Monday, November 5, 2012

Joanna Penn - HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Joanna Penn (J. F. Penn). She is a Action-Adventure Thriller Author creating the ARKANE thriller series. Also she has written several business books and has one of the most popular blogs in the book writing, marketing and publishing industry.

Author Genre: Action-Adventure Thriller

Author's Blog: The Creative Penn
Website: J. F. Penn, Ancient Mystery, Modern Thrill
Twitter: @thecreativepenn
LinkedIn: Check Out LinkedIn
Facebook: Check Out Facebook
Pinterest: Check Out Pinterest

Author Description: Joanna Penn is the author of the ARKANE thrillers, Pentecost and Prophecy. Read more at
Joanna is also an entrepreneur and professional speaker. Her site for writers 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

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author
We should start with the most important thing on the schedule. When will Exodus (ARKANE series #3) be released and can you give us a teaser about the plot?
Thanks for asking! Exodus is about the hunt for the Ark of the Covenant as the Middle East counts down to a religious war.

When a brutal murder in the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities draws Dr Morgan Sierra into the search for the Ark, it’s a race against time across Egypt, Ethiopia, Jordan and Israel to keep the holy artifact from the hands of fundamentalists.

Can the Ark really be found, and does it possess the fabled powers of destruction? Join Morgan in December 2012 for the next ARKANE adventure.

Do you enjoy writing fiction or non-fiction the best? Does it give you a change of pace working back and forth between the two?
I have one non-fiction book on career change, How To Love Your Job Or Find A New One, based on my years of hating my job as an IT consultant. I had to write that book in order to change my own life, and fiction came after that when I had found my creative streak.

I definitely prefer writing fiction now as it helps me to explore interesting topics in religion and psychology (my passions) while also making up a fun story across global locations (travel is another passion of mine!).

I do want to write more non-fiction but that will come later I think - maybe a travel memoir or another self-help book. So I mainly write non-fiction when I write blog posts and articles, which I don’t count as important as producing books in the genre.

I watched as you put your last book cover through the design process soliciting your reader’s help. Great idea. Did your audience enjoy that? Did that give you an added satisfaction in producing the finished product?
Yes, I got people on the blog to vote on the book cover for Pentecost. I put up several versions and had people choose which they preferred as well as leaving comments on other suggestions.

Interestingly enough, the overall consensus was not what I would have chosen myself, but I went with the wisdom of the crowd.

It helped me because I was able to find the best image for sales purposes but also it made people feel more involved and some of them went on to purchase the book. Now I have a certain look and feel, a particular font etc so I don’t do that process anymore for my ARKANE series, but I would definitely repeat the experience for a new series.

I follow your industry blog religiously and I am seeing a trend that other authors are writing quality stuff also. As a marketing tool, have you seen a boost in sales of your books by providing quality information on your author blog? How does your blog fit in to your marketing plans?
I started out blogging 4 years ago before I had even written fiction in order to share my lessons learned along the way. So for me, blogging wasn’t about selling my fiction, it was a means to become part of a community and help others. Back then, self-publishing wasn’t so popular but now, it’s gone mainstream and so my main blog at the picked up readers.

I think the trend for blogging and sharing right now really does stem from an honest desire to share and help others. It is the Wild West right now for indie authors so people are sharing what works, or what doesn’t and the feedback helps others. There’s an authentic community feeling amongst these indie blogs, and I love being part of that!

In terms of how blogging fits with marketing, I have a business as well as writing fiction. The Creative Penn is more about selling products and my services but I now have a fiction blog where I write articles based on my research for the novels.

However, mainly I see blogging for fiction more as a value add, not as a sales mechanism or for marketing. I write articles that my readers would enjoy, rather than trying to attract readers through blogging.

Living in the UK, how important is social media (almost 30K Twitter followers) to your marketing effort?
As a general question, I find social media brilliant for connecting with people, mainly my writing peers and people in the industry. I’m a public speaker so I get a lot of speaking engagements and business from social media. In terms of selling books, social is about getting attention in this noisy world and then having people follow back to your site and hopefully finding you interesting enough to join your email list. In that way, you can start having a relationship with them.

Here’s my breakdown of how social media can help sell books: Social Media blog
I don’t think social media has anything to do with where you live - and in fact, most of the people I network with are in the US. I tweet across timezones with scheduling so I appear in streams all over the world. I definitely love Twitter - so please connect with me there @thecreativepenn

I am in the middle of writing an industry blog on book trailers. I have to give you credit here. The blog I always go to as my base on this topic is the blog you wrote in 2008, ‘11 steps to make your own’. How did you create the trailer for Pentecost?
The book trailer music is outstanding. Where did you get the sound and was it expensive to buy the license?

Basically, the process is this:
1) Plan your book trailer. It should be max 90 seconds really and make it capture people’s attention. Be catchy and use your shortened back blurb. You can plan voice over or just music with text on the screen. You will also need to decide on a budget because using stock video will cost you more than still images.

2) Source royalty free media, video, audio and images. It’s important that they are royalty free so you don’t pay per view/download. You can get this for free or you can buy it.
You’ll need to budget some time for this. It took me a couple of days to find the video, images and audio for my video. I used for video and images, and I used for my audio as they have a great search for movie styles.

3) Put it all together with editing software. You can use free software like MovieMaker on the PC or iMovie on the Mac, or I now use ScreenFlow on the Mac. This takes a while too as you have to cut everything with the music and add the text.

4) Distribute it. You can load it to YouTube, Vimeo and other video sites, but you may also want to put it on your blog, your Amazon Author Central page, and anywhere else. You can use it in guest posts and anywhere you like really!

