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Publetariat Dispatch: What I Have Learned In The Last 2 Years: 100th Podcast Celebration of Joanna Penn

Publetariat: For People Who Publish!In today’s Publetariat Dispatch, indie author and publishing consultant Joanna Penn shares lessons learned.

This is podcast number 100 and it’s just over 2 years since I started podcasting.  [Editor’s note: podcast is included at the end of this article]  At the time, I had one non-fiction book out with pretty much zero sales and I was living in Australia. Self publishing had a huge stigma and I wasn’t even on Twitter!

How things have changed. I now have an Amazon bestselling thriller novel that has sold over 7500 copies and 3 non-fiction books behind me, I have a pretty big social network now and I’m living in London. I knew nothing when I started and this morning I did a webinar on how to podcast!

In the last 2 years, self-publishing has morphed into indie, John Locke has sold over 1 million Kindle books as an indie author, big names are going indie and Amanda Hocking got a massive book deal from indie success. Oh, and JK Rowling has left her publisher to self-publish her own ebooks and start Pottermore direct to fans. So I was part of a fringe movement 2 years ago that is now solidly mainstream especially with layoffs in publishing and bookstores close – Borders has just gone under as I speak today. It is a very different time and most people agree that there has never been a better time to be an author taking charge of your own destiny!

Today I am discussing some of my lessons learned from the process of podcasting and also from some of the stand out interviews for me:

First up, the state of the podcast in July 2011 is that there are around 2500 downloads per month of new and old episodes. 60% of the listeners are in the US, with 15% in China and 14% in UK and the rest spread between Australia, Germany, Canada and some other countries. It’s truly a global show! Thanks to everyone for tuning in and I’m so glad you enjoy the show. I’m always keen to hear from you – email: joanna AT

Here are some of my lessons learned in general from podcasting:

Just start, even if you don’t know what you are doing. My first interview was with 4 Ingredients author Rachael Bermingham who is HUGE in Australia, self, published and has sold millions of books now. I did it on the landline phone, I held a recorder next to it. I edited in Audacity and loaded the file to my very new and pretty ugly blog (which has since been redesigned). I didn’t know about mics, or Skype or Pamela/ecamm or hosting or anything. Things have changed and here’s how I do it now.

Fear and nerves will always be there. Just do it anyway. I am still nervous before phoning anyone. I have to force myself every time. My heart races, my mouth is dry and I go to the bathroom three times before starting. I also do public speaking and its the same thing with that. But we need to get our ‘breadcrumbs’ of content out there, so it has to be done.

I credit the podcast with the growing success of The Creative Penn because of my ability to network and offer something that many blogs don’t offer i.e. multi-media interviews. I get requests all the time and other people promote the blog because of it. All the people I interview link back to their show so the incoming links have helped my SEO ranking. I have connected with you as listeners – you have heard my voice and laugh and mannerisms and annoying tics for years now. I know some of you have bought my books for which I am very grateful. I am also personally fulfilled by being useful and I feel this is useful to people, so I love to do it. I love to get emails from people who have found the information helpful.

You can learn from everybody. Podcasting is a great way to learn about writing, publishing and book marketing. It’s also an amazing way to network. The people I have had on the podcast I have connected with and got to know more. There is a widening circle of mutual support. I also firmly believe in no snobbery – you can learn from everyone. It doesn’t matter what they have written or done, you can’t underestimate anyone’s experience. You also never know where they will end up.

Stand out episodes for me

I learn something with every podcast but these are particular ones where something clicked and my own life changed.

JC Hutchins on transmedia. This was an early interview and a big influence for me. JC had the 7th Son podcast, a book deal and is now transmedia guru and he was generous with his time. He had just spoken to the NY Times or something and is generally the nicest, loveliest man. He gave me a chance which I appreciated greatly. He also got a book deal from his podcast success. I saw how he was doing marketing with internet based and fan based methods and realized you could basically ditch mainstream media. He sparked my massive interest in online marketing which I credit with all my book sales now. Pivotal moment! I had just done national TV in Australia and multiple newspapers and got no sales at all, so it was great to just stop all that work and focus on online methods. Here’s the interview with JC on transmedia. Here’s the interview on writing thrillers.

Tom Evans on writer’s block. I have been scared about writing fiction for many years as I always held up Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose as the way you had to write. Prize winning literature as Eco is an academic although that book still had mainstream success. We discussed this block and Tom basically helped me get over it during this episode. All I needed was a kick in the pants. I have continued to interview Tom about this work – he is a brilliant guy especially if you are into the more esoteric world of thought and consciousness. Here’s the interview with Tom Evans on beating writer’s block. 

Here’s the latest interview we did on lightbulb moments.

Mur Lafferty – It’s ok to suck. After speaking with  Tom, I decided to do Nanowrimo in 2009 and get into some fiction. I’ve been listening to Mur’s I should be writing podcast for a while and asked her on to the show to discuss one of her mantras which is “it’s ok to suck”. Basically your first draft is going to be bad. This is also said by Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird “shitty first drafts”. IT’S OK! This released me from more fear and I wrote 20,000 words of crap during Nanowrimo BUT that turned into the seed idea for Pentecost which has now sold over 7500 copies and is still in the Amazon bestseller lists for Action-Adventure and Religious Fiction. I am now 20,000 words into Prophecy and I see myself as a fiction writer. This is a HUGE turnaround for me. HUGE. I mean my life has changed and I am thrilled and overjoyed to be here! Here’s the podcast with Mur Lafferty.

Gideon Shalwick on using video for book promotion. This interview finally changed my view on video and I had been teetering for a while. I took Gideon’s advice and got heavily into video and now I make them every week. I rank on the first page of Google for the search term “thriller novel” in text and in video. I’ve had nearly 50,000 views of my videos on YouTube and it continues to be a traffic source for me. I personally prefer audio to video and I hardly ever watch videos myself, but it’s a great way to reach new people and VERY few authors are doing video right now so it’s another way to stand out in a crowded market. Here’s the interview with Gideon Shalwick.

Scott Sigler on being a NYT bestselling author. I learned that successful authors work bloody hard. Scott is a machine, writing every day, podcasting his novels, networking, promoting and basically getting out there. He is a businessman as well as a great author. I seriously recommend his books , his latest Ancestor is a kind of Jurassic Park/ genetic engineering style thriller. I also learned that writing is a long term career, you’ve got to keep writing. Here’s the interview with Scott Sigler.

Clare Edwards on accepting criticism, being an introvert and resilience. This really helped me at a time of burnout. I have a day job and at the time I was working VERY hard and was exhausted, plus I have tried to keep the momentum with the blog, podcast, videos etc and trying to write the novel – my confidence was low and I needed the help. This podcast helped me reassess my own life and get back on track. We all need help and I am lucky to have built a great network of people who I can trust and talk to. Here’s the interview with Clare Edwards.

There have been many, many more amazing podcasts and a big thank you to all my guests and also my listeners. I look forward to the next 100 podcasts!

I would love to hear from you. I don’t get much mail from podcast listeners so I send these out into the ether and hope you enjoy them.

If you do have something to share please email me: joanna AT or leave a comment as I would love to know which episodes you enjoyed and which ones you learned from, or what else you would like to hear on the show.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to The Creative Penn podcast in iTunes by clicking here.


This is a reprint from Joanna Penn‘s The Creative Penn.

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