Joanna Penn is the author of the ARKANE thrillers, Pentecost, Prophecy and Exodus. Read more at http://www.JFPenn.com. Joanna is also an entrepreneur and professional speaker. Her site for writers http://www.TheCreativePenn.com has been voted one of the Top 10 sites for writers 2 years running and offers articles, audio and video on writing, publishing and book marketing. Connect with Joanna on twitter @thecreativepenn.
It is a pleasure to share this interview with Joanna! Be sure to visit her site, check out the resources she offers, including the Author 2.0 Blueprint – a free guide to help writers. She also has several courses that are very helpful for writers, and of course you should buy her books!
You made a big transition from “regular work” to writing. Can you talk a little about that transition and describe any particularly difficult hurdles, or anything that really surprised you?
After 13 years of being an IT consultant, I became a fulltime author-entrepreneur in Sept 2011. However, I would say that I had been building my business for 3 years before that while working part-time and getting to the point where I would have income coming in, so it was less of a risk.
The hard bits were adjusting to the financial differential, as I was on a high six-figure income and downsized considerably in order to change my life. This was a conscious decision though, as I don’t see the point of the trappings if at your core, you are unhappy. We moved from a 4 bedroom house with a car, to a 1 bedroom flat with no car, simplifying life down to the essentials, which turn out to be very little! This was very liberating for me, and I highly recommend downsizing if you want to try a life change. We don’t even own any furniture now.
I also found that I was going crazy in my house all day, so I joined the London Library where I go several times a week to work in a space with other writers. Even just the routine of the commute, along with other people around me, helps with that. I also have some physical networks in London which help me stay sane – we can’t have everything virtually!
It’s definitely easier to have a day job but I am loving my life these days, and after years in soul-destroying IT departments, I am very happy. I get to spend my time being creative and working on projects I think are important. With every book and every course, I am building an asset for the future.
I wrote a lot more on this when I reached 1 year as an author-entrepreneur here: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2012/09/25/1-year-author-entrepreneur/
Most writers are working on tight budgets. Are there any tools or services that you recommend they definitely budget for? In other words, what do writers absolutely need to purchase?
Scrivener changed my life! It is writing software that helps you plot, organize and write your books, from plain text fiction to complicated research papers with footnotes etc. It allows you to drag and drop chapters around which really helps in the editing process. Then it has a Compile function which means you can output correctly formatted files for Kindle in .mobi format as well as ePub for Kobo and Nook, and Word for Smashwords or editing, or PDF or other formats. It means you are in total control of your digital publishing, and you don’t have to pay someone else to do your formatting. It’s only ~$45 so well worth the investment.
Here’s an interview I did with Gwen Hernandez, author of ‘Scrivener for Dummies’ where we discuss all the functionality http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2012/11/22/writing-scrivener-gwen-hernandez/
Can you describe a typical day? How much time do you spend writing, how much promotion do you do, how many hours on administrative stuff? (What I’m really trying to get at here is your process. I find learning about other people’s processes fascinating!)
I am a chronic organizer of my time, so I diarize a lot in advance and this helps me plan my days. So I try to spend 3 days a week working in the London Library, which is my fiction writing time, and I have one whole day a week for interviews, blogging, scheduling posts and tweets. I am also a professional speaker and entrepreneur so I have other business tasks, for example, speaking prep or media articles to write. At the moment it is about 50:50 split between fiction and non-fiction.
So a typical day is one of two kinds I guess:
a) Introverted and quiet, creating, with a focus on writing or editing or whatever is the latest project
b) business and marketing focused, creating material for sale or for speaking events, or courses. A more external focus and live interviews, video skype, podcast recording etc.
I find it hard to switch between these ‘heads’ in one day, so I diarize them separately and the mix depends on my focus for the month.
Do you have any favorite forums, writers’ sites, or blogs that you recommend (in addition to your own, of course)?
I am a happy member of the Alliance of Independent Authors and we have a great Facebook group which is very active in sharing what we’re all doing in terms of writing, Tten I definitely recommend the following: publishing and marketing. There’s also a great blog, How to successfully self-publish.
* TheBookDesigner.com for everything self-publishing in print and ebook format
* JaneFriedman.com for publishing industry insight
* Copyblogger.com for copywriting, content marketing and online business
* Brain Pickings for creative randomness
* Justine Musk for empowering inspiration, and a lot of great book recommendations