Eight years ago, Sept 2011, I left my day job to become a full-time author-entrepreneur. Every year since I have reflected on the journey and what I learn along the way.
My challenges change and grow along with the business and you will likely be at a different stage, but I hope that you find my lessons learned useful along your own author path.
You can read all my lessons learned from previous years on my timeline so far – and remember, just like everyone else, I started out by writing my first book with no audience! But with time and continued effort, everything is possible.
I have one main lesson this year but it encompasses a lot.
Write, publish, repeat is not enough for me. It's time to fully embrace the multi-passionate creative career.
You can be a happy writer and make a great living by writing fast in the same genre, publishing quickly and focusing on Amazon sales. But it's not for me.
For too long, I've thought that I should focus more, that I should stop spreading myself too thin, that I should double down on one genre and own that niche. I have reread The One Thing several times as well as other books about focus and tried to fit myself into that box.
But in the last year, I have followed my curiosity into new areas like AI + creativity as well as audiobook narration, plus traveling more for book research and for learning new things. Podcasting has become more than ‘marketing,' it has become a way to express myself and share ideas that don't fit into the ‘book' container. I have lots more ideas about how to use podcasting and audio in more creative ways and that's truly exciting.
This time last year, in 2018, I felt like things were stagnating, that I wasn't necessarily growing and changing. The repetition of write, publish, repeat can turn into a job like any other unless you change things up and keep it fresh and find new avenues to challenge you.
I've also learned more about productivity — and how it's less about the To Do list, and more about spending time on the things that you really want to achieve.
I measure my life by what I create … but what I create doesn't have to be just books anymore.
I started writing my first non-fiction book in 2006 and I'm certainly not intending to stop writing or publishing. I love being an author and I have a list of six books that I need to get done in the next year or so with more to come after that. But my creativity and my business span far more.
The Creative Penn Podcast and this blog are part of my body of work. This site is certainly an asset that brings me income every month and as I detail in How to Make a Living with your Writing, it's great to have multiple streams of income generated by the written word.
In the last year, I have really doubled down on audio. I've had voice coaching and moved into the narration of my own audiobooks: Successful Self-Publishing, The Dark Queen, A Thousand Fiendish Angels, Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives and Other Introverts Second Edition (coming 1 Oct), are all self-narrated — and I'll be doing more to come including my two Mapwalker novels.
I also went to Podcast Movement to learn about how podcasting is going to change content marketing and voice search in coming years.
I started BooksAndTravel.page as a way to build a new brand under Jo Frances Penn in a new (but related) niche, as well as write my own travel memoir out loud, plus spend time talking to people about another side of my personality that has little outlet here.
I've also been learning a lot about AI (more detail in 9 Ways that AI will Disrupt Authors and Publishing in the Next 10 Years) and using new tools within my business, like Deepl.com for translation, and Descript.com for audio editing and transcription.
All of this has resulted in a new business plan which, at heart, still revolves around writing books but also focuses on podcasting and audiobooks as well as licensing my rights in different areas.
I still get comments from people who assume that because I don't spend all my time writing, I am not making a living as a writer. Firstly, the job of a writer is not just writing — you will have to market your book regardless of how you choose to publish. Secondly, I have always said that I make a living with my writing, which is slightly different to someone who makes a living with book sales alone or by freelance writing. Every podcast I do starts with writing and ends with transcripted words, every audiobook begins with the written word, every blog post is made of words — and all those words drive my revenue through affiliate sales, book and course sales, podcast sponsorship and Patreon.
In the last year, I've felt a new love for my creative career that has been reinvigorated by my interest in podcasting and audiobooks and AI-assisted creativity. So I am embracing my identity as a multi-passionate creative. I will not focus on one thing. I will continue to write in lots of genres, create all over the place, and love the journey!
My challenge to you: What are you doing right now because you think you should be doing it?
And if you're not feeling excited about your writing life, whatever stage you're at, then what can you do to change things up so you regain that joy?
Please do leave a comment and join the conversation.