Interview with Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn: Marketing yourself and your books online.

Frequently when reading my numerous online newsletters or forum posts, I’ll wonder why I spend 30 minutes to 1 hour a day reading this material. But then, one day, I’ll discover 4 or 5 new, important aspects to the writing and publishing world that matter a great deal. That is how I met Joanna–she made a great post on a forum which generated many comments and I had to address one of the comments. Now, it seems like we know each other.

After Joanna asked to interview me, I thought, what a great idea. The Hill Team does not view books that cover our area as off limits for promoting. In fact, we stress over and over, we are continually learning from others and enjoy having the opportunity to promote others.

Joanna has two new books that will soon be on Amazon — From Idea to Book and From Book to Market . Joanna’s first book was How to Enjoy Your Job.

Since Joanna is doing such a great job of promoting herself online, we have asked her to discuss and share with us that aspect of marketing.

Joanna, would you introduce yourself and your books?

I published my first book, How to Enjoy Your Job in April 2008, after 23 years of wanting to be an author! It was a dream come true for me.

I have been a business consultant for 12 years working in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. So many office workers are unhappy in their jobs, and I was one of them, so I wanted to help people get out of that misery. The book offers strategies, tips and inspiration to help people make the most of their working lives. It has helped a number of people change career entirely so I am happy it is helpful to people. In writing it, I also changed my own life, which is so often a side effect of writing!

I have also written From Idea to Book, which gives people all the information they need to write and get published. Then I have From Book to Market, which is all about sales, marketing and book promotion — after all, authors want to make money too!

I am also the Director of The Creative Penn, which helps people achieve their dream of being an author by providing information on writing, publishing, sales and promotion for books. I have just given up business consulting to run this full-time which is very exciting!

Are you self-published and if so, what led you to that process?

Yes, all my books are self-published. I didn’t know anything about the publishing world when I wrote How to Enjoy Your Job. I just had something important to say and wanted it out there.
I finished the book and then started investigating my options (tip: authors should investigate publishing before writing!). I met some agents and was astonished to find that if my book was accepted, it would take 12-18 months to get published. But I had a finished book in my hands and I wanted it out there now!

I also tried a few agents and publishers and got a few rejections. This process was way too slow for me, so I investigated self-publishing. I used and my book was on within a few weeks and started selling immediately. I then started to investigate all the ways authors can promote themselves and decided to just continue self-publishing for my next books.
The author has full control, larger profits and the ability to move quickly into new markets. Also, the traditional publishers are suffering greatly with the global recession and are not taking many new authors so independent publishing and print-on-demand has become more popular.

I know you use ebooks–have you found them a successful means of getting your book out there?

Ebooks are brilliant!

They are virtual products so you can sell them to people all over the world. There is no warehousing, no shipping and little overheads. You can use Paypal so you don’t need a special account, and you can sell all kinds of different things e.g. full length book, or special reports or leaflets plus audios and eclasses. You can make money with ebooks!

They are up and coming in 2009 so authors need to understand them. The Kindle, iPhone Stanza, Blackberry reader apps, and all the other ways to read ebooks are all taking off. Amazon wants to grow digital revenue and reduce warehousing and distribution costs and people are increasingly mobile. The good news is for authors that it levels the playing field. Your ebook can make it if you publicise it and make it available. An easy way to get started is to use Smashwords which converts Word documents into all the various formats. I use it for my books — here is a post on how to use it.

With marketing online, do you find one site more helpful than another?

I am a total fan of Twitter at the moment. It is brilliant for driving traffic to my blog. It is now beating Google organic search and all my other traffic streams after 6 weeks of using it. I am also making some amazing contacts through it, including big names in the book world.
Many people think it is just a waste of time, but if used properly, it’s very powerful. This post explains what Twitter is and how authors can use it.

What online marketing tips do you have for authors?

Wow! That’s a big question so I will pick three! These combine sales with marketing, because there is little point marketing without some return on investment.

1) Get your book available for sale online. Either through your own website, or through Amazon, or through Smashwords or another e-retailer. If it’s not for sale online, there is little point marketing yourself. Remember it’s a global market now! I’m talking to you as a Brit in Australia being interviewed on a US site. I sell my books online in every country in the world – now that’s exciting!

2) Get a blog and use it to build a database of people interested in your books and products. Offer something for free and then develop relationships. My example is my free “How to be an Author workbook” available at

3) Use Twitter and other social networking tools to drive traffic to your blog. Also use video — YouTube is very easy to use. Drive traffic any way you can, offer value and people will buy from you if they like your products.

You talk about Publishing 2.0 on your site. What is that and why is it important for authors?

Publishing 2.0 is changing the way books are written, published, sold and promoted over the internet utilising web 2.0 technologies. Authors can now use these tools to self publish and get their message out there themselves. You do not need a publisher to write and sell your books, and you are not confined anymore by space or somewhere to store your books. You are not confined by price either because so many of these techniques are free! It is such an exciting and liberating time to be an author! (as long as you embrace the technology!)

These new tools include blogging, social networking, video, podcasting, twitter and realtime RSS feeds, print-on-demand, ebooks, and digital collaboration. The list goes on! If these terms are unfamiliar to people, then that’s because it is new, but it is also the future right now. If used in the right way, these tools can make the difference of thousands of dollars in sales. I know people are interested in that! I am currently writing a program called author 2.0 which will have videos, audios, interviews and “how-to” guides for these things and more. The aim is for authors to take hold of the technology and shape it into profits.

How can people contact you?

You can find me at my main website and blog
You can also follow me on
I also have a Facebook group for How to Publish a Book — come and join us!

Thank you Joanna and we wish you much success.

Maralyn D. Hill & Brenda C. Hill
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