Podcast: Download (Duration: 39:14 — 32.2MB)
Subscribe: Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn | RSS | More
Every year, I set creative, financial and health goals and share them on the blog and the podcast. It helps keep me accountable and focused, although, inevitably things change over the year. 2019 is no different!
You can read my 2019 goals here and whether I achieved them — and why I changed direction — below.
(1) Be a better publisher. Make more of what I already have.
It was my priority this year to go wide with audio and create more editions of my existing work, as well as writing and publishing new books. Once you create intellectual property assets, you have to manage them and that means maintaining the editions as well as marketing in order to sell more for the long-term.
I have definitely achieved this goal with new editions of older books, and also making sure that my new books are released in multiple editions simultaneously.
- Launched Valley of Dry Bones audiobook wide through ACX and Findaway
- Re-edited and recorded A Thousand Fiendish Angels, published wide in audiobook, updated ebook, plus added 5 x 8 paperback, Large Print, and hardback editions
- Moved as many audiobooks as possible wide to Findaway Voices: How To Market A Book, How To Make A Living With Your Writing, The Healthy Writer, and How to Write Non-Fiction. [If you signed an exclusive deal with ACX but you own the rights, you can move to a non-exclusive contract after 1 year. Just email them and ask.]
- Recorded The Dark Queen as an audiobook and published it wide on ACX and Findaway
- Edited and produced a new edition of Successful Self-Publishing – re-released in ebook and print and self-narrated the audiobook and published it wide
- Published Map of Plagues, Mapwalker 2 in ebook, paperback, large print, and hardback editions. [I'm waiting for the full trilogy before getting audiobooks done.]
- Updated and published a new edition of Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives and Other Introverts. Re-issued in all formats and narrated the audiobook.
- Published Productivity for Authors in ebook, paperback, large print, hardback, workbook — and narrated the audiobook.
- Licensed several non-fiction books in French and a new one published, Le Mindset de l'Auteur Qui Réussit
- Produced 3 non-fiction books for authors in German
This care of the backlist tends to get forgotten by many indie authors who see speed of publishing as the main goal, but of course, once the book is out there, it is only an asset if it brings in income for the long-term. Otherwise, it is just cashflow — money for time — as it is for those traditionally published authors who sign contracts for the life of copyright. You have to look after the book. Maybe that means updating the content, or at least the back-matter, or it might mean doing new covers for a series, or revamping the blurbs, or doing a promotional campaign on an older book to bring it back to life.
Do you have an Asset Master List? Basically, just a list of your books down one side and then the formats they are available in, as well as countries, and/or languages, and/or platforms? I use mine to calculate how many products I have in the world and identify the gaps for what else I can produce. For example, I still need to finish doing audiobooks of the backlist, as well as large print and hardback editions of specific books. Right now, I have 160 separate streams of income from my 32 books (and that only counts ebooks as one stream, rather than each individual platform).
Even if you only have one book, you can start an Asset Master List as you can start to identify what you can do to increase income from your one product. If you have more books, what are you waiting for?!
Also, I have to share my updated Kobo Writing Life map as I have now sold books in 136 countries! (over the last 8 years)
(2) Write more books as J.F.Penn
I intended to write 3 novels this year, but only managed Map of Plagues. I have started Map of the Impossible (16K words) and have also started the research on ARKANE #11 which will be based around the Portuguese Empire. I'm the kind of fiction writer who loves the research process, so I am never going to finish novels at a fast pace, and that's OK, because this pace is sustainable for me and I have a very happy creative life! (Plus, look at everything else I did!)
I did re-edit and narrate The Dark Queen and A Thousand Fiendish Angels, so those are now available as audiobooks.
Plus, I launched Books and Travel as (4) below and that is under my Jo Frances (JF) Penn brand.
All this audio focus will underpin my fiction as the years progress. I have built an effective eco-system for multiple streams of income around my non-fiction as Joanna Penn, so my plan is now to do that for J.F.Penn, too, but I know it takes at least 3-5 years of work to see any significant impact on sustainable sales. Luckily, I am patient!
