Friday, 24 April 2009

Interview with the Creative Penn

The Creative Penn aka Joanna Penn helps writers who are looking to self publish thier own books...

Tells us a bit about yourself and The Creative Penn...

I have been a business consultant for 12 years working in Europe, New Zealand and Australia. During that time, I met a lot of miserable people who were trapped in their jobs and desperate to do something else, but many didn’t know what steps to take next. I was one of those people as well! So I decided to make a change and in the process wrote my first book, “How to enjoy your job”. When I had finished the book, I looked into the publishing process and discovered how long it would take to get through agents and publishers to the finished product. Most books seem to take 18 months to make it through the process (and that’s after you have been accepted!) I like to get things done quickly and efficiently, and couldn’t wait that long so I investigated self-publishing. My book was on Amazon within a month of finishing it, and I used freelancers for the editing and cover etc so the quality was also good. I discovered ebooks, print-on-demand, internet marketing and so much more!

I learnt so much in the last year that I decided to share it with other authors and started The Creative Penn last December. I also wrote 2 more books about the writing and publishing process, as well as internet sales and promotion.

We met via Twitter and social media is clearly close to your heart. How do you think a writer can get the most out of the internet?

Firstly, authors must realise that even traditional publishers expect an author to have a “platform” of some sort. That could be your speaking audience, or it could be blog subscribers, web site statistics or even Twitter followers. So the internet is not an option for authors anymore, it has to be done regardless of being traditionally or self-published.

In terms of making the most of it, immerse yourself in the options available and then choose a couple of ideas and run with them. Don’t try to spread yourself too thin as you won’t be able to build relationships or an effective platform. For example, I am a member of tons of author social networks, but I am mostly only active on Twitter and Facebook. I am also an active blogger and love reading other people’s blogs.

I think you also need a central site to point people towards if they want to know more about you. For me it is the blog, for others it might be their author fan page on Facebook, a Squidoo page or a static webpage.

You have personal experience of the self publishing route. Do you think that self publishing is becoming a real option for many writers?

There are a couple of reasons I think self-publishing is brilliant and an option for everyone.
  1. Speed and control. You can get yourself into print, or publish your own ebook to a global market in a very short time. You can keep the quality by using freelance editors, cover designers etc so that is not a valid criticism anymore.
  2. Niche markets. Mainstream publishers are increasingly focused on famous authors or guaranteed best-sellers. They will not pick up niche books. But there may be a market for your book, and self-publishing it can make you some money.
  3. Release the creativity! I felt so constrained for years with my own creativity because I felt I couldn’t win a Booker prize winning novel. I was also disheartened by the possibility of rejection and spending years in pursuit of publishers. By self-publishing, I got my books out there, I am making some money and helping people! Brilliant! Don’t let the fear of failure stop you publishing!
Also remember that you don’t have to pay a lot of money anymore for self-publishing. You can self-publish a print-on-demand book for free through and also as an ebook on a site like Smashwords.

If people still hanker after traditional publishing, it can also be a way for publishers to notice you. I’m sure everyone has heard of the classic careers book “What colour is your parachute?”. That was self-published for 2 years before being up and has been republished every year for 40 years. A more recent example is Christopher Paolini’s “Eragon” which was self-published first prior to being picked up.

At BubbleCow we come into contact with writers on a regular basis who simply don't 'get' twitter. What would you say to these people?

I think they will get it in the next 6 months when Twitter becomes the no.1 social network! I was also sceptical but after joining I realised what a powerful platform it is if used in the right way. I only tweet about books and publishing and probably 8/10 tweets are useful links to other people’s sites. I put in a couple of my own blog posts per day and that has brought me plenty of new blog subscribers as well as daily traffic for my site. But the best thing is that I have made relationships with some very cool people in the book/publishing industry and as a direct result will be interviewing many of them for my podcast and my new program, author 2.0.

OK last one...Tell us a bit about what you offer for writers and how they can get in touch.

The Creative Penn is a blog with tons of free information on writing, publishing, sales and promotion...for your book. I also have a free “How to be an author” workbook and for more established authors, a free award-winning marketing plan. I am also currently working on this new author 2.0 program which is aimed at helping people actually do everything that is recommended these days for authors. There are lessons on how to podcast, blog, make videos, self-publish, publish ebooks, use Amazon and the Kindle and much more. Each eclass will have a how-to video, an audio interview with an expert and a text module. There is a video here for more information. It will be launching in May 2009.

People can email me at: . You can also follow me on Twitter for lots of writing and publishing links, or become a friend on Facebook.

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