Have you made art today? Joanna Penn asks.

Life can be art.

Authorpreneur Joanna Penn reminded me of that last night, when she volunteered her time to speak with a group of indie authors at Kobo’s Toronto office. With an intensive marketing machine to manage at her Web site The Creative Penn, the author-public speaker-entrepreneur said she remembers to ask herself each day: “Have you made art today?”

Joanna shared the marketing wisdom that made her such an indie publishing phenomenon in a session hosted by Mark Leslie Lefebvre, Kobo’s Director of Self Publishing and Author Relations and an author of speculative fiction.

For Joanna, making art isn’t only about sitting down and writing her thriller novels; it’s about the moment, right here, right now, where the British authorpreneur shared her marketing wisdom with a room full of indie authors and writers. This too is art. The ideas she shared spark a synergy that takes on a life of its own, and who knows where that will go?


Her hero is Beatrix Potter

What inspired me most is this. Joanna said her hero is the famous children’s author Beatrix Potter, who made so much from her books that she was able to buy the Lake District. Beatrix Potter gave the land to the National Trust. She used her power of creation to create a legacy for everyone. It’s not just about writing books and making money; it’s about creating something for the future.


Joanna Penn’s marketing tips

“Think about the rest of the world”

“I’m stunned every day from the emails I get from all over the world,” said Joanna. A global marketing machine, she encouraged indie writers to think about the rest of the world.

“Traditional publishers can’t even get to Nigeria,” said Joanna, but online books can.

Joanna was pleased to say she recently sold her first book in Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in West Africa. She has also sold three books in Nepal.


Go direct to online retailers

Bypass the aggregators – the companies who will package and sell your book at several online retailers. Instead, go direct with online retailers like Kobo. “You have more chance of being noticed,” said Penn. The direct relationships you form are the best way to give your books a boost.

Also expect to be more than an author. She’s an author, a public speaker and an entrepreneur. That is how you make it work.


The magic of the clickable link

Having appeared on CNN and other news shows, she reports traditional media hits never correlated to a jump in sales for her.

“The most important thing to me in marketing is a clickable link,” she said.

That leads directly to her books and sales.

Another marketing tip is to identify three to five books that are similar to yours, and then Google book review + the book’s name to find bloggers who’d be interested in reviewing your book. Pitch them with a friendly, personal note along the lines of: “Hi Jane, I see you enjoyed this book by X and you like cats. I have a cat. My protagonist is similar to X…”


Joanna Penn’s marketing triumvirate: blog, podcast and Twitter

These three are the cornerstones of Joanna Penn’s book marketing platform. They “changed my life,” she said, once she had all three together. “You have to be found.”

It was by going to writing conferences and connecting with people that she first got noticed. Success takes time, she said, and sometimes people give up too soon. Most of the people she started out with are no longer around.

Investing in the process is what entrepreneurs do. She spent $4,000 on four different editors for her first book, including structural editing, copyediting and proofreading, and learned enough she hasn’t needed to spend that kind of money again.

She advised authors to take back the power. “The agent is your employee,” she said. You pay them from your royalties. You’re the one with the product.


Ten books means 60 revenue streams

Ultimately, it’s a business. Ten books can translate into  60 revenue streams with audio books, print on demand, translations and other related products.

“Once you have 10 books or more you can’t treat them as your children,” she said.

Like many writers, Joanna said she’s an introvert, but you wouldn’t know it watching her on stage. She came across as refreshingly open and friendly, ready to share everything she has learned with our group of indie writers.

“As introverts, what we do is project a bit. We have to act a bit, or else drink a bit,” she laughed.


Thanks to Kobo Writing Life and Mark Leslie Lefebvre, Kobo’s Director of Self Publishing and Author Relations, for the opportunity to hear Joanna Penn speak, and to Joanna for volunteering her time.

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