I love my varied creative life, and fiction plays a part in it — but only a part. I have tried a number of times to force myself into the ‘full-time fiction writer' box, but it never works. It's just not me. I will never be the type of author who only writes one kind of book, so, I will now embrace my portfolio life and continue writing novels, but alongside everything else, I love to create!
(3) Continue serving the author community through The Creative Penn
The Creative Penn Podcast hit its 10 year anniversary in March 2019 and I shared the journey in a solo episode: 3.2 Million Downloads in 215 Countries. [It's now up to over 3.9 million downloads across 222 countries]. I've also done some other significant solo episodes this year that hopefully, you have found useful:
- Exclusive vs Wide Publishing for Ebook, Print and Audio
- 9 Ways that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will Disrupt Authors and the Publishing Industry in the Next 10 Years
- Podcasting goes Mainstream. How Can Authors Benefit? Lessons Learned from Podcast Movement 2019
- Tips for Self-Publishing in Translation: Adventures with AI and German
These solo shows take a lot of time — and also money in terms of the travel and learning that go into the prep work — so a huge thank you to my Patrons. If you'd like to support the show with just a couple of dollars a month, go to Patreon.com/thecreativepenn
I produced updated editions of Successful Self-Publishing and Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives and Other Introverts and recorded them in audio. Plus I did a mini-course on Productivity for Authors and then turned that material into a book, Productivity for Authors: Find Time to Write, Organize your Author Life and Decide What Really Matters.
I have almost finished the edits on Audio for Authors: Audiobooks, Podcasting and Voice Technologies, so that will be out 6 March 2020, available now for pre-order.
I've also been learning a lot and sharing my lessons with you along the way. I attended the WIRED conference on AI (London), London Book Fair, Podcast Movement (Orlando), Frankfurt Book Fair (Germany), and the Business Masterclass (Las Vegas). It has been a brilliant year of learning for me, made possible by the fact that I have not done any professional speaking. I needed a reboot and I certainly got that in 2019, and I hope that you have found my lessons useful along the way.
Continuous learning is critical for creatives and entrepreneurs. We need to keep filling the creative well, but also learn new skills and ideas and meet people outside our immediate niche. We cannot stay in the safety of the indie author echo chamber or we will find ourselves blindsided by changes to come.
Freedom remains my #1 value, but curiosity is a close second, and I will keep sharing what I learn as we go forward together on the author journey.
(4) Content marketing for fiction — Books and Travel
One of my biggest achievements this year was the successful launch of www.BooksAndTravel.page.
I've been posting travel articles and bi-monthly podcasts since March and have started writing my travel memoir in real-time with solo episodes, as well as interviewing lots of fascinating authors about wonderful places. It is evolving to be far more ‘memoir-y' than travel tips, focusing on the emotional resonance of places, the truth beneath the hype and the personal experience of people from different places.
I come off the phone after the interviews fired up about seeing more of the world, so the show is nurturing my creative soul. For now, that is enough, and I won't be thinking about monetization for at least another six months because I don't know what it will turn into or who the true audience is. Sometimes, a creative project is just a creative project!
Here are some of my solo shows in case you want to try them — there are also transcripts and pictures from my life.
- Lake Malawi, Jerusalem and Blue Water Sailing to Vanuatu. The 3 Trips That Changed My Life with J.F.Penn
- Escape, Reinvention, Curiosity, Challenge. Why Travel? with J.F.Penn
- Scuba Diving: The Wonder of Traveling Beneath the Waves with J.F.Penn
- Decadence, Discipline and Dreaming Spires. Oxford with J.F.Penn
- Outback Nights and City Days in the Lucky Country. Australia with J.F.Penn
I love the show — it feeds my creative soul. I don't know if I will continue doing The Creative Penn Podcast for another decade, but my evergreen love of books and travel will certainly abide!
