Expert Interview: Joanna Penn, author of How to Make a Living with Your Writing: Books, Blogging and More
How to Make a Living with Your Writing: Books, Blogging and More
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What is your latest book about?
It does what it says on the box! I go through all the aspects of how to make a living with your writing with tips on fiction and non-fiction, as well as using a blog to build an income.
In 2011, I left my day job to become a full-time author-entrepreneur and now make a six-figure income from my writing, from book sales and my blog. In mid 2015, I hired my husband out of his corporate job to join me in the business. At a time when the traditional publishing industry reports slowing book sales and many authors are barely making the minimum wage, I wanted to outline the way that I make a living and how other writers can do it, too.
What would you say is the number-one misconception writers have about making a living writing?
There is a myth that a writer can make a full-time living from just one book, that the first book will somehow become a multi-million bestseller and then the author can sit back and watch the millions roll in. The reality is that writing your first book is just the beginning. You have to keep writing and keep putting your words in front of customers. You have to learn to market as well as write. Most of us making a full-time living this way have a number of books and multiple streams of income based on our writing. It’s a fantastic time to be a writer and we have so much opportunity to sell books to a global market, but there’s a lot to learn on the way.
Can you describe your writing process?
I schedule my writing time in my diary so I know which book I am working on and when. I usually go to a local cafe for a few hours each morning and write a scene if it’s a novel, or a chapter for non-fiction. I write in Scrivener, amazing software that you can use to organize your writing as well as export the various files for self-publishing later.
Once the first draft is complete, I print the whole book out and self-edit by hand, then update. I’ll do this several times until I am happy. Then the book goes to my editor, and then comes back for rewrites. Then it will go to a proofreader and my advance review readers before publication.
How did you come to do what you’re doing today?
I used to be a corporate cubicle slave, selling my time as a business consultant implementing Accounts Payable into companies. I was so miserable and the job was well paid but I was creatively empty. I started a number of other companies — a scuba diving business, property investment, an online travel portal — but nothing made me really happy until I started writing seriously back in 2007. Then, self-publishing took off in 2008 with the launch of the Amazon Kindle and it became possible to be an author AND entrepreneur. As someone who doesn’t like to ask permission for anything, I found my dream career!
Can you describe a typical day in your life?
Every day I aim to create something new in the world, so that might be words for the next book, or recording a video for a course, or a podcast interview. I also work on the business most days, so that includes email, social media and professional speaking. I’d say that a typical day involves creativity in the mornings and business activities in the afternoons — except when I am traveling for research, when I’ll be out for a longer period, collecting cool experiences for the books.
What do you most enjoy about what you do?
One of the most soul-destroying things about my previous corporate job was that nothing I did really mattered. As I mentioned, I was paid well but everything I worked on eventually became obsolete, so it seemed pointless. Now, I am driven to create a body of work that I am proud of, and I also get to help people and entertain them along the way. I love writing action/adventure fiction because I used to read it to escape, and now I provide that for others who might still be stuck doing a job they hate. I write non-fiction to share what I’ve learned, and I pretty much love everything about what I do these days, even the admin!
Are there any people and/or books that have inspired you along your journey?
The book that changed my life was The Success Principles by Jack Canfield, which helped me to take responsibility for my choices and how to transition into something new. I’d also recommend Steven Pressfield’s Turning Pro, a book that I reread every year. I have a lot more book recommendations for writers here.
Can you share something that people may be surprised to learn about you?
I wear contact lenses and have done for over 20 years. I’m rarely seen in public wearing glasses! Also, I went to school in Malawi, Africa, and those early years shape my obsession with travel and multi-culturalism.
What’s next for you?
For non-fiction, I’m working on Mindset for Authors, which aims to help people navigate the rollercoaster of being a writer. For fiction, I’m working on the next in the ARKANE action/adventure thriller series, described by readers as “Dan Brown meets Lara Croft.” You can try the first book, Stone of Fire, for free on all ebook platforms.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
There is a free video series that goes along with How to Make a Living with your Writing at http://www.TheCreativePenn.com/freedom. The first video is “11 ways to make money as an indie author,” so hopefully people might find that useful as well as the book.
You can find the book in ebook and print formats. All the links are here: