How to Make a Living with Your Writing

Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn, was the closing speaker for the Indie Author Conference back in November. Funny, personable, and ridiculously adept at making a living with her writing, Joanna writes both fiction and non-fiction.

She gave us a bit of background, told us how she wanted to read, write, and eat biscuits for a living. But, with a Masters in Theology from Oxford, she seemed best suited for work in IT. (?!)

She wanted to be a writer, considered being a writer, would quit her job and think about writing until the bills came a knockin’, then would return to the work-a-day duties.

She said societal mindset seems to be that writing “is not a proper job”.

On one of her self-imposed, non-working sabbaticals, Joanna did a LOT of self-help reading. But most importantly, she not only READ the books by people like Tony Robbins, she also began applying their lessons.

The first thing she learned to apply was–

  1. Change your mindset. What is your definition of success? You need to define your goals. Please note, your definition may likely change in process.

She came to realize how ingenious a book is! You write it once and sell it year after year and continue selling it for seventeen years AFTER you die!*

Your book is a product.
And an employee.
You send it out to work for you!

  1. Focus on the customer.
    Writing is not about you, it’s about your reader.
    What do they want to pay for?

Find the intersection of what you love and what readers actually want.










She suggested doing a keyword search. “How to be…”
What do people WANT? And more importantly, because come on, we all know the two aren’t necessarily identical, “What do people BUY?”

We are global. The internet is global. USE THAT.

Multiple formats—what can you still exploit?
Retitle and rerelease. Workbook edition. Professional edition. Children’s edition.
International sales—tweak to better relate to their culture.

Joanna’s tips to make a living from writing:
2. Try other genres.
3. Write to the Binge Culture.
4. Go short.
5. Go long.
6. Box sets! 3 book, 9 book, rereleased with new content, bonus content
7. Refresh your back list. Rewrite, update non-fiction.
8. Build multiple streams of income. This is why we are INDEPENDENT!

(As she went over the above list, I said, check! check! check! check! It is reaffirming to realize I am on the path to making a living with my writing!)

She kept emphasizing that each book is another product. Another employee out there making money for you.

But of course, she also mentioned the fact that most authors make money from resources other than book sales.
1. Public speaking.
2. Lectures and workshops.
3. Featured columns.
4. Endorsements.

(To which I thought nope, nope, nope, lol.)

Happy, successful authors need to attract an audience.
Choose what works for YOU.
Your book, your lifestyle.

Take action.
Be consistent.
Don’t do something because you think you have to but then not follow through.
If you want this, what are you doing to make it happen?

In closing, she asked, “Have you made art today? Have you written a thousand words today? Are you one step closer to your goals today?”

Well, have you? Are you?

(Sorry for the choppy notes. I was caught up in her lecture and forgot to write everything down! What can I say, she’s a dynamic and charming speaker. Luckily, her words and advice are available on her website, The Creative Penn, and also through her podcasts. Hopefully this blog is teaser enough to get you on the creative path.)

*I just read an article about copyright expiration and how it varies.

About Mary Fran Says

I am an artist, crafter, designer and writer. I enjoy working with mixed media-- applying visual and tactile manipulations to telling a story. Not a lot of market for that, though, :), so I'm focusing on short story submissions and novel completions. Yes, plural. Lots of beginnings, too many ideas, not enough focus.
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4 Responses to How to Make a Living with Your Writing

  1. Carol M Hegberg says:

    Do you know what happens with the rights when the publisher goes belly up?

    • I would assume they revert to the author. That’s what happened when Kindle Worlds closed, we got our stories back and could republish ourselves. (In the case of KW, we needed original world author permission to republish, but the stories belonged to us.)

  2. pamelas74 says:

    She also tweets a lot of good content! Loved this post. It helped me focus again on what I want!

  3. Pingback: Happy New Year! | Mary Lamphere

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