In this Facebook Live recording, I answer questions about writing, self-publishing, book marketing, author mindset, and more.
You can watch the video below or here on YouTube.
In this video, you can access the various questions with the timestamps below, or read the transcript below.
- 1:10 Do you buy your own ISBNs and how do you manage them in the stores?
- 3:35 How to go wide after being in KU
- 5:50 How to stop hiding as an author and writer
- 7:30 Are self-publishing companies worth the money?
- 8:48 How to re-launch as an author
- 11:10 On writing in different languages and using a pen name
- 12:20 Finding the right genre for your book
- 14:25 On having more than one pen name for varied audiences
- 16:15 Using IngramSpark with KDP and KU
- 17:50 On the audiobook for the second edition of a book
- 18:50 Tools for planning and positioning a novel
- 21:15 Thoughts on audiobooks for a first book
- 22:31 Publishing an audiobook first and then publishing the paperback or ebook, if successful
- 23:50 How to create a box set
- 25:20 Tools for getting keywords to use for ads
- 26:30 The advantages of using an aggregator like Draft2Digital
- 28:24 Keeping up with industry changes via the Author 2.0 Blueprint
- 29:55 Thoughts on author branding and changes as we evolve as authors
- 31:23 What to look at if your sales are poor
- 32:39 How Joanna started her fiction career and advice she wished she'd followed
- 35:00 Equipment for recording and editing audiobooks
- 36:08 How much effort should you put into marketing a first book?
- 37:20 Thoughts on Facebook ads for books
- 41:30 Recommended books and podcasts on entrepreneurship
- 43:21 How to find an audience beyond friends and family
- 45:00 What ads provide the best return on investment?
- 46:55 Should you use a studio to record an audiobook? including an example home studio
- 48:15 Is there a market for audiobook producers?
- 49:17 Can you unpublish the first edition when you publish a second?
- 49:55 On having two different author brands
- 51:11 Why wait before recording your first book's audiobook?
- 52:22 On StoryOrigin and its uses
- 52:57 Should you write a whole series or write a few first-in-series to see which one resonates?
- 54:05 Tips for getting writing done during a pandemic (or other anxious time)
- 55:53 On starting a podcast
- 57:03 How to overcome being a perfectionist
- 57:52 Should you go wide with your first book?
I'll be doing more of these live Q&A sessions, so join me on Facebook.com/thecreativepenn so you get notification of the next one. You can also sign up for my email list and I'll notify you of the next one, plus you get my free Author Blueprint.
Transcript of the QA Facebook Live
Hello, Creatives. I'm Joanna Penn from TheCreativePenn.com. I am here on Facebook doing a live on a Friday night here in the UK, and I actually have my gin and tonic as promised, Hendricks and elderflower tonic. So, I hope you're joining me with a drink wherever you are in the world. Maybe it's coffee if it's a bit earlier in the day.
Very excited to be here, again, doing a Q&A. I'm in this software that brings in all the questions so I can see your comments that you post and the questions, and I'm going to answer them. If they're short enough, I'm going to bring them on screen.
So, if you want a really long one, it won't be able to go on screen, but essentially, hopefully, you will be able to ask questions this evening. Please post them as we go and I will hopefully get to them all. So, we are going to start. I'm going to go right to the top.
Nuria asks, ‘Perhaps this is a silly question, but do you buy your own ISBNs and how do you manage to sell in stores? Thank you.'
So, basically, yes, I do now, but I didn't for about the first eight years of being an independent author. You certainly don't need to buy your own ISBNs in order to sell as an indie, as a self-published author.
In fact, even now IngramSpark, which used to require you to have your own ISBNs, now you can get free ISBNs through IngramSpark. But in terms of me, yes, I do buy my own ISBNs and then I use ingramspark.com to get my books into the wide distribution network.
But in terms of getting your books into bookstores, when you distribute wide with print with IngramSpark, that doesn't mean that your book is going to be in a bookstore, it does mean you will be in the catalog. So, they can order your book into the bookstore, they can also order it into libraries and universities. And so that is the way to do it.
And how we generally do it, those of us who've been doing this awhile is you publish your print book twice basically. You do it on Amazon, so KDP Print. And that means the print books that sell directly on Amazon it's better to do it that way but you do not check the extended distribution button.
[More on Using KDP Print and Ingram Spark together on the ALLi blog.]
Then you also publish on IngramSpark with the same ISBN and that will, yes, it will give you another copy on Ingram, but it will also get you into all those catalogs. So, the answer is basically ingramspark.com. Okay. Fantastic.
Let's get onto the next one. I'm just going to scroll to the bottom there. Yes. John says, ‘local gin.' Duca Jeannie from Kosovo. Fantastic. And in fact, I just interviewed a wonderful author about Kosovo that will be coming up on my Books and Travel podcast in probably next month.
Sherry asks, ‘I'm taking my first series-wide. I've been in KU for a year. Wondering if you had any advice, going to Kobo, OverDrive for libraries and Draft2Digital.'
First of all, if you've been in KU a year and you've got a series, that is a great time to go wide. As I always say, if you just have one book and you're just starting out, it is really hard, but if you have a series, fantastic.
Another question I would say is, do you have box sets? Because I find that actually box sets do really well, particularly Kobo and Apple. I've done well with doing promotions on box sets on both those. In fact, Kobo my income really skews towards box sets. So, that is something.
In terms of ideas, there are store-specific promotions. Draft2Digital advertise these or Kobo has a specific promo tab. If you don't have access to that, then just email the team and you will be able to get access to that. And that's basically what I do every three weeks. I go into Kobo and apply for all these different promotions.
And then, in terms of advertising for wide books, then you've got, obviously, BookBub is still the big one, but you don't have to get a deal, you can also do the small pay-per-click BookBub ads, which can be great. I've just been running ads to Apple and Kobo without even running them for Amazon. Facebook ads, obviously.
And then Dave Chesson from Kindlepreneur has a fantastic page with lots of links for free and bargain books. And most of those, many of those promote wide books, not just KU. So, there's a massive ecosystem for wide promotion now.
Also, I want to point you to a Facebook group called Wide for the Win. I've just joined that and I'm excited to see what's going on there. And that's also got representatives from different companies in. So, that might be useful, Sherry.
Amanda says, ‘It's time for me to stop hiding. Been writing since 2002 I guess. Time to search for editing help. I'm ready.'
I really love this question. I do. It's not so much of a question, but a comment from Amanda here. I really love that she has said it's time for me to stop hiding. I think so many of us feel this way. I certainly do. And in fact, my friend and wonderful author, Michaelbrent Collings put a comment here earlier. I've been talking to him about my own fiction about how I feel like I've been hiding for a decade as Jo Frances Penn.
I've been holding back with my fiction promotion because of so many fear issues, and imposter syndrome, and all the best. I need to reread my own book on mindset for authors, but I also feel like this is a really good thing, Amanda.
So, in terms of editing, on my site, thecreativepenn.com/editors is a good place. There's a whole list there of editors that you can use.
John says, ‘Which is better? Archway or Matador or self-publishing? Also, The Literary Consultancy, is it worth the money?'
This is a question about whether various self-publishing companies or consulting companies are worth the money. I can't personally tell you about these companies because I have not used them. But what I would recommend for anyone who has questions like this, go to the selfpublishingadvice.org, which is the Alliance of Independent Authors blog. You don't have to pay, the blog is completely free.
Obviously, being a member has other benefits, but you can go there and look up these companies. So, you can look up Matador, which I believe is a partner member of the Alliance. I'm not going to comment on Archway, you can look them up.
The Literary Consultancy, I've certainly known people there and they seem very good, but I have never used them. So, I can't endorse them. You just need to go check that on ALLi.
Kathy says, ‘I won't be joining you for gin and tonic because it's two in the afternoon here.' Well, it is Friday, Kathy!
Kathleen says, ‘When you are relaunching yourself as an author, is it wise to begin with a new series?'
This is a really good question and it's going to depend what you mean by relaunching. Some people, so Bryan Cohen, for example, is a good example. He had a series of superhero books and he renamed them, re-covered them. I believe he put them out under the same name, but basically, relaunched with the same books. [Interview here with Bryan about the relaunch.]
I've also done the same. In fact, I'm about to do it again with my trilogy, Desecration, Delirium, and Deviance. I'm in the process of getting new covers and I'm going to relaunch that series into a new sub-genre, do some advertising around it, see if it sticks better in psychological thriller.
And this is something I've been really thinking about for a while because it just hasn't found its place, and that is called cross-genre writing a lot of the time. So, I'm not relaunching myself as an author, I'm relaunching the series.
You've said, ‘Is it better to begin with a new series?' I think that is more likely if you are going to, say you write children's books and you want to move into a historical, for example, then yeah, you need to write a new series. And if you want to change your author name, you can do that and keep your reviews, you might need to talk to the various services.
What I would say, Kathleen, there's a lot of more detailed questions that I would need to know about relaunching in terms of answering that one.
Okay. Next. Following it down. This is fun. I always slightly dread live things because I worry so much and I get sort of anxiety, social anxiety, even though…I know there are people here and I get this kind of fear, but once I'm here, I'm relaxed, the gin probably helps!
Nuria says ‘I've been following your work for 10 years.' Fantastic. Thank you, Nuria. ‘I'm a Catalan writer known for Catala poetry.' And yeah. The market for Catalan would be very small if people don't know it's not Spanish. It is a different language, but, Nuria says, ‘I could also write in Spanish.'
I do think that writing in Spanish now and being an indie in Spanish is probably a really good thing because it's very underserved. It's an underserved market, not just in Spain. I know the Spanish in Spain and Spanish in the U.S. and Spanish in Latin America is different, but I think there would be a way to do translation for that. But certainly, the U.S. market is underserved in Spanish and I believe so is the Spanish in Spain. If you get what I mean.
‘Should I change my pen name?'
I don't think so. I can't see why. ‘Should I get another agent?' Look, I can't advise you about publishing in Spanish because I have had a book out in Spanish years ago and haven't since, but I think it is a really underserved market. So, give it a go, Nuria.
Elizabeth says, ‘I'm writing my spiritual testimony starting at 15. I'm writing in third-person and am I doing this right? What category would this be?'
Elizabeth has given some examples of her writing, but what I've said here is, I don't know, I don't write spiritual testimony. There is obviously a religious and inspirational category on the bookstores. What I would say is, this is a recommendation for everyone and why I'm repositioning these books is to find books that are like yours and see where they are.
[You can now use Publisher Rocket to find what categories other books are in, which is super useful.]
I would say a spiritual testimony might be a religious memoir, for example. And I would say it's written in first-person, possibly in third-person, but certainly, if it is a testimony, I believe that's true as opposed to a novel, for example, which is you could write a Christian novel, but then it would be fictionalized, for example.
The best way to do this is to find books like yours, find other spiritual testimony books and see how they do it.
Also, Elizabeth says, ‘How can I keep my tenses straight?' I know this can be hard and that's why I recommend a tool like ProWritingAid, which I have a tutorial on ProWritingAid. And it's just fantastic software.
I just went through Map of The Impossible with that before sending it to my proofreader. So, that's very helpful.
Okay. Going down. Oh, there's a few. There's lots of comments. Okay. Mark. Oh, right, sorry. John is not John, John is Alexandra posting from her husband's account. Oh, John is not having the gin, Alexandra is. That's fantastic. Okay.
Let's look at Mark's question. ‘I love your sharing of valuable practical information, both free and paid. Thank you.' Thank you.
‘My question is how best to attract people of varied interests, capture the varied interest in my email list? I have a novel and two non-fiction books coming out. Is it key to have a checklist of interest on every landing page?'
Okay, Mark. This is something I went through in the early days and decided to have two brands mainly because the audience is so varied and you have used the word varied here. So, it will depend how varied.
For example, with ‘Books and Travel,' my other podcast, I am intending to write non-fiction under Jo Frances Penn under J. F. Penn. So, travel memoir, potentially actual non-fiction travel books, maybe some other… I have lots of ideas for non-fiction under J. F. Penn that would fit with my fiction audience.
I would say you are really going to have to decide what works with the people you want to talk to the most. Say for example with the non-fiction books, do you have a business around the non-fiction? Do you have other forms of income like I have the tutorial I just mentioned on ProWritingAid. I'm an affiliate, so it's well worth me promoting that tutorial and I use the tool myself. It's all very ethical and wonderful and they're a great company.
So, that would be my question for you. How are you intending to make income with these books? Often if you have one novel and two non-fiction, it sounds like you're more on the non-fiction side, at least for now. I would say a good idea is to have a website under your name. That is a good start. And then you could just have different tabs and you could have two different list sign up pages, one for fiction, one for non-fiction. That might be the way to go.
Byron says, ‘To follow Nuria's question.' Oh, look, we're having a conversation.
‘About IngramSpark, I understand IngramSpark will automatically load up a page on Amazon. Since it's my first book and I'm going to do KDP for 90 days, do you know where the one overrides the other?'
You've said KDP for 90 days, but it's KU, Kindle Unlimited. And I do not do eBooks on IngramSpark. For eBooks, I directly upload my eBook to Amazon and I do not do KU, but it sounds like you want to do KU, which is you are exclusive to Amazon for 90 days.
Now, anyone can use KDP, you just don't have to be exclusive, which is how I do it, for example. I would say don't use IngramSpark for eBooks, you use IngramSpark for print. And if we're now talking about print, there is no exclusivity on print. So, you can do both, not a problem.
And then what happens with the IngramSpark version of the print book is that there are just two editions on Amazon. And if you use the same ISBN or even if you have a different one, they're just there. So, if you go to my book Stone of Fire, for example, on Amazon, drop down on the print on the paperback, you'll see different versions of the paperback. Not a big deal. I don't know about the eBooks because I don't use that on Ingram.
Dave says, ‘You mentioned recently that a non-fiction second edition would be better as an audiobook. Did you mean instead of as well as in book form and why would that be?'
I think maybe this was in my Patreon Q&A, someone had said they were doing an audiobook on the first edition when they had a second edition coming out and they hadn't finished the audiobook yet. All I meant was, if you bring out a second edition of any book, people are more likely to buy the second edition.
And what happens with the audiobook is, that's not linked to the second edition, it will be linked to the first edition and you're not going to be able to move that to the second edition. So, all I meant by that was, if you're bringing out a second edition, you'll need to do an audiobook for that if you want to sell, and most people will buy the latest edition of a book.
Byron says, ‘Hello, thank you for taking the time.' Thank you for coming. I really appreciate it.
Janell says, ‘How are you finding taking a more forward planned approach to your novels? I find plotting tough, so I like to plan.'
What I'm doing and I have been, in fact, I've got here and I don't know if I mentioned this last time. I've got Outlining Your Novel by K. M. Weiland. I've also got Take Off Your Pants! by the lovely Libbie Hawker on my desk because I'm really trying, sharing my books with you.
I've also got another one in my massive box down here that I'm really enjoying, here it is… Elizabeth George, From Idea to Novel: Mastering the Process. I listen to this on audio and I bought it in hardback because it's so good.
Basically, I'm pretty happy with my plotting. What I wanted to do was better positioning. And hence the issues that I have with these books is that I never really spent time positioning them before publishing. So, what I'm doing is I've been going through these books and this is for my next ARKANE thriller, Tree of Life.
I have the title, I have some of the locations, I know the vague theme, but for the first time, I've written a blurb. And as I've written the back matter for that book, and I've got a cover designed and I might even do a preorder. I'm a little scared of putting up a preorder because normally I only put up a preorder when I finish the first draft, but I want to commit to getting it out on a certain day. We will see.
So, the answer, Janell, is I'm finding it a challenge, but also really interesting. And I hope that it will mean that my process is cleaner towards the end in terms of my timings, I often get to this point where my timings fall apart.
