If you are a writer looking for information about the process of planning, writing, publishing and marketing your book, The Creative Penn is an excellent resource. In fact, it was voted one of the top 100 sites for writers by Writer's Digest and offers over 1,000 articles and 100+ hours of audio and podcast information, as well as multiple downloads and bonus material. As the mastermind behind the website, Joanna Penn is an award-nominated, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thrillers under the penname J.F. Penn and offers valuable advice through several free and paid resources available on the website.
Navigating the site
With easy-to-navigate links and enough white space to make the text-heavy site readable, The Creative Penn suggests that visitors start here with a page full of great resources for novice and expert writers alike. At the top of the page, Penn offers her free eBook and video series, Author 2.0 Blueprint, in which she shares
everything you need to write, publish and market your book, as well as how to become an author-entrepreneur. Her website's visitors will need to provide and confirm their email address to download the free resource.
Next on the site's navigation is a link to Penn's free resources on writing and editing. On this page, she offers articles and tips based on the following topics:
- How to Write Fiction: 7 Steps to Write Your Novel
- How to Write a Non-Fiction Book
- How to Find Time to Write
- How to Find and Capture Ideas for your Novel
- How to Research your Book and When to Stop
- Self-doubt and Imposter Syndrome
- You Have Permission
- On Writing and The Fear of Judgment
- What is your Definition of Success as a Writer?
- How to Write More and Create A Daily Writing Habit
- How to Use Dictation to Write Faster and Become a Healthier Writer
- Productivity for Writers: 5 Ways to Become More Productive
- 5 Ways to Get Your First Draft Material Out of Your Head and Onto the Page
- 8 Ways Scrivener Will Help You Become a Proficient Writer
- Using Different Author Names or a Pseudonym as a Writer
- Editing, Revisions and Proofreading: What Happens After the First Draft?
- How to Find and Work with a Professional Editor
- Tutorial: How to Improve your Writing with Grammarly
- My list of Recommended Editors
After following some of the links along this extensive list, I found a wealth of information on all aspects of writing and locating the right professional editor for your work. I particularly enjoyed the information she provides on setting goals and deadlines for yourself to stay productive as a writer and get more accomplished in less time. Many of the links also show videos of the author and guide the reader toward additional resources (both free and paid) that are available online and through Amazon.
The next page full of links on The Creative Penn relates to self-publishing. In this section, the topics she goes into in depth include:
- Self-Publishing Overview and Tips
- Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Self-publishing
- 5 Important Steps Before You Self-Publish
- What is Your Definition of Success? How Will you Measure it?
- How to Self-Publish an Ebook
- How to Format an Ebook and a Print Book with Vellum
- The Pros and Cons of Exclusivity with Amazon
- How to Self-Publish a Print Book
- How to Self-Publish an Audiobook
- How to Record Your Own Audiobook
- What if you need help self-publishing? How to Find the Best Service and Avoid Getting Ripped Off
- Sell More Books with Boxsets and Bundling
- Turn your Non-Fiction Book into a Workbook
- How Much Does It Cost to Self-Publish?
- Successful Self-Publishing Tips with Joanna Penn and Mark Dawson
- Top 5 Mistakes of Indie Authors and How to Avoid Them
This section contains anything and everything you could ever want to know about how to self-publish your book, including information on recording your own audiobook and creating a workbook for your nonfiction book. I especially liked watching the videos she includes on many of these links, such as this one.
It's obvious from Penn's easygoing instruction and expertise that she knows what she's talking about when it comes to writing and publishing a book, and it's nice to have a sort of "insider's glance" at the world of self-publishing from someone who has done it often and become successful at it.
The marketing section of the blog is where Penn's expertise really shows. In the first part, she discusses the basics and prerequisites for author marketing success, followed by the polarities of book marketing and where you sit on the scale, the book marketing mindset for authors, when to start marketing your book and how to balance your time.