You can subscribe to the Books and Travel podcast with the links below or just search for Books and Travel on your favorite podcast app:
(5) Focus on freedom. Outsourcing, batching and systems
I've been able to do a lot more this year because I'm not doing so much admin work and I've got a lot better at saying no (as explained in my Productivity book!). There are still days when all I do is prep work, marketing, accounting, etc but that's just part of running a business.
My team is pretty sorted these days which means most things run smoothly. Alexandra manages the blog and transcripts for both podcasts and will also be taking over my main inbox in January; Dan does podcast and audiobook edits and production; Jane does my book covers and graphic design and I have a couple of other people who help me with technical things, some freelance writing, and social media stuff.
I moved from Quickbooks to Xero for my accounting software and that has been fantastic — the integration with multiple currency PayPal accounts is brilliant and saves me so much time with reconciliations. We all have to update our systems over time as new and better options become available. I've also been looking at my various monthly recurring payments for software as a service and getting rid of things I don't really need.
A profitable business has to focus on making more revenue, but also reducing expenses where necessary and so I have made some choices to cut expenses where I think the return on investment is not worth it.
(6) The Healthy Writer and the traveling writer
It's been an interesting year for my health, a pivotal one in many ways.
I seriously fell off the wagon in the first half of 2019 — we bought a house in late January and it took until May to settle and move in, so with that stress and all the moving things, my eating patterns went out the window. We've had some family health issues which have added stress and then had a (rather alcoholic) family holiday in Spain, then I had laser eye surgery, and recovery from both of those sent me further off-course.
Orlando in August was my low point. The conference hotel had barely anything I would call ‘real' food and so I lived mainly on bagels. I've had recurrent shoulder pain for a while but it seriously flared up, inflamed more than ever by the high sugar intake. My weight was too high, and I had more joint pain than I've had in a while. I had moved into chronic pain and it impacted my mood and mental health, my sleep, my marriage and my creativity. Not good.
But low points are important because they make us take action!
I saw a nutritionist on my return and started on a low inflammation way of eating — basically no (or very low) sugar and low GI. I started feeling better within days and my joints started to improve. I had a steroid shot in my shoulder to reduce the pain and inflammation and started working with a personal trainer twice a week for shoulder rehab and also building strength in my back to correct my posture.
After four months, my health has seriously turned around. I love my bi-weekly training sessions and this way of eating suits me so well. I don't find it an issue at all, and I'm down a dress size, my body fat is down by 5%, I can deadlift 50kgs and lift an Olympic bar (20kgs) overhead (both for 3 sets of 5-8 reps each) — whereas I couldn't even stretch my arm up vertically before and couldn't even lift 1kg weight. I'm 45 in March 2020 and I'm now confident I will be meeting mid-life fitter, stronger and pain-free! I have booked to do the 100km Race to the Stones again in early July 2020 (here's my report from when I did it in 2016). Those of you who were around back then will know I said I'd never do a double-ultra again (!) but I really want something to measure against and I am confident I know how to look after myself better this time.
In terms of travel, I've done a lot for my writing life. Fiction book research trips to Amsterdam (April) and Lisbon (September) for ARKANE #11, plus Orlando for Podcast Movement, and then Las Vegas for the Business Masterclass. I started the year in Australia with family, and have also been to Spain. You can always follow my pics here on Instagram @jfpennauthor
We did have a big cycle trip planned in Asia, but because of family health things, my husband Jonathan has been back and forth to New Zealand four times, and we couldn't commit to an extended period away. That is on hold until things settle down. 2020 may well be a year of family-related travel.
I don't have to return to a day job! Hooray! That is my main driver for this creative business.
The business income remained steady but my expenses increased, resulting in less profit. This was around virtual assistant help and also hosting costs, as well as my (extensive) international travel. I have plans to address all of those things, so 2020 should be more profitable.
It's important to increase income, but it's also critical to reduce expenses. After all, it's not about how much you make, it's about how much you keep.