I want to try and do that forward planning in terms of the blurb. And I have already slightly changed what I thought the novel would be based on the blurb because I was able to write a stronger blurb. And if you haven't listened to the interview with J. D. Barker yet, then listen to that because he talks about it in there.
Margaret says, ‘Should a writer consider doing audiobooks with the first book in a series or wait until they are a couple of books into the series?'
Oh, good question, Margaret. It's going to depend on your budget, it's going to depend on your plan for audiobook.
With the Mapwalker series, Map of Shadows being the first one, I haven't done the audiobook and only two days ago I went on to Findaway Voices and uploaded that manuscript.
I'm going to now do the trilogy in audio and I'm glad I waited because I did have to do some slight edits on Map of Shadows for some different terminology I used and I wanted to change that. That's difficult to change once the book is in audio.
I guess it depends on how confident you are, how much of a budget you have, is it your first book full stop? In which case don't do an audiobook, definitely wait. There's no harm in waiting, especially because, of course, if you have more books in a series, it's much easier to promote. So, you're going to get your money back faster. I hope that helps.
Another audio question. Paul says, ‘Is there any wisdom in publishing a book in audio-first, then later, if successful, going backwards to eBook or print?'
Interesting question, and I do have an example of this, the book Storyteller, which is all about audiobook narration, which is fantastic if you want to do audiobook narration, it was audio-first product. And in fact, it was because I said I wanted a transcript that they even did a paperback, which is basically the transcript.
[Here's my interview with Lorelei King about how to narrate your own audiobooks.]
I would say if you have an audience in audio, so this was Lorelei King, who's a very famous narrator and has an audience in audio. But if you publish your book in audio-first, it's still slightly more difficult to do promotions for audio.
I guess I'm just saying, why would you do this? Unless you have an audio-first audience, in which case go for it. What I would say is you would have to go through Findaway Voices, ACX you require ASIN, A-S-I-N, which you means you have to have the book available in ebook or print first. So, hopefully, that helps, but I do think this audio-first idea is going to become more popular.
Margaret says, ‘What are box set secrets? How to create one, do cover designers know how to make a box? Is there a template?'
It's not a box set. I think that half the issue with indie, with the indie space, even the word indie itself, the language we use is often a hangover from the past, from traditional publishing. So, when we say eBook box set, we don't mean a box at all, it's just a 3D cover.
Yes. Cover designers know how to do them. And in terms of a template, you can always just buy one and have a look. But for example, my eBook box sets are three books in one file. So, they download one book and it's got three books in it. It's a bit like buying The Lord of the Rings trilogy and you get those three books in it. There are no boxes.
Julie says, ‘I'm venturing into Amazon ads for my first novel. Do you use tools like Publisher Rocket and data scraping or do you get them by manual research?'
A bit of both really, Julie. To be honest, I think Publisher Rocket is brilliant. Dave Chesson, as I mentioned before, and I do have an affiliate link if you'd like to get Publisher Rocket. My link is thecreativepenn.com/rocket. And I do use it for my ads.
I've been doing them also myself recently. So, yes, absolutely. I also do some manual stuff. If I find authors that I think I should be looking at targeting them, I will obviously enter those in, but I definitely use Publisher Rocket. That is my number one Amazon ads tool to be honest. And all the best with those.
Okay. Beau says, ‘Love your books.' Thank you so much, Beau. I really appreciate that. This is Christie.
‘What is the advantage to using a company like Draft2Digital and losing 15% versus formatting and posting myself?'
The main thing I imagine that you're American, first up, or British, because most people around the world can't actually use many of the platforms themselves. And in fact, Apple until about three weeks ago, you couldn't publish direct onto Apple unless you had a Mac. So, that kind of excluded a lot of people.
The advantage to using Draft2Digital was, one, for many people, it's not possible to go direct to these companies. Even Amazon, for example, doesn't pay to some countries in the world or it's too expensive. So, that's one reason.
Another reason is because, when you get to the stage like me having 32 books, every time I update, say the back matter or the covers, I use five different eBook platforms, plus two print platforms, plus two audio platforms. So, that is a lot of updating.
Plus, you can get into libraries and other wide stores if you use D2D.
Check them out at www.Draft2Digital.com
If you are doing a publishing strategy from day one, which of course I haven't because I've grown every year from 2008, I just joined the latest one every single year. So, you're very lucky to come in now and have a choice, but essentially, it saves time. It might be worth that money and they have a lot of different tools and promotional opportunities. Most people use an aggregator to save them time in terms of publishing.
‘When listening to the recent interview, and how much things have changed, are you updating your Author Blueprint?'
I do update the blueprint every six months. I updated it in January 2020. I update it a couple of times a year. And if you haven't downloaded the latest edition, you can. It's still the original download link, which I'm not going to share here. If you want to sign up for my blueprint, go to thecreativepenn.com/blueprint, and basically that is loads of stuff about writing and publishing and book marketing and making money.
What I have also done is Successful Self-Publishing. It's in whatever number edition at this point, which is a free eBook and the print book and the audiobook are valid right now. I updated those last year. So, I try and keep things updated every six months or so.
It's difficult though. I'm not someone who is teaching how to self publish anymore, I don't want to do that. I don't want to do screen prints of platforms that change all the time. So, anyway, I update it regularly.
Well, Margaret says, ‘It's 2:00 PM here as well.' You guys must be in the U.S., right? On the East Coast. I hope it's not as hot as it is here. It's super hot. We're having a heatwave.
Marie says, ‘My question is about starting an author brand. I'm stuck in analysis paralysis. I'm afraid I'll make branding choices now that will be hard to change in case I change direction in the future. How much of a concern is it to get our branding right from the start?'
Oh, Marie. I hope you've just heard me talk about my own. These are already the third set of covers I've done on those books.
Ark of Blood, Stone of Fire, and Crypt of Bone, they were not called those names. I did my first three years as a fiction author using Joanna Penn.
What I would say is, look, you just have to start where you are and get on with it, and you will change over time. That is an absolute guarantee, absolute guarantee. So, give it your best shot now with where you are and over time you can change it.
Luckily as indies, we get to do this and it's not that big a deal. Yes, it might cost you a bit of money down the road, but such is life. So, don't worry. Get on with it.
Kathleen says, ‘I'm using your books for marketing. This was on relaunching. My other books have not sold well, should I start with something new to relaunch?'
This is an interesting question; not selling well. I would go back to some basics here. So, again, those books, they, I don't feel sell well enough for the reviews they get. So, that would be one question. Do you get good reviews? Are other books good?
Then if they are not, then you could always unpublish them and write some more stuff. But have you worked with an editor, for example? Have you got covers that fit the genre? And then what have you done for marketing because not selling well may mean any of those things or it might just mean you haven't been able to do effective marketing.
And partly, the reason I'm changing my covers is, and I love those covers. I absolutely love them. I'm quite depressed about changing covers, but, when I look at the books and where they might fit, the covers are wrong for the genre I want to target with marketing. So, that's another thing. Not selling well could mean a number of things.
Hello, Bethany. ‘I love your podcast.' Thank you so much.
‘How did you start your fiction writing career? What advice do you wish you'd have followed when you started?'
Okay. So, you'll find this hilarious. I started The Creative Penn podcast in 2009, and I was realizing very quickly that the people I wanted to interview were fiction writers. I had this website that I'd started that was very much about publishing, but I was like, ‘I really want to learn about writing fiction.'
And then I did an interview with a guy called Tom Evans, the BookWright, on writer's block. And he basically said to me, ‘I think you've got a block around fiction.' And I was like, ‘No, not me.' And then I realized I did.
I thought that the only valid fiction was Booker Prize-winning. And this is partly my education that has issues with authority and stuff like that. Anyway. So, I did start in NaNoWriMo 2009 because I was like, ‘I'm not going to let this stop me.' And then 2010 I did year of the novel.
[You can find the journey of my first novel here.]
I was living in Brisbane in Australia, did a year of the novel at the Queensland Library, and then I published that in 2011. I published what was Pentecost, what became Stone of Fire.
And in terms of what I wish I had done, I really, really wish I could have got over my mindset issues earlier. Dean Wesley Smith talks about critical voice, I still battle critical voice all the time. And if I had only got rid of that earlier or tackled it earlier, I could have hit that initial wave basically as the initial Kindle wave of 99-cent millionaires were hitting, I had one book.
So, I wish I could have written more faster and got over some of those mindset issues. But all I can say is I'm now trying to get over those mindset issues. And we all have a challenge in those things. Right. So, I hope that helps.
Okay. Lisa. Oh, hi, Lisa. Hello. Lisa's been on the podcast.
‘What kind of headphones do you use when you record and edit your audiobooks?'
Here's a little thing. I do not use headphones when I record audio. If you're an audio person, you'll be like, ‘What? How can you hear your own voice?' I don't. So, all I do is I hit record. I go test, test. I'm testing. I'm just testing. Stop, stop. Make sure it's recording, and then I just record. I never listen to my voice. Sorry about that.
And then in terms of editing the audiobook, I don't even tend to wear headphones then either. And if I'm at my laptop, I literally just plug in these, my iPhone headphones. Sorry, Lisa. That is totally not the answer you wanted or maybe it was because it just shows you can do it without special headphones.
Alexandra says, ‘This is so fun for me.' Good. I'm glad you're having fun. Margaret says, ‘You're lovely.' Thank you, Margaret.
Laurie says, ‘As a brand new author with only book one of a series out, would you say the best marketing is just to focus on getting book two out? I struggle with spending more money on ads when the world doesn't know about my work yet.'
Laurie, you are right, and I think you know you are right. And I know it's hard. I know it's really, really hard. What I would say is what you could do is focus on building your email list in other ways.
Getting book two out should be your focus, but you could also start to build your email list, for example, with a short story or just sign up for my newsletter is also fine. So, that's something to start with as well.
Basically, the reason, and I mean, if you have loads of budget, then great, but as Laurie said, I struggle with spending more money. And the thing is, even if you can do effective marketing, you're not going to get that return. So, there's almost little point really.
John says, ‘Can you talk a bit about Facebook ads?'
That's such an open question. I use them. I mainly use them at the moment for…Look, in general, I do campaign type marketing, but I'm trying to now do Amazon ads all the time, but usually, I do campaign marketing.
So, with Facebook ads, I've got a webinar coming up with the lovely Nick Stevenson. And I think it's thecreativepenn.com/16July, but I'll put it in the notes and it will be on the podcast on Monday.
