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Book Industry: An Interview with Expert Joanna Penn

Today I have a recent interview with industry expert and author Joanna Penn (J. F. Penn). She has one of the most popular blogs in the book writing, marketing and publishing industry. Joanna has written several business books highlighted below along with the Kindle bestselling ARKANE thrillers, Pentecost and Prophecy.

Author Description:

Joanna Penn is the author of the ARKANE thrillers, Pentecost and Prophecy. Read more at www.JFPenn.com

Joanna is also an entrepreneur and professional speaker. Her site for writers www.TheCreativePenn.com 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

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 CreativePenn.com 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 www.JFPenn.com 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 iStockphoto.com for video and images, and I used 300Monks.com 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.

Joanna’s Book List

Pentecost. An ARKANE Thriller
Amazon Buy Page
Barnes and Noble Buy Page

Prophecy. An ARKANE thriller
Amazon Buy Page
Barnes and Noble Buy Page

How To Love Your Job Or Find A New One
Amazon Buy Page

Author 2.0 Blueprint
***** Free *****
Available at The Creative Penn, Joanna’s website. http://www.TheCreativePenn.com
A Must Read for all beginning indie authors. *** WRITING – EDITING – MARKETING YOUR BOOK
How to use Web 2.0 tools to write, publish, sell and promote your book using the Blueprint for your online author platform.

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

From Idea to Book: How To Write and Publish Your Book
Amazon Buy Page
Smashwords Buy Page

How to Enjoy Your Job
Amazon Buy Page

Words from an expert, Joanna Penn.

What do you think of the idea of having your reader base involved in your cover design?

Do you think having a quality blog helps in developing relationships with fellow authors and readers?

Are book trailers an important part of your marketing effort?

If you have any questions about book trailers, Joanna is a great source of information. Her blog on trailers is a must read.

Joanna’s Contact Information

HBSystems Publications, Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the HBS Author’s Spotlight.
This interview is from the Joanna Penn – HBS Author’s Spotlight blog.

Follow Me on Twitter: @jimhbs
Or EMAIL at: [email protected]
View my website: James Moushon – Mystery Writer
Or visit my blog: The eBook Author Corner
Take a look at my Author’s blog: HBS Author’s Spotlight

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About James Moushon

Profile photo of James Moushon
I am a published writer in the electronic document field. Starting over 15 years ago, I helped lead the startup of the electronic forms industry in the creation, conversion and usage of electronic forms by supplying that industry with a continuing source of published literature, software products and training seminars. I worked with over 200 companies and organizations like the IRS, Commerce Clearing House, Nutrilite, UPS, MGM, Sony International and Royal Paper Box with their conversion from paper forms to electronic forms. In 2003 I changed my focus to ebooks and their development. I commented in a recent interview: “The start of the ebook industry as a major publishing method in many ways parallels the start of the acceptance of electronic forms by businesses in the mid 1990’s. Back then major companies controlled the process but with the advent of inexpensive technology (laser printers), the ease of entry and the development of software to drive these devices, the electronic forms industry was formed. Today the ebook reader and new software are driving the startup of the ebook industry.”

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