I have saved and invested, my net worth has increased, we bought a house and I have read a lot of books and listened to a lot of podcasts around the Financial Independence Retire Early movement (FIRE). I'll be having Brad from the Choose FI Podcast on the show in early January to share some of the principles — and I also recommend Playing with Fire, a documentary on financial independence and rethinking our choices to make life easier and more sustainable. If you want to learn more about money in 2020, check out my list of recommended money books here.
In conclusion …
It's been an excellent year in terms of stretching myself, learning new things and expanding my ability to create in different ways. My year of ‘no speaking' has been effective because it freed up my time to travel for learning and book research, which I've loved. I'm speaking a couple of times in 2020, but I'm determined to make it only a small part of my life going forward. It's not my Zone of Genius (as per Gay Hendricks book, The Big Leap), and I can serve the author community more effectively through the podcast anyway.
I've finished 2019 with more books, more audiobooks and podcast episodes — all of which are intellectual property assets that bring me income for the long-term. My net worth has increased as well as my physical health. I have ended the year pain-free which is probably the greatest gift! I've also learned new skills around voice and experimented with AI tools that take me into the 2020s with confidence that my business can surf the changes ahead. I'll be back on 1 Jan with my goals for 2020.
OK, over to you! Let's keep each other accountable. Please do leave a comment with how your creative year went.
Kimberley Shead says
Congratulations on all of your achievements in 2019, Joanna. I enjoy listening to your reflections/goals in the end of year/beginning of a new year podcasts. They encourage me to take some time to stop and reflect as well.
This year, I finally pressed the publish button and independently published 3 crime novels. While I was actually working on the projects, I didn’t give the achievements much thought. Thank you for making me stop and think!
Now to give some thought to next year or even the next decade!
Joanna Penn says
Congrats on your 3 new books, Kimberley — definitely stop and celebrate those! Onwards to 2020!
Steve Goldberg says
Joanna, I love your upbeat, optimistic nature! I’ve just started listening to your podcasts, reviewing your websites, and reading your material (just ordered one of your books as well). Thank you for what you do for the writing community. Wishing you much continued success!
Aleshia Robinson says
Your master asset list fascinates me. Would you mind sharing with us what it looks like? Or at least the headers? I am trying to figure out how to not count the same stream twice? Like how do you have both country and language without counting them twice? I love your yearly updates Joanna. I have been following you since my first published book back in June 2011 and your continued growth and success still inspires me after all this time! Onwards to 2020!
Joanna Penn says
Hi Aleshia, always lovely to hear from you 🙂
Here are my columns – Title, Language, Audio rights situation (e.g. licensed, wide or not produced), Kindle, iBooks, Kobo, D2D, PublishDrive, Foreign rights situation, KDP Print, Ingram Spark, Large Print, Hardback, Workbook, Audiobook, Translator/other rights info, number of products.
I don’t use country right now as I have global rights to all my books or they are licensed, but you would use country if you have licensed specific rights.
You can obviously do whatever works for you and add/change columns over time. There are no rules 🙂
Happy new year!
Myrtle Russell says
Wow, you accomplished a lot! Congratulations!
I did reach my writing goals for 2019. I self published 2 books, The Stroke That Touched My Heart and its accompanying Gratitude Journal (Bookbaby.com, Amazon.com) and moving into 2020 conducting Gratitude Journaling workshops. Excited! Your books have been of tremendous help. Write on!
Holy cow! You are busy. I have creative goals, but they are nowhere near as extensive as yours. I think I need to pick up my game. Health is an issue for me as well. I have fibromyalgia, which has no cure. However, eating better and exercising help. I’m good at eating right but not excercising. As such, I have added exercise to my creative goal list.
Joanna Penn says
I think movement is the key to so many things, including our creativity, so all the best for that in 2020!
Bonnie Lacy says
I learn so much from you!
2019: Published a third book in my first trilogy – Restored.
Published a short book and workbook (I listened!)
Presented a workshop at two conferences (I learned so much!)
