. Like all your work it made me stop and reflect. I am at the start of things but I like to know what is ahead as I move along this very difficult path. Love reading what you put out there.
David Penny says
Whoa – my head is spinning. What you say so matches my own thinking I wonder how many other Indies also think this way? I also constantly come across people who have had some success as an Indie but the moment they are approached by a publisher fall over like a puppy to have their tummy tickled.
I want to think I wouldn’t be the same, but hey, we’re only human (or dog).
I’m also amazed at the robustness of some of these people. Lee Child and Val McDermid were there in New York one weekend, on Thursday the same week they were in Harrogate for the Crime Festival. Now that’s a part of success I don’t envy, (even if like you I view it from the outside and want some of that pie 🙂
I too met Lee Child and even swapped books with him, and he asked me to sign the copy I gave him, and I wondered is he really as nice as he appears or is it a front? I think I know the answer. I want it to be what I think it is. Yes, damn it, he is nice!
Then I had an interesting conversation with an editor from Harper Collins who was genuinely interested in speaking with an Indie who has had some success but still couldn’t bring herself to say it was a valid path to take. “Ah,” she said, “but with a trad deal you get an advance!” I bit down to stop myself pointing out I probably bring in more in a month than that advance would likely be.
However, we did talk about something which also makes me think a bit, which is how do you validate Indies when anyone can do it? Yes, we encourage people to self-publish, but also know 99% of them will never make much money if any. She wanted to know how we validate our content to demonstrate it’s “good enough”. And I guess the answer has to be Reviews and Sales figures. Oh, and of course Awards even if we don’t win them. Getting to the short list is a huge validation of your work, Joanna.
OK… now… I still have three-quarters of a book to finish, damn you.
Joanna Penn says
I think Lee Child really IS that nice. I mean, he doesn’t have to do all the events he does. He could just sit back and count his money, but he is always doing events and blurbs for people, and he has always been lovely to me. So I rate him and always love to hear him speak – I also learn from his ability to make people laugh.
Joanna Penn says
and on hard working authors, Val McDermid is definitely up there too. It’s incredible the amount she does. I couldn’t bear the thought of Thrillerfest followed by Harrogate – it would be one or the other because of the introvert need to recharge and the damn jetlag!
Doug Stewart says
I really missed not making ITW in NYC this year (and not seeing you, of course!) but your report of what was happening brought it to life and was so useful because I have fired my publishers after the last debacle and am launching indie-style later this year.
Hopefully NYC 2018!
Joanna Penn says
Eva Lesko Natiello says
I’m soooooo disappointed that I missed meeting you at ThrillerFest, especially since (by looking at your photos) we were at many of the same panel discussions!
I also spoke on the panel: Indie, Traditional or Hybrid? Leaping from One to Another. I was joined by two other authors (JD Barker & Eric Rickstad) agents & a KDP exec. (I self-published a psychological thriller that became a NY TIMES and USA Today bestseller, and sold the audio rights and foreign rights, but still hold the rights to the book & I’ve had the great fortune of getting my book self-pubbed book into the Barnes & Noble stores across the US.) Did you sit in on this panel? It was very eye-opening to hear the authors’ journeys, but also how agenting is changing to meet the needs of the indie & hybrid author. This panel generated so much interest that we are considering turning it into a workshop. I was told that next year’s ThrillerFest will have more indie panel discussions.
Like you, I tried to get down as many wonderful tidbits from the authors as I could, and I posted them to my Facebook page and was surprised how many people loved hearing them. One of my favorites was from author Lisa Jackson who was asked: What is the hardest thing about being an author? Her answer: “The writing.”
Hope to see you next year!
Joanna Penn says
Sorry I missed you – my supernatural thriller panel was on at the same time as that one. Good to hear there will be more indie stuff next year 🙂
Veronica Cervilla says
It’s so refreshing to hear that we all have the same fears and doubts. I’ve been following your work for a while now and to me you are one of those talented writers up there in the top list for many reasons so it’s good to know the conflicting emotions of success are part of this job for all of us. I recently started a section on my website called “Therapy for authors” because of what you mentioned at the beginning of your post.