Here’s the final product:
Book Trailer YouTube Video
and here’s the updated blog post with the full process:
How to Create a Book Trailer blog

However, I would say that although I enjoyed making the video trailer, it’s not something I think is critical in a marketing plan. I do a lot of videos on YouTube but they are more interviews/talking heads. It’s about building relationships over time and one, trailer-style video won’t do that.

Author's Book List
Pentecost. An ARKANE Thriller
Kindle bestseller in Action/Adventure and Religious Fiction. Pentecost is a fast-paced, action-adventure thriller with high body count and graphic scenes of violence.

A power kept secret for 2000 years. ?A brotherhood broken by murder. ?A woman who stands to lose everything.

Forged in the fire and blood of martyrs, the Pentecost stones have been handed down through generations of Keepers who kept their power and locations secret. Until now.

If you love a fast-paced, rollicking read, download a sample or buy Pentecost now.
Book Trailer: Pentecost. An ARKANE Thriller
Amazon Buy Page -- Barnes and Noble Buy Page
Prophecy. An ARKANE thriller
A Kindle bestseller in Action/Adventure and Religious Fiction. Prophecy is a fast-paced, action-adventure thriller with high body count and graphic scenes of violence.

The prophecy in Revelation declares that a quarter of the world must die and now a shadowy organization has the ability to fulfill these words. Can one woman stop the abomination before it's too late?

From the catacombs of Paris to the skeletal ossuaries of Sicily and the Czech Republic, Morgan Sierra and Jake Timber must find the Devil's Bible and stop the curse being released into the world before one in four are destroyed in the coming holocaust. Because in just seven days, the final curse will be spoken and the prophecy will be fulfilled.

My passions for religion, psychology and travel fuel the ARKANE thrillers, and my love of action movies determines the fast pace of the writing.

The Prophecy of the book is from Revelation where the pale horse of Death is given power over a quarter of the earth. In creating a realistic villain in Milan Noble, I wove eugenics and genetics into the mix, because if you're going to kill so many, you'd better be sure who you want left at the end. Milan's obsession with the Devil's Bible also became my own, and the ten pages really are missing…

The theme of bones and ossuaries stems from a trip to the Paris catacombs, where millions of dead lie piled up with intricate designs made from skulls and femurs. I had also researched Kutna Hora, the bone church of the Czech Republic and knew I had to set scenes there. Settings mean a great deal to me and I often know the location before I know what is going to happen in the story.

Prophecy was brilliant fun to write. I hope you enjoy the ride.
Amazon Buy Page -- Barnes and Noble Buy Page
How To Love Your Job Or Find A New One
Do you hate your job?
Or do you just tolerate it day after day, knowing that you want to do something else but unsure what that something else is?
Would you like to love your job, and enjoy the work you do? Well, it's time to change your life.
I spent 13 years as an IT business consultant in the corporate world, and much of that was spent questioning why I didn't enjoy my work and attempting to figure out what I really wanted to do. This book is the result of that journey and contains strategies and tips for you to figure out your own path.

You'll learn how to identify the current issues you have as well as how to improve your life right now. Then you can use the questionnaires to work out what you really want to do as well as the path to make the change.
Amazon Buy Page
Author 2.0 Blueprint
***** Free *****
Available at The Creative Penn, Joanna's website.
A Must Read for all beginning indie authors. ***

How to use Web 2.0 tools to write, publish, sell and promote your book using the Blueprint for your online author platform.

Where do I find the time to write my book?
Where do you find the time to write?
What will you give up to write your book?
On writing every day vs binge writing.
And lots of other tips for writing a book.

On editing and rewriting
Why you need a professional editor for your book.
Editing your novel: High level story read through.
The publishing world is exploding with opportunity now, especially for authors who are willing to build themselves a platform and find readers for their books regardless of how they publish.

Authors have to do a lot of their own marketing.
That’s the reality of the publishing industry whether you get a publishing deal or you self-publish. But these days anyone can market globally using just a computer and their time. It may take effort. It doesn’t need to cost you much – and you might even enjoy it!

From Book to Market: Internet Marketing, Sales and Promotion. . .For Your Book

Are you ready to sell more books and make more money?

This book will show you how to: *Sell and promote your book on your own website, on Amazon and other online bookstores
*Sell your book as an ebook
*Promote on the internet using web 2.0 and social networking sites including Twitter, article sites, and Facebook advertising
*Make your own book trailer for free
*Set up a website with a shopping cart and how to build a list for marketing
*Set up a blog to connect with your audience and tips on how to blog for best results
*Set up the business behind the book and much more! Includes an award-winning marketing plan.
Amazon Buy Page
From Idea to Book: How To Write and Publish Your Book
Are you ready to write and publish your book?

This powerful book includes:
* the psychology behind writing a book, giving you the tools to help you achieve your dream;
* How to find the inspiration to write and how to break through what is stopping you;
* How to find the time, persistence and discipline to write; How to research, structure and actually write your book;
* The importance of editing, rewriting and proof-reading for your book;
* What publishing options you have including traditional publishing, self-publishing, print-on-demand or ebooks.
* Includes the answers to 40 Frequently Asked Questions from first time authors!
Amazon Buy Page -- Smashwords Buy Page
How to Enjoy Your Job
Do you want to escape the boredom or stress of your work? Do you feel trapped in your current job? Are you stuck in the money trap? Do you want to find out what you really want to do for a living? Are you ready to make changes in your life to enjoy your job now and create a future career that you really want?

This book is targeted to your specific work problems so you can find the most useful information for your situation immediately, and start making changes tomorrow. Packed with process flows and easy-to-use diagrams, plus tips, strategies and a companion workbook.
Amazon Buy Page
Author Recommended by: HBSystems Publications
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the HBS Author's Spotlight plus the blog: eBook Author's Corner

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