A son entered AA and I entered Al-Anon for help with a narcissistic spouse
Worked out (my style-walking, stretching, rowing machine)
NaNo – 35,000
2020: LLC, another trilogy, a followup to nonfiction Rage Rising called Hope Rising, narrate my nonfiction (I take notes on your audio tips and have pre-ordered your book), trying Whole30 way of eating. I think I need to blog this, also!
Blessed! And Congrats!
Joanna Penn says
Sounds like a big year for you and the family, Bonnie!
S. J. Pajonas says
Another great listen! It’s always nice to see what others have accomplished in a year and how that shapes the next year’s goals. I published this to my blog this morning.
This was a tough year for me because I broke my leg in March and pretty much all my goals went straight down the toilet in favor of walking again. But I did accomplish most of my writing goals!
I’ll be setting goals for 2020 on my blog tomorrow, but I got my inspiration from you (from this very podcast!) for my theme for the year. I’m looking forward to being creative in 2020. Thank you, Joanna!
Joanna Penn says
Sorry you had a tough year! Great pics on your post – your sourdough loaves look amazing and your pottery is beautiful.
On the author business thing, 99% of writers don’t do this fulltime, and you know I preach multiple streams of income. Even with 33 books, I would not call it a full-time income from writing. I have the podcast and the website and courses and affiliate stuff etc, so no worries about writing being a hobby. Take the pressure off and create and see what happens!
I love that you stopped doing video because you didn’t enjoy it. I did the same thing, moving to audio-only on YouTube in Q2.
Wishing you great recovery and success in 2020!
Jane Steen says
Congratulations on another busy and productive year! I’m happy that you’re focusing on how to keep and invest the proceeds of your hard work, and keep expenses down. Those are topics of great interest to me.
2019’s high point for me was winning a runner-up award in the inaugural Selfies at LBF, but I struggled with writing last year. I too met my financial goal of not having to find a day job (hooray!) and after 2018, in which I earned a lot but let my expenditures get too high, I disciplined myself to look at monthly expenditure and try to keep costs down. I spent too much money in 2019 on trying to learn advertising, mostly Amazon and BookBub, but now have a much better understanding of when and why I should advertise (I plan to learn FB advertising in 2020 now that I have a more realistic picture of what advertising is for and what it does for me.) In 2020 I plan to focus on writing and book production–it took the period of reflection by giving myself a few days alone before NINC, and then attending Becca Symes’s workshop (and reading her books) at NINC to figure out why my creative life was stalling and how to fix it.
All the best for 2020, and thanks for the update.
Joanna Penn says
Sounds like you’re heading into 2020 with a good mindset, Jane. Periods of reflection are super necessary when there are so many tasks on the To Do list all the time. Glad you’re cutting out stuff for 2020 and focusing on creation.
You are amazing, Joanna! I always get a buzz reading what you’ve achieved because your enthusiasm is so infectious.
I’m planning to publish the fourth book in my genealogy mystery series in 2020 but my main goal is to pace myself. I want to enjoy being an author and not get overwhelmed by everything I “should” be doing. After health issues dominated most of 2018, and then after the sheer enjoyment of feeling well again in 2019, maintaining a sense of freedom is most important to me. I need to somehow build that into my plan!
Joanna Penn says
Glad 2019 has been a ‘well’ year. Health really is the biggest thing! All the best with pacing yourself – definitely something I find a challenge!
Congratulations on all you have achieved, Joanna. I love the way you are constantly looking ahead, making sure to ride the wave of change rather than be swamped by it.
My 2019 was nowhere near as productive as I had hoped, but I am heading into 2020 with renewed determination to focus more on what matters.
My 2019 year in review is a little late, but I published it today – https://kenpreston.co.uk/2019-in-review/
Joanna Penn says
Thanks, Ken – I love those Coffin book covers!
Thanks, Joanna. I appreciate your transparency and your giving spirit. I am amazed by what you accomplished. You continue to be an inspiration. As a professional blogger and writer, I can’t tell you how grateful to you for all that I have learned and will continue to learn in 2020. With appreciation. Sandy
Joanna Penn says
Thanks, Sandy 🙂 I’m so glad you find the site useful!
