“We make plans, God laughs.” The old Yiddish proverb will no doubt stand true for another year, but I just can’t help myself!
I need to make plans to have something to aim for, but given how 2021 didn’t turn out as expected, for 2022 I will hold my plans and goals loosely and won’t be surprised if they change. If I start off with lower expectations, perhaps it will turn out to be a spectacular year for us all (fingers crossed!).
Here’s what I’m planning, and I’d love to hear about your goals, so please leave a comment here if you’d like to share and we can keep each other accountable.
- Embrace multi-passionate creativity — and optimize for curiosity
- Books for authors — Joanna Penn
- Fiction as J.F. Penn — thrillers, dark fantasy, crime, horror, short stories
- The Creative Penn website and podcast
- The Creative Future — putting new technologies into practice
- Books and Travel
- More tech, less tech. Health, travel, and connection
- Financial Goals
Remember, I am a full-time author-entrepreneur so I have a lot going on — if your goals are simpler — like finishing your book, or publishing for the first time, or selling 1000 copies, then fantastic! You don’t have to have such extensive goals as me!
Embrace multi-passionate creativity — and optimize for curiosity
Every year, I think that I “might be more successful” if I can focus on a limited number of things, but as Walt Whitman said, “I am large, I contain multitudes.” As much as I try to say ‘no’ more, life proliferates and I find so many things interesting along the way that I want to do it all, or at least investigate things further.
As Lisa Cron pointed out in episode 592, “Emotion telegraphs meaning.” If I am excited about a project or a topic, then I need to give it some time, even if the practical application (and the revenue) might not be obvious.
I’m an author (across multiple genres). I’m a podcaster. I’m an audiobook narrator. I’m a course creator. I’m a speaker. I’m a futurist. These days, I optimize more for curiosity than for maintenance of the status quo.
Yes, there needs to be a balance, but I’ve been a full-time author entrepreneur since 2011 and so it cannot just be the same old, same old. It can't just be ‘write, publish, repeat.' I cannot write to market, and I cannot write because I have to. I refuse to grind it out.
I have so many things I want to create in 2022, and so many more things I want to learn about and share with you. I know I can’t do it all, so I will embrace my multi-passionate creativity, follow the paths my curiosity takes me down — and see where the year takes me.
Here are my creative and business goals — some of them will happen, some won't, and I am far more accepting of that these days!
Books for authors under Joanna Penn
I have three current works in progress, all with significant words in draft form:
- How to Write a Novel — 95K
- The Shadow Book (working title) — 30K
- The AI-Assisted Author — 50K
Although I’d love to say I’ll write and publish them all, each is a significant piece of work, and I have a lot of other things I want to do, so there will be at least one non-fiction book for authors— but I don’t know which as yet. There might also be a surprise book since that sometimes happens. I won’t second guess my Muse this early in the year.
I also have a LOT of words in draft — so I might also need to revisit Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield and consider what my Resistance is to finishing these projects.
In terms of marketing for non-fiction, my main focus continues to be a weekly show on The Creative Penn Podcast, my Blueprint and email list, and Twitter @thecreativepenn (to a much lesser extent). I’ve been paying an excellent freelancer through Reedsy for managing my Amazon Ads for non-fiction, so I will continue to do that in 2022.
Books under J.F. Penn: Thrillers, dark fantasy, horror, crime — and travel!
I have quite a few books I want to write:
- Travelogue / travel memoirs — The Pilgrim’s Way (currently at 30K draft) and also The St Cuthbert’s Way (20K draft). It makes sense from a marketing point of view to put these out together, so hopefully, I will have both done this year. I’m also considering a Kickstarter for a special print run as I’d love to have some beautiful paper editions, and it’s something I am talking to White Fox about as they help with bespoke publishing projects (as we discussed in episode 566).
- Short stories — I have so many ideas, so I need to get some of these out of my head. I’d like to do one short story a month. I’ll also record the audio versions myself, and I might even have enough for a collection by the end of 2022.
- ARKANE thriller #13 — the story opens in Vienna, which I hope to visit in person depending on Covid restrictions
- I have 13 more fiction projects sitting in Scrivener files — including several standalones that are half-formed ideas, so there might be something else, too.
I’m pretty sure I’ll publish the travel books under J.F. Penn rather than a new pen-name, like Jo Frances Penn.
The benefit of a new name for a new genre is mainly around keeping readers separate, training the algorithms for targeting and easier auto-advertising.
But I don’t have the bandwidth for another active brand and I’m not willing to start any new social media profiles or email lists — and one of my goals is to bring new readers to my fiction — so I am erring on the side of sticking with J.F. Penn for the travel books at the moment.
In terms of marketing, I mainly use free or discounted first in series, scheduling promotions like Freebooksy, or BargainBooksy, or BookBub, or other ad pushes to attract readers to my ARKANE series. The ARKANE series has 12 books, and I have two trilogies — Brooke & Daniel psychological/crime thrillers, and the Mapwalker fantasy trilogy.
I'm also optimizing my backlist. I’m currently updating all the blurbs based on hiring Michaelbrent Collings (as per episode 591). I’m going to do another light edit on Stone of Fire to tighten it up a little as that’s where I focus my marketing spend and it needs to draw people through into the other books. My writing has improved a lot over a decade, so even though part of me hates to revisit it, I want more people to continue in the series, so it’s worth a little time to re-edit.
As I am (mostly) wide and also write cross-genre, I haven’t found that Amazon Ads have worked well for my fiction in the past, so I am going to try again with Facebook Ads. Beginner's mind! I’m working through Skye Warren’s Author Ads Intensive, and will also go through Mark Dawson’s Ads for Authors course again to revisit the principles.
In terms of maintenance, I need to redesign my JFPenn.com website in 2022 and it generally needs some back-end technical love. Plus, I need to work through and update my email list automations. Not sexy — but all necessary business work that needs to be done!
The Creative Penn Website and Podcast
Thanks to everyone who completed the recent survey for the podcast. It helps me to know what you enjoy and find useful about the show.
We’ll hit episode 600 in the next month, and then it’s onward to 700, which I am committing to now the wave of change is accelerating. The indie author ride is about to get more exciting and I’m keen to keep surfing it and sharing the journey with you!
I asked about the main topic split in the survey, and overall, it seemed that all are still relevant. Respondents could select multiple options and they were pretty close, with the order of preference being:
- Book marketing
- Writing craft – fiction
- Business of writing
- Futurist topics
- Writing craft – non-fiction
I also received lots of ideas on what else to cover, but overall, it seems like the podcast is still serving you and the wider author community, so expect the podcast to continue with a mix of writing craft, publishing, marketing, author business, and futurist episodes.
Thanks so much to the corporate sponsors of the show and huge thanks also to my patrons at patreon.com/thecreativepenn and also those who bought me coffee at BuyMeACoffee.com/thecreativepenn. Your contribution enables me time to think about the bigger topics and particularly to keep reporting on and delving into the futurist topics, which will benefit us all at some point! Talking of which…
The Creative Future — putting new technologies into practice
In 2021, I talked about a lot of technological developments, and in 2022, I’ll put more of them into practice and integrate them into my creative process and my author business. It’s time to turn ideas into income!
While there are many changes ahead, there are three that I consider practical for 2022: NFTs, AI narration, and AI writing tools.
I continue to be excited about the potential of blockchain applications for the Creator Economy. I intend to drop some kind of NFT book — and earn ETH, or another cryptocurrency. While I think there is definitely a bubble in some aspects of NFTs, it’s important to keep an eye on the underlying infrastructure shift rather than the ‘froth’ of media hype.
It’s not just about the jpeg, it’s about NFTs as unique digital assets, about tokens for membership and community, about resale of digital assets, and much more. Please don’t dismiss NFTs overall, just because you think $69m for Beeple art or $10K on digital trainers is ridiculous!
Blockchain and NFTs are creating more potential revenue streams and business models for creatives, so I will keep an eye on that for you and share what I learn as ever.
I also hope to work with DeepZen to build my AI narrator voice and use it to narrate one of my books — and maybe even make it available for licensing as another scalable income stream.
I will use Sudowrite (and/or other AI creative tools) within my fiction writing process, mainly as an extended thesaurus for multi-sensory description. I will continue to be an ethical author and use an AI usage statement in the back of my fiction. I think transparency will become ever more important as ‘deep fakes’ and AI-generated content becomes more common.
I’m also super curious about generative art — one of my favorite creators is The Archangel, who you’ll appreciate if you enjoy my fiction as J.F. Penn! Given that AI tools can now generate art from words, I’m planning to experiment with creating visual art from passages of my fiction. I want to do a special futurist episode on generative art, so if it’s something you’re into already, please contact me and mention this episode. I’ve found that writers become far more open to AI tools in other creative arenas than writing!