Essentially, I will use Facebook ads to promote that webinar for two weeks, and then I won't do it. Or if I've got a promotion on a book, I will run ads for two weeks and then I'll turn them off. I just don't like to monitor ads every day.
I am trying to slightly change my process because some ads do really well and I probably shouldn't turn them off, but equally, we all have to choose how we spend our time, and I don't like to spend my time checking ads. But yeah, they are really good. They're still really good. And some people have stopped doing them in terms of doing other ads, but I think Facebook ads are pretty good.
Alexandra says, ‘For Elizabeth's spiritual memoir check out Marion Roach Smith. I loved your recent interview with her on going wide as an author in the creative as well as publishing sense.' Thank you. I was on Marion's podcast. She's coming on the podcast a week, Monday. So, she came on my show years ago and now she's coming back on again. She's great, Marion. And we'll be talking about writing memoirs. So, indeed, that might be useful.
Byron says, ‘Your ProWritingAid tutorial is great, so is the tutorial on setting up an author website.' Thank you.
And do you know what? Next week, it's so funny. I want to start writing Tree of Life. Map of The Impossible is with my print formatter. I'll be sending out to my Penn Friends in the next couple of days, and then I'm pretty much done with that. And I'm like, ‘I really want to get started on Tree of Life. Oh, I'm so excited.
And then I'm like, ‘I need to rerecord that author website tutorial.' So, next week, because it's two and a half years old now and people keep emailing me going, ‘Is this still valid?' And it is still valid, it's just that because it's older, people are like, ‘Oh, that doesn't seem relevant.' Even though it is.
Next week, I have the unenviable task of rerecording tutorials, which I don't particularly enjoy either but I'm going to do it because as you say, they are useful. So, thank you. I'm so glad you find them useful and more to come.
Alexander also says, ‘Love ‘Books and Travel,‘ especially as an ex pat.' Thank you. I also love ‘Books and Travel.' And part of me is building up ‘Books and Travel' because I have a suspicion that The Creative Penn Podcast will change at some point. I'm going to be recommitting for another two years to episode 600, but I have a feeling that in the next couple of years I will be changing the format to something. I don't know what I want to do with it, but, come on, it's been a decade. But ‘Books and Travel' is at the moment it's still a passion project, I guess.
Steve says, ‘Thanks for all you do.' I really appreciate that. You guys are my community and I need you guys. You're my business, but you're also my community. Like I said, I get really worried. I think we all have a level of anxiety, especially right now in the world, to be honest, but you guys are my friends. When we meet at events, we're friends, so that's cool.
Kate says, ‘Thanks for taking the time.' Thank you, Kate.
‘Could you recommend any entrepreneurship podcast or books you found useful?'
What do I listen to? Oh, goodness. I would say that it's totally going to depend on what you're interested in. So, obviously, I have the money side, thecreativepenn.com/moneybooks. There's a whole load of books there that are great.
And then it's really about what side of entrepreneurship do you need to up-skill in? For example, I recommend ‘7-Figure Small' podcast, which used to be the Unemployable podcast and there's the Unemployable community, but the podcast is called ‘7-Figure Small.'
It's basically about making seven figures as a small business, which I still haven't hit seven figures, but hopefully one day. I'd like to do that at some point. But entrepreneurship is such a big topic.
For example, if you wanted to learn about email marketing, there would be specific people there, mindset stuff different, again. Another podcast would be ‘What Works' with Tara McMullin. That's another good one. ‘Youpreneur' with Chris Ducker. That's another good one.
And then, of course, you've got things like Pat Flynn, ‘Smart, Passive Income.' Big one. And then there are lots. If you start with those and then look in the other things, or if you have Spotify or in fact Apple updated their podcast app, you can now do a lot more searches and better searches for topics.
What I would say is focus down on the particular thing in entrepreneurship and find stuff there.
Alex says, ‘How can I best tap into an audience beyond my friends and family? I write psychological fiction.'
Fantastic. This is where you need to probably just start with the basics on marketing. And I do have a book on How to Market a Book or you can just go to thecreativepenn.com/marketing and there's lots of free stuff there that will help.
Essentially, nobody just puts a book up on the stores, whatever store, and then it starts selling. It just doesn't work that way. You have to do some marketing. Now, that might be free marketing.
For psychological fiction, for example, Reedsy have a really good list of book bloggers. So, that might be something for you to do. Go to the Reedsy list of book bloggers and find some book bloggers to talk to. It looks from your picture, if that's you, then you're young. Maybe that's your child, if you're not. But if that is you, then maybe whatever social media you use, maybe it's Instagram. Meet some people on Instagram, figure out the network for thrillers and get into it that way.
But essentially, you have to learn some marketing and there's so much of it. I can't give you what is best for you, you just have to get into it and find the best fit for you and your book.
What ads, Facebook, Amazon, Instagram get you the most return on investment?
It's not about the platform, it's about what you're doing and what you're marketing. For example, I could put an ad on Facebook for book one in a 10-book series, and the actual ad may not make a return on investment, but a certain percentage of those people will go through and read all the 10 books.
Now, you could put an ad on Facebook for book one and only have one book, for example, or two books. So, of course, your return on investment will be less. But then Instagram, well, Facebook ads go on to Instagram anyway. So, it's not really an issue, but then Amazon, for example, you could be paying per click and then have no conversions.
So, it's not about the platform, it's what works for you. I have found for example, that Facebook ads work very well in some circumstances and not well in others. You just have to figure out what works for you and your books.