Greg Acuna says
Me too. I want my 5th book published by this summer and more audio book sales.
A travel website to boost your fiction sales? Maybe I should do the same. I’m in a different city every week from Europe to Asia to S. America. How do I begin?
Joanna Penn says
All the best for your goals. You can find my travel site here: https://www.booksandtravel.page/
Congratulations Joanna on reaching your 2019 goals. When you list all of them down you wonder how on earth you managed to achieve them, so inspiring!
I’m at the beginning of my writer journey and published a short story in September 2019 as part of a romance anthology, all proceeds go to charity. It was a great process and I feel proud to have something out there. My focus for 2020 is to get as many books written as possible. I have at least 3 series (all romance, all different romance genres!) sketched out, and I plan to release these under different pen names. I’m not sure if that’s the correct way, but not all romance genres have the same reader so I didnt want to put off readers who were expecting an historical romance, but they are getting a contemporary or fantasy. I’ve also left my day job so this will give me more time to focus on my writing (I’ll get a part time, less stressful job to cover costs). Lots going on, especially this early part of the year (not forgetting it’s my 40th in March!) but I’m very excited.
Thank you for sharing your journey and all the advice you have, it’s really motivating and inspiring! Lots of luck to you and achieving your 2020 goals.
Joanna Penn says
Sounds like you have a full year ahead! Happy 40th!
I have several pen-names, but for broad genres e.g. under J.F.Penn, I write crime, action-adventure thriller, horror and dark fantasy. I think multiple romance sub-genres under the same name are fine, unless it is sweet vs erotica which do have different audiences. It is very hard to maintain several pen-names, so definitely consider that carefully.
Jennifer A Henn says
Joanna, in August of 2018 an agent said I might be interested in following you. Her advice or should I say, reading your books, changed things for me in a grand way. I finally found my people.
In June of 2019, I self-published my first nonfiction book. I plan on a 3 book series. Thank you so much for sharing all your insight and encouragement!
In 2020 I will start hosting my own conferences for homeschoolers. Previously, I worked for a large homeschool convention booking all the speakers, vendors, and doing the website work. Now I’m working for me. 🙂 My first event is Feb 22.
Joanna Penn says
Thanks Jennifer – and encouraging that an agent sent you over 🙂 All the best for your books and your event!
Ina Disengomoka Muamba says
Je veux féliciter et dire MERCI à Joanna parce que elle est en même temps un bon professeur,une bonne école de formation,,une amie honnête et presque une soeur sincère ..Son expérience variée fait d’elle une personne humainement fiable qui exerce un don de partage dans la simplicité, et l’humilité..Cet atmosphère développe en moi un grand sentiment de confiance en ce qu’elle dit et ce qu’elle réalise.
Elle m’inspire vraiment!
C’est pourquoi,à mon âge de 77 ans,autodidacte ,je me conforme à l’esprit de son message pour organiser moi aussi mon travail d’écrivaine débutante .Continuer à fortifier mon website!
Je n’ai plus
I’m reading this on 31st January having finally got back into the writing saddle! I had planned to self-publish in 2019 (and started by own Non-Fiction Writers Group in my home town to boot) but, like you, life really got in the way. First, my husband contracted pneumonia and was seriously ill, his recovery has been slow due to prior health issues so we decided to sell our house and down-size. This took up the rest of the year!! I am now in France for 4 months waiting to move into my newly built house in the UK – so with no other distractions I have decided to:
– finish my book
– build a website to promote the book(s); and
– start podcasting
I was feeling slightly overwhelmed so started by catching up with all your emails, blog posts and podcasts when I read this one – perfect timing 🙂
I’ll let you know how I get on and thanks again.
Joanna Penn says
Life can definitely get in the way! But no worries, the cycle turns again and here you are … wishing you all the best with the catchup and new projects!