Thrillerfest looked like a fun event! I hadn’t heard of it before. Thanks for the insightful post!
Joanna Penn says
All authors need therapy – although maybe that’s what we have through our writing 🙂 Glad you found it useful.
Regina Clarke says
What a fantastic, incredibly honest post–just grand! I am inspired by all of it and I do not write thrillers. You present the dilemmas we feel (underline “feel”) as writers and you face and express them with such clarity. The notes regarding the convention itself are so helpful–and I love the Van Gogh analogy. This post is a keeper.
Thank you, indeed, Joanna.
Joanna Penn says
Glad you liked it – and Starry Night is just fantastic. Well worth visiting and seeing the original.
Anne DeMarsay says
I’m not a thriller writer (more an aspiring writer of traditional mysteries), but your experiences atThrillerfest resonated with me, too. I’m sorry you didn’t win the award for best original ebook, but the nomination was indeed an honor. Considering you were up against James Scott Bell . . . for a mystery writer, that’s like being on the Malice Domestic ballot the year a new Louise Penney mystery is published. As you recognized, there’s so much we can’t control in the world of traditional publishing, awards, lists . . .
Fascinating comparison of Amazon and B&N brick-and-mortar stores, as we don’t yet have an Amazon store in this area (Washington, DC). Thanks for your roundup of wisdom and humor from New York.
Joanna Penn says
Glad you liked the bookstore comments – I found the comparison between the two fascinating, and so disappointing that the 5th Ave B&N store was so bad.
Cindy Sample says
I always appreciate your insight, Joanna, but this was a particularly helpful and insightful post. I write cozies so I haven’t attended Thrillerfest yet, but I understand the sessions are well worth the time and expense. I remember Lee Child and other NYT bestselling authors speaking on panels at Left Coast Crime and Bouchercon, sharing that they suffer the same feelings of inadequacy we newer authors experience. What I really appreciate is the sense of community among writers. You can’t beat the support and willingness to share. Thank you for everything you’ve done for our community as well.
Joanna Penn says
Thanks Cindy, and I’m glad you found it useful 🙂
Elise Atkinson says
Another fantastic podcast – although I read the transcript this time. I do love how open and honest you are from tips and advice to your actual feelings at the fest. You inspire me to continue with my WIP no matter what that voice says in my head. Honestly, I am so thankful I stumbled upon your nonfiction first – thanks a million for all the great info you put out.
James Scott Bell says
Joanna, my word for you is AMAZING. You are so respected in the Indie community, and the fact that you we’re also one of only five finalists for the ITW award just speaks to your incredible talent and creativity. It was an honor to share a table with you and Jonathan at the banquet. Your trajectory is, simply, UP!
Joanna Penn says
Thanks for your encouragement, Jim and congratulations again on winning the award 🙂
Laura Russell says
Beautiful post! I wondered under discovery what the difference might be between ‘author’ marketing and ‘digital’ marketing?
Your comment on Van Gogh reminded me of going to the museum of modern art with my mother when I was very young. I remember lying on the floor at the MOMA looking up at my favorite painting, ‘Starry Night.’ This is ancient history, of course, from the days before it was mobbed. In those years the star of the second floor was Picasso’s Guernica, before it was returned to Spain.
Thanks for this great report.
marty knox says
I listened to your podcast on the plane from Springfield MO to Albany NY to attend my son’s wedding. My daughter, daughter-in-law and I did a girl’s day out in Bennington Vermont. As soon as I saw the obscure graveyard in this tiny town I thought of you. For us the Revolutionary War is old. The graves were decorated with flags. As I looked thru the names, I passed a monument to the fallen men at the Battle of Bennington. I could not help but think of those Englishmen who had died and were buried with respect and remembered on foreign soil so many hundreds of years later. The graveyard overlooks the white mountains of Vermont on a hill. Beautifully kept. Robert Frost, the American Poet, is also buried here. Also, there is a museum dedicated to the battle and Grandma Moses, an American Folk artist. I don’t see where to upload a picture but here is the website.
Joanna Penn says
Thanks so much 🙂