And literally, it's so sad, but many people have tried paying others to do it for them and it really just doesn't work. You have to figure it out. So, sorry, I can't give you a specific answer, but you'll have to just see what works for your books. I certainly do all of those though.
Oh, Mark Dawson is here. Hi, Mark. And talking about ads, Mark is the King of ads, the emperor of ads. So, definitely check out the interview I did with Mark actually a few weeks ago was super useful. So, that might be useful.
John says, ‘If I want to record my own audiobook, should I use a studio? Is it expensive?'
Well, it depends where you are. Right now, I don't think you could even hire a studio in the world of the pandemic. So, actually, I'm going turn my camera. Hope I've not got anything embarrassing on the floor. Here's my studio. There we go. That's my audio studio in the corner.
Basically, it cost me about £500 in total to build the whole thing and I'll link to it in the show notes, but thecreativepenn.com/homestudio, I think it is and that's where I do mine, and then I hire someone to master the audio.
I didn't do that myself, but M. L. Buchman, Matt Buchman has a really good book on how to record and edit your own audiobook. And he talks about all the settings you need, so that makes it even more affordable.
Justin says, ‘Hello, from Louisiana.' I have been there. When I went to New Orleans, I also went out on the bayou on a kayak. That was seriously one of my most favorite trips. I just loved being out there. Those Louisiana wetlands, they're just fantastic. Anyway, welcome.
‘I'm in the process of writing my first series and have become intrigued with audio. Do you think there is a market for more audiobook producers?'
Well, yes. Justin, in fact, look, we just had questions there. We've had lots of questions on audio this evening. I actually think this is a huge niche and missing niche at the moment. I can recommend editors, I can recommend cover designers. I have no one to recommend with audio other than going with Findaway or with ACX, but a lot of people would prefer to work privately and get work mastered like I just said and then upload it themselves. So, yeah. There's definitely a market. Let me know if you do go down that route.
Okay. Helen says. Here we go.
Helen says, another question about second editions. ‘When I put up my new edition on Amazon, should I unpublish the first?'
Look, to be fair, you can unpublish your first edition with eBook, you cannot with print. Your print editions will be there forever. It's a real pain in the neck, to be fair. You do have to unpublish the eBooks. You can withdraw the audiobooks, but you can never withdraw print because, of course, there's resale on the old edition. So, yeah, there you go.
Margaret says, ‘Both of those outlining books are awesome.' Indeed, they are.
Suzanne says, ‘I've been writing some fairly normal non-fiction,' normal nonfiction. ‘Now I also want to write fiction, maybe fantasy. I think people may be put off.'
Is it a good idea to have two different author names? Is it hard?
I have two author names and I think I love it. I really love it. I much prefer having two author names because it keeps things so separate for me. And of course, I'm not hiding it. I talk about it all the time being J.F. Penn, but it is hard.
You do have to maintain separate email lists, you have to do like this tonight, I'm on one page, I'm not on my other page, my J.F. Penn page. So, this is for one audience, but then I would get different questions if I try to combine them, nobody wants to hear.
My J. F. Penn readers do not want to hear about self-publishing or book marketing. They don't care. I personally am very happy with two author names, but it definitely is a bit of extra work.
Byron says, ‘Why definitely wait for audio when it's your first book?'
Mainly budget. Two things. Budget and also, often you will end up re-editing that first book. I've just got to tell you, your first book may not be the masterpiece you think it is. Even if you use a professional editor, many people maybe five years later will re-edit it. That would be another one.
But budget is probably the main reason because most authors do not have a budget for an audiobook straight out the gate.
Might seem really late on this. Kate says, ‘Omnibus,' Byron says, ‘Omnibus,' Lynn says. Hi, Lynn. Says, ‘It's an omnibus.' Yes. When you do a print box set, which is when you put three books in one book it's called an omnibus. And Lynn certainly was with me in the U.S. and the Oregon Coast when Kristine Kathryn Rusch told me this and it still doesn't stick in my head because the word omnibus just doesn't work for me.
‘I just discovered StoryOrigin. Do you use it?'
Look, to be fair, I have logged in to StoryOrigin, but I have not used it. I am starting to use BookFunnel for the email list stuff and the promotional stuff. So, I intend to look at StoryOrigin. It's just time, but I certainly mentioned Mark Dawson earlier, the Self-Publishing Formula podcast. I know they've had StoryOrigin. I think it's Evan on their show.
Okay. I'm just going try and pick people who I haven't heard from so far.
Roseanne says, ‘Would you suggest completing a whole series first or doing the first book in a few series to see which one resonates? Do you suggest a minimum number in series?'
The reason many of us do three books, it's not necessarily a trilogy, it's mainly for that box set or omnibus because many indies can do very well financially with these box sets because you can reduce them and it's still a really good deal. You can get BookBub deals on box sets and that type of thing.
So, I would say, Roseanne, this is, only you can decide. Hugh Howey was certainly one of those in the early days who wrote, I think he wrote five different novellas, one of which was Wool, which became mega, mega hit. And he certainly said he wrote in different genres and then saw which one took off.
I don't actually know anyone else who's done that. I don't know, but if you can write that fast, go for it. It's not something I could do, to be fair.
Julio says, ‘Darn, I wish I could listen in.' Well, the replay will be up. ‘Love your channel and your attitude.'
If you have any tips on finally getting that first manuscript done with all that's going on, let us know.
Well, yeah. I think with all that's going on, it's not gonna stop. In fact, I don't know about you, but I'm in a kind of slightly more anxious state right now as it's starting to open up. But in terms of getting it done, listen to the interview I did with Mark McGuiness about a month ago, because I also was going through this difficulty.
I just couldn't work, couldn't write. My fiction was just all jangled and then Mark McGuiness came on the show and really, really helped me. And my biggest thing was changing my playlist on Spotify. I now listen to the Game of Thrones soundtrack. And literally just by changing my music, it helped me reboot. So, that's one tip, change your music channel or start listening or whatever.
And still put time aside, that's probably the number one tip in general for getting anything done is put some time in your calendar, sit somewhere else in your house where you don't do whatever else you do, and listen to different music. So, there you go.
Okay. Lots of people being. Linda says, ‘Is that a glass of water?' No, it's my glass of gin. You missed the beginning. This is a gin and tonic, which is swiftly disappearing. This is an hour. I normally have at least two gin and tonics.
I will come back in and answer some more of these in the comments. But with five minutes left, I just want to take a question from people I haven't talked to yet.
Scott says, ‘I'm starting podcasting. When you started, do you know what your listening numbers were?'
I can tell you, they were zero. For the first six months, it was like howling into the wind is what I call it. And that will be true for most people, but that's true for most writers, that's true for most YouTubers, true for social media.
It's going take you six months at least of consistent podcasting to get a decent audience. So, I'll tell you, ‘Books and Travel' right now, even with my existing platform, it's about 1,000 downloads per episode, which is pretty good for a podcast that's not super regular.
‘How much do you attribute your success to the podcasts?'
In non-fiction definitely, in fiction, obviously not. But with non-fiction, yes, definitely. Podcasting is a core part of my business and my income and my marketing. And I love it. Thank you all for listening.
Eric says, ‘Great point on critical voice. What steps do you take to overcome that perfectionist?'
I keep listening to Dean Wesley Smith. I've done his stuff on critical voice, I've done his courses. I keep playing him in my head. He's also done some blog posts. He does blog posts on it. We'll link to it in the show notes, but Dean Wesley Smith on critical voice, he's the man.
But essentially, you have to just keep tackling it and going whatever. And in fact, Mark Dawson, he came on the show, I asked him about that as well. And he's much more hardcore than me and basically said, ‘Suck it up buttercup and get on with it.' Well, he didn't actually say that, but essentially that's what he meant.
Rona says, ‘I've been thinking about going wide with my first book as I want to reach a wider audience. Is this something you recommend?'
What I generally would say is if you only have one book, then going wide can be a lot to do. There's so much to do if you're going wide. What I would say is you have to decide what wider audience you want to reach.
Say, for example, going wide with print, not eBook is a possibility, or if you're going to go wide with eBook, then think about what do you mean by wider audience. For example, do you really want to be in libraries? And if you want to be in libraries, how are you gonna help people audiobook in libraries because that's the tip, the trick, the difficulty.
All right. I am falling apart here. It's so hot. Thank you all for coming this evening. I will answer some more questions on the Facebook page. I definitely intend to do another Facebook live again, probably next month in July, whatever.
If you haven't signed up for my email list, please go to thecreativepenn.com/blueprint. It is the latest one and I will be updating that scene and doing some more videos.
My YouTube channel, youtube.com/thecreativepenn, ‘The Creative Penn' podcast. You can find me all over the place.
If you do, you can also tweet me @thecreativepenn if you have any questions. But look, thank you guys for being here this evening. I'm going to go top up my ice on the gin. So, thank you again and happy writing and I'll see you next time. Bye.
Sonya Phillips says
Good day ;
My dear Ms. Penn, I do love your work. How would I go about getting a list of literary agents for a children’s book, I’m having a hard time finding my way through this journey, I am a first time author and I have finished my manuscripts and I haven’t the foggiest I deal where 2 start looking for a literary agent, please help me.
Joanna Penn says
Hi Sonya, This site is for independently publishing, so you will need to go other sites for agents and publishers.
Hello. I apologize for such a large amount of text. I use google translate as my native language is russian.
I looked for a lot of information on the Internet about ISBN, you have information for authors that are published by themselves, very well structured and intelligible. Already 6 days looking on the Internet, the answer to my question. And only you found it.
It’s about selling your own books on your own website. It is very well described in your article about payhip and bookfunnel, this is how it is implemented on your website.
And as a result, I had a question that I cannot answer. If you can answer, please.
I am an author who plans to publish my new book in several languages, and at the same time sell my book on my own website and marketplaces. Do I need to purchase an ISBN to sell a book on my own website? Or I can first put up for sale on a marketplace where they give out ISBN for free, like Smashwords or Draft2Digital.
And only after that add it to your site, the same way as you have done, following the example of the “Buy eBook Direct from the Author” button.
Joanna Penn says
Hi Sergey, You don’t need an ISBN to sell from your website. The ISBN is mainly for print books so they can be ordered within the traditional publishing eco-system.
If you use a free ISBN on D2D or another site, I don’t believe you can use that ISBN on your own site.
This might help with more info – https://selfpublishingadvice.org/isbns-for-self-published-books/
All the best!
Thank you very much for clarifying the situation about ISBN.