She follows that section with topics such as how to attract readers with a great book sales description, how to choose the right categories and keywords for your book, pricing books and offering free copies, using author pseudonyms, using box-sets and bundling, and writing a series.
Following this, she offers a great tutorial on how to build your author website in under 30 minutes. Having set up websites on my own and knowing the amount of work that goes into it (especially for a website design newbie), I decided to pay special attention to this section. As with other articles on her blog, Penn offers helpful resources such as a YouTube video and a free downloadable PDF to help authors set up their sites. She even offers a discounted affiliate link through BlueHost.com, which is the hosting platform she suggests for other authors.
It's important to keep in mind that to build the website in 30 minutes, as Penn suggests is possible, you have to have a blog already set up on WordPress. Her instructions include a WordPress plugin through Blue Host that allows your WordPress site to basically transfer over. So yes, I'm sure this can be done in 30 minutes but if an author is starting from scratch (without a blog already published on WordPress), they should not expect the site to be done within that timeframe.
From an online marketing perspective, Penn's advice on building and maintaining email lists for steady income includes a case study showing how she grew her own email list as and author. This particular resource is chock full of helpful advice on some of the finer points of automating email marketing campaigns. Penn explains that she went 603 people on her email list in November 2014 to 2,255 in January 2015 following this series of steps, which she clearly lays out for her reader. From a marketing perspective, I found the content to be extremely helpful to decode some of the confusion around email marketing campaigns and their usefulness.
If you want to know how to make writing your day job and successful career, there's no better person to ask than someone who does just that. Based in Bath, England and a self-proclaimed "travel junkie," Joanna Penn is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling thriller author who has written over 27 books. She is also an international professional speaker and award-winning creative entrepreneur. She has also written and self-published several nonfiction titles related to writing, including How To Market A Book, Business for Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur, How to Make a Living with your Writing, The Successful Author Mindset, The Healthy Writer, Successful Self-Publishing, Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives and Other Introverts, and Career Change.
The Creative Penn Podcast
For writers who prefer to listen to interviews with authors and tips about writing, the podcast available on The Creative Penn website is free and available on RSS, iTunes, Android, Stitcher, and YouTube. With a combination of interviews, inspiration and information, the podcasts are posted every Monday and there are currently over 350 podcast episodes available to listen to and/or download.
Some of the most recent podcast episodes listed are:
- #386 – Foolproof Dictation and Zero Social Media with Christopher Downing
- #385 – How to Write Effective Injuries For Your Characters with Samantha Keel
- #384 – The Artist's Journey with Steven Pressfield
- #383 – Tips for Editing your Book with Natasa Lekic from NY Book Editors
- #382 – Redesign your Life to Prioritize your Writing with David Kadavy
- #381 – Writing with Depression with Michaelbrent Collings
The Creative Penn website also provides access to three courses taught by Joanna Penn: How to Write a Novel, How to Write Non-Fiction: Turn Your Knowledge Into Words and Creative Freedom: How to Make a Living With Your Writing.
The How to Write a Novel course is described as a
step-by-step guide to understanding story structure and the elements of a novel, and then writing and editing your manuscript. The price at the time of this review is $297 or $50 per month for six months. According to Penn, it contains downloadable audio and PDF slides to allow students to learn at their own pace, with five modules along with extra Q&A videos with Joanna Penn.
The How to Write Non-Fiction: Turn Your Knowledge Into Words course, according to Penn, will
save you time, effort and frustration on your author journey. Penn describes the course as one in which she shares
the business models of writing non-fiction, mindset issues around writing, the details of how to research, write and edit your book, dictation and productivity tips, as well as publishing, product creation, marketing and more.
The Creative Freedom: How to Make a Living With Your Writing course is designed to be used to build a long-term sustainable business as an author entrepreneur and is an advanced-level course, available for writers who have already published a book. According to Penn's description, it is specifically designed for writers who have a book or books but aren't making money from them or writers who currently make some money from their writing but not enough.