Books and Travel
I love my Books and Travel Podcast.
The podcast enables virtual escape without the hassle. Every time I interview someone, I’m transported to a different culture and the creative spark fuels my Muse and gives me ideas for where I’d like to go when the world (eventually) opens up again. Plus, I am writing some travel memoirs, so it will eventually serve a marketing purpose as well.
But I am seriously out of love with physical travel right now due to my experience with quarantine, isolation, repeated testing, and vaccine passport bureaucracy in New Zealand. And I need more time for writing and thinking and finishing all the projects I have in draft form.
So the Books and Travel Podcast will go monthly from January, and I’ll add in extra ad hoc personal and solo shows as they emerge, and probably extra interviews as I find interesting people to talk to. I’ll also still blog and share photos from my travels and walks, which I intend to do more of in 2022.
More tech, less tech. Health, travel, and connection
As the digital and online world becomes ever more important for my work and my social contacts as well as creative experimentation (more tech), I also want to focus on the physical world and human connection (less tech.)
We are not just brains — we are physical humans. We need movement and we need connection with others.
So while I want to immerse further in the digital stream, I also want to disconnect more, and be more embodied. I don’t think these two are mutually exclusive. Both can exist together. In fact, they have to. Because we need more tech as authors, and we need more offline time for life and love and everything else that matters.
As I mentioned in my 2021 round-up, I’ve struggled with physical and mental health in the last year and the health gains I did manage in the first half of the year, broke down when I had Covid and with the disruption of international travel.
So, in 2022, I am recommitting to my intermittent fasting practice, my daily walks, and also my longer multi-day walks, as well as my twice-weekly weights workout with my personal trainer, Dan. I’ll also focus on sorting out my sleep — I have a whole ton of things to try, and I know that if I can sleep more effectively, a lot of other things will fall back into place.
I need to get my fitness back as I’ll be walking my Camino de Santiago in Q3 (if Covid restrictions allow) and I’m considering several routes at the moment. I also want to do the London Orbital, which is not a pilgrimage, but a walk I really fancy doing around a city that is endlessly fascinating — with no travel restrictions or testing requirements. We’d also really like a holiday somewhere in Europe but we’re not booking anything because of uncertainty.
I have some in-person conferences on the horizon (again, if Covid restrictions allow!) — London Book Fair in April, the Creator Economy Expo (CEX) in Arizona in May, Thrillerfest in New York City in June, Mark Dawson’s SPF Live also in June, and 20BooksVegas in November. It’s unlikely that all those things will happen — but I’ve penciled them in.
Given my experience with Covid, as well as New Zealand quarantine, testing, and vaccine passport difficulties based on international differences, I’ll only travel if restrictions are not too difficult in the destination country, state, and city. You might think it’s easy enough to get a vaccine pass in your own country, but try dealing with someone else’s bureaucracy!
As I mentioned in my 2021 round-up, my overall income dipped last year and I need to reverse the trend. If you want to increase profit in a business, there are two main levers you can use — cut costs or increase revenue — or do both.
My business is already pretty lean on costs and, in fact, that is part of the problem. Most successful authors now spend more than I do on advertising and marketing — so once again, it’s back to the fundamentals with ads.
I will never be a super-fast writer publishing a book a month, but I now have a decent backlist for fiction and non-fiction, so if I bring more readers into those eco-systems (without spending TOO much), then it should result in financial growth.
While I’ve spent less within the business, I have invested a lot more than usual over the pandemic and that continues to be a focus. My next financial goal is to make more from my investments than my ‘work’ — but that is a multi-year plan with a lot of facets. Clearly, this is not a financial or investment-focused site, but I do have a list of recommended money books if you want to take this further yourself.
So once again, like most author entrepreneurs, the plan is to write more books — fiction and non-fiction, optimize my backlist, refocus on ads, and continue with my investment plans.
Thank you for being part of my community in the last year — for buying my books in all formats, for being a patron of the show, for clicking my affiliate links, for leaving positive reviews on the books and the podcast, and for recommending them to others. I wouldn’t have this career without you, so thank you so much and I hope you’ll join me for the year ahead.
Onwards into 2022, creatives! Let’s make it a good one as much as possible.
What are your creative and business plans for 2022? Please leave a comment if you’d like to share and let’s keep each other accountable for another year. You can also tweet me @thecreativepenn