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Ep 077: “How To Make A Living With Your Writing Pt. 2”

Welcome to the 77th episode of The Author Hangout, a podcast designed to help authors, especially self-published and indie authors, with marketing their books and improving their author platform. Authors struggle with various aspects of marketing and we are here to help!

“To make money, write books that people actually want.”– Joanna Penn

How To Make A Living With Your Writing Pt. 2

This is part 2 of our epic interview with bestselling author Joanna Penn. We’ve been discussing how to make money with your writing, and we dove even deeper with this episode.

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What’s the process for somebody; they’ve written the book, and now they’ve decided they were going to self-publish. What does that look like?

“The next massive step is editing. It’s really important to remember that the first draft is not a finished product. For me, I spent the biggest chunk of my budget on editing because you want a really good book out there. Your book should be able to stand next to any traditionally published book and that means you need more eyes on the book. I go through several editing processes, a high level story edit, pulp fiction and line edit and proofreading. For non-fiction these days I generally just have proofreading because non-fiction is easier. But for fiction, certainly beginning fiction writers you really need help with your story. You might not see it but you really do. That’s the editing process whether or not you’re submitting to traditional publishing. The formatting, book design process, I use a professional cover designer. Once you’ve got your cover design done, the formatting (I format my own eBook). I use Scrivener. Scrivener software is an amazing writing software but you can also output files for Kindle and files for the other platforms. That’s really useful.”

This section of the book wraps up on how to actually make money with books which is what we’re talking about here. So, how does somebody do that?

“One of the more important things is writing more books. Going back to the script around the, “it’s not just one book” around the model of multiple streams of income. Obviously, the more products you have, the more multiple streams of income you have. I can’t even calculate how many little streams I have from these 17 manuscripts for example. What that turns into is lots and lots. What you’ve got to think is, okay, if I’m just a writer then, great, write for the love of it. But if you want to make an income and make decent money, look at any other business out there, does any other business just have one product? No. Does any publisher just have only one book? No. This is the thing, all the top earning authors in the world, the most loved authors in the world have multiple books. To make money, you do need more than 1 book and probably the other blasphemous thing to say is, write books that people actually want.”

Listen to the podcast to hear Joanna expand on her thoughts about writing books that people actually want. It’s a great part of the interview.

You say, “There are only 2 things that are the most popular top selling authors are doing. You said, write books, write lots of books.” What else are they doing to sell more books?

“You should grow your own email list, all authors should. The top selling authors in the world, I mentioned Stephen King, he doesn’t need to grow his email list. People go, “aww, I’m not on Stephen King’s email list” he’s a name brand author. What you’ve got to think is, you are not a name brand author, and I am not a name brand author. No one’s heard of me. I heard Lee Childs say, “No one’s heard of Lee Childs.” I asked my mom and dad they’ve never heard of him. You know what I mean? People haven’t heard of most people so the only way to guarantee that over time that you will sell books slowly is by building your own email list. Certainly we all do that, those of us who are in this as a business do that.”

What is content marketing and why is that important in this part of the book?

“Content marketing is essentially offering free, useful, entertaining content. That may be written, audio…this is content marketing right now, what you and I do…or video even though technology may change, we will always be video, audio or reading. Reading on a page or listening or watching. These are the ways that humans get stuff, so basically podcast is audio, writing a blog post… What you’ve got to think content marketing is, if you’re putting useful, entertaining, inspiring stuff out there people are going to come to your website or they’re going to take action on whatever call to action you have. In that way you will start a relationship. Hopefully at some point end with a sale.”

You do talk about income streams outside of the book. What are a couple of those income streams that you’re using in your business today?

“I used to do a lot of professional speaking. I don’t do so much anymore. It’s interesting, I’m an introvert like many authors and it’s incredibly tiring to do professional speaking. I do love it and this year I’m doing Austin, TX and Denver, CO so for me it’s a way to travel while speaking. So speaking is one way a lot of the authors make the majority their income from professional speaking. Consulting and coaching are some things a lot of the bloggers do. For me now, the main income streams from the Creative Penn are product sales. I’m doing online courses. I have a successful self-publishing course. It’s an online course with video and audio and that type of stuff. I have Creative Freedom which is essentially for those people who want to make a full-time living with their writing. So I have those 2 courses. Those are product sales, direct sales from my site.”

If you were sitting down with an author who’s had some experience or no experience, what would they be doing to just get things started here?

“It really depends on who you are. A lot of people want to become writers as we mentioned earlier not even potentially putting their writing out there. Whether its blogging or work pad or actually getting a book ready for publication or booking an editor, whatever, you actually do have to take those steps. I also think setting goals, setting dates are super important. With my first book I said, I’m going to hold my book in my hand on my next birthday, whatever it was and I missed it by about a month but if I hadn’t set that goal I wouldn’t have made it. Then I think it really is thinking about deciding what your focus will be and finding the best examples of people to model. For example, if you want to make money with freelance writing don’t listen to me. I don’t make any money from freelance writing. If you want to make your massive amount of income from speaking, have a look at the highly paid speakers who have a book but they actually make more money from speaking. If you actually want to sell books, look at the people who are making the money with books rather than the people who talk about making money with books. This is really important to me, finding people to model along the way. If you’re further along, you have 1 book and you’re thinking of making the transition to full-time it really is…what is your transition plan in terms of your production plan? You have to be making money. I can’t recommend you just quit your job and attempt to make money doing this. As I said I spent 3 ½ years building up a business with books and online income and speaking before I left my job. And I’ve saved a couple of month’s buffer.”

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