5 Self-Publishing Tips from Joanna Penn

By on May 1, 2014 in Special Features


These days, self-published books are on the rise. If you are one of those authors who are interested in self-publishing, you may want to ask about this to people like Joanna Penn, noted author and writer of the “The Creative Penn”, a writing and publishing advice website. As of today, she has sold over 55,000 copies of her books. So, here are 5 tips to help you from a self-published author who has made it big:

1. Reach Out

The one thing that, Penn says, changed her life, was joining social media and starting a blog. She says, “Starting a blog changed my life – seriously. It has freed my writing style up completely, and given me the confidence to get into fiction.” Writing a blog, or using social network helps build connections with people and make you find a target audience too. The main idea here is to “Sell Books with Social Media”. Publicizing your book on social networking sites, highlighting the main points of your book, and aiming the posts at your target audience helps in increasing sales.

She adds, “Authors are told they need to do all of these things, but, for most people, you just have to pick one. But you do need to get out there and become known.” The main objective of using social networking platforms is to get out there and be known to the world.

2. Know your Audience

You also need to be clear in your mind about the goals for your book. Penn says, “If your dream is to have your book in every physical bookstore and airport, then you should be looking at traditional publishing. If you just want to reach readers, go e-book only with a low price or free.” Moreover, you also need to do a fair amount of reading and research if you want to please your target audience. “If you are writing historical romance, you should be reading that type of book and understanding what the audience looks for and then making sure your book fits the niche.” Once you have done enough reading and figured out your niche, you can work towards writing a book that is aimed at your particular target audience.

3. Learn Marketing

This is, perhaps one of the most important aspects of self-publishing. You have to learn marketing. Joanna Penn states, “It’s not just a matter of writing a book, throwing it up on Amazon and waiting for the opportunities to roll in. You are both author and publisher.” It’s a big learning curve, having to learn the business involved with selling books. You need to employ many tricks to market your book. According to her, “Professional authors can no longer be just writers, we also need to be entrepreneurs. I definitely believe that you need to do some marketing to get the sales rolling, to gain initial reviews and build your platform for the long-term.”

4. Professional Editing and Design

When you write your own book, you naturally would want it to be professional in every sense. The main criticism of self-published books is that they are not professional enough. Joanna Penn believes quality is in direct proportion to the amount of editing you have. Every writer needs a professional editor. She says, “If you get a pro editor, and take their advice, your book will improve beyond anything you could imagine.”

Another step which can make your book even more professional is by getting the cover design right. A good looking book only adds to the interest within the audience. Says Penn, “We want our books to stand alongside traditionally published books and have the same level of quality.”

5. Stand Out

Finally, the self-published section in any bookstore is flooded with books and most of them are ordinary looking. In her words, “It’s true that, for many people, self-publishing means bad quality books with no editing published by one of the vanity presses.” Your goal must be to stand out from the crowd, and make the audience believe that yours is a professionally written book, which deserves their time and money.

Image credit: Joanna Penn on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0

Pranay Kanagat is a freelance writer who has a love for writing on various subjects. In particular, he enjoys creative writing. He is also studying for an Engineering degree.



  1. Thank you to post this information. This is helpful to me.


    May 1, 2014

    • We’re glad you found the article helpful, Carol. Many thanks for commenting.


      May 2, 2014


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