Joanna Penn has some writing secrets she wants to share with authors. Not so much a secret, as this author, speaker and entrepreneur shares advice to aspiring and established authors through her website, The Creative Penn. I had the opportunity to see Joanna, writer-in-residence for Kobo Writing Life, speak last night at a reception at Kobo headquarters in Toronto, part of a series of speakers offered to authors through Kobo’s platform, Kobo Writing Life.
I’ve been following Joanna for a few years now, when I first ventured into the self-publishing world. Joanna had already encountered many of the mistakes that first time authors often make, and shared it through her blog launched in 2008 that boasts a thousand posts, podcast and YouTube channel and Twitter feed with over 37,000 tweets and almost 50,000 followers.
With very little marketing know-how, and before the launch of Kindle and Kobo and other digital book formats, Joanna printed 2000 copies of her first non-fiction book back in 2008, selling a meagre 100 copies with the rest going into landfill.
She’s come a long way since then, her novels selling 100,000 copies, and with the combination of her book sales, and public speaking engagements. She was able to leave her soul sucking career and make a living from what she enjoys most: writing.
Last year, Joanna launched her new non-fiction book, How To Market Your Book, a how to guide for self-published and traditionally published authors. Her lecture consisted of key points from her book. There’s no magic bullet, so it seems, and as many other authors have mentioned before, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Here are some key points she made in last night’s presentation:
• Build a platform. When Joanna first started out, she didn’t have a blog and or Twitter account. While she has many social media accounts including Facebook and Google+, she puts most of her efforts into Twitter, her podcast and YouTube.
• Go direct where possible rather than using an aggregator.
• Give first before you expect to get back. Attend conventions to network with other authors rather than trying to push your book. Building relationships is an important part of the business.
• Market. Do a tiny bit every day if possible or every week. It takes time to build your platform.
• Have an email list. It’s global and the best way to reach your audience. If you don’t have an email list, use someone else’s. (See the next point)
• Launch a podcast or YouTube channel where you interview authors in your own genre. The authors will link back to your podcast and you will in turn get their readership. Over time this will build up to a significant following.
• Write what you love, not what you think is popular and share it with readers who love the same thing.
• Like any business, you have to spend money to make money. While you can make your own work better to a point, you should hire a professional editor/proof reader and cover designer. Do the marketing yourself.
I’d like to thank Joanna, who took time out of a personal visit to Toronto, for giving us the opportunity to hear her speak and even have the opportunity to have a short one-on-one with each of the attendees. As well and as usual, Jodi White of Kobo for inviting me, Mark Leslie Lefebvre, Director of Self-Publishing and Author Relations at Kobo for organizing the whole dark thing and all of the fellow authors I had the opportunity to meet and even shared your journeys with me. I learned a lot!
I look forward to your next engagement. HL.