Apr 13, 2018
Joanna Penn is an award-nominated New York Times and the USA Today bestselling author of thrillers under J.F.Penn and also writes non-fiction for authors. She’s a professional speaker and award-winning entrepreneur. Her site, TheCreativePenn.com is regularly voted one of the Top 10 sites for writers and her latest book is The Healthy Writer: Reduce your Pain, Improve your Health and Build a Writing Career for the Long Term.
welcome to the pharmacy leaders podcast with your host Tony Guerra the pharmacy leaders podcast is a member of the pharmacy podcast network with interviews and advice on building your professional network brand and a purposeful second income from students residents and innovative professionals welcome to the pharmacy leaders podcast today I have a international author she's able to call and talk to her she's in Bath England and her name is Joanna Penn and she's an award-winning award-nominated New York Times in USA Today best-selling author of thrillers under jfn and also writes under nonfiction for authors she's professional speaker award-winning entrepreneur her fans regularly vote the creative pen calm as one of the top 10 sites for writers her latest book is the healthy writer reduce your pain improve your health and build a writing career for the long term Joanna welcome to the pharmacy leaders podcast oh thanks for having me Tony I'm really excited to be here this is quite a new nice for me okay great yeah they say Mitchell it hurts and I and I did that so but we still get you know about 15 to 25,000 downloads a month which is about what you get for one of your episodes so I'm working up to to your your to your your level but let's talk about this book first because the healthy writer certainly pertains to pharmacists and not just because we're health professionals but because we stand in one place all day long and a lot of what you talk about is how to deal with this kind of repetitive motion standing and sitting in one place so before we even start with the book tell me a little bit about what made you get up no pun intended and write this book particularly about writers health yes so I guess it's a journey that I've been on I'm 43 right now so if you're many of your listeners can sort of you know understand what happens when you hit your forties and a lot of the health choices that you made in your 30s are catching up with you and so I found myself having my job as a business consultant which is what I used to do which was a sitting job and then I became a full-time writer in 2011 and actually my health got worse worse yeah I was working more hours so you know when you work a day job in a in a different place like I guess many of your listeners as as pharmacist or working in universities or places you know you you you travel to that place you do your work you come home so at least you have some kind of movement and I was just getting up going through my desk in the other room and working really really hard so I ended up with repetitive strain injury I put on weight and I I got you know I was having headaches and I realized that I really had to do something to change my health to make I love writing but I could only be a writer for the long term if I looked after my physical health and I think that's true in any profession you have to look at you know what do you love about what you do do you want to keep doing it and how can you make it healthier so I was talking about that on on my podcast I was starting to walk a lot more so we moved to baths in the southwest of England and I started walking more I started setting myself physical challenges started doing yoga which really just did amazing things for my back and you know my movement in general and as I talked about in the podcast a medical doctor dr. you and Lawson emailed me and said you know you're talking about this I would like to write a book on being healthy writer how about we go write together so this is definitely a book that I would not have written on my own because I'm not a medical professional but what we were able to do together was write different chapters sort of from different positions so I would write a chapter a sort of personal journey of my the pain in my back which I think everyone has back pain at some point but you know the various things I've gone through and what helped me and then he would write a chapter on some more evidence-based stuff so together I think we managed to write a book and also we did a survey of over 1100 writers replied with their health problems and their health tips so we put all of that together in a book that hopefully is useful and and you've listened to it how many so hopefully there was some stuff in there what I find that is that things will mix up between your podcast and your books so I apologize when I reference something if it's either in the book or in the podcast I recommend our listeners listen to both but when I keep hearing about that repetitive injuries I remember back to when I was in practice in in the pharmacy and I would just stand in one place for some 12 hours and you don't think about little things and maybe you can address those so for example I was at a laptop at the airport and I ended up having to stay at the airport for three hours and then my neck was down a night and because I'm listening to your book and my oh my neck shouldn't be down like that but then I didn't necessarily know what to do can you talk about the divisions in the book itself I have to apologize I started at 2.12 because I'm a runner and I wanted to start with the ultra marathon but tell me how the tell me how the book you actually divided into two pieces yeah it's interesting because the structure we only really structured it towards the end of the writing process we didn't really know how we would go in to structure it but what we ended up doing was starting off with why writing is great for your health because I think that's a really important point because for many psychological reasons writing is very healthy it you know proven to be great for for therapy helping you process situations can make you more optimistic and boost your physical health so writing is great but then we have the first part of the book is all about the unhealthy writer so you mentioned they're sort of a net a pain which is very common on laptops so for example one of the things that I did as part of the process was get a standing desk so right now I'm talking to you at a standing desk so all my podcasting anything while I'm talking I use the standing desk so that's and obviously is a pharmacist you probably have the other problem you're standing so much yeah and probably you need different you know different forms of movement but we talk you know a lot about repetitive strain injury back pain pain shoulder pain but also things that were perhaps more unexpected stress anxiety burnout these are things you know when you have your own business I mean you talk there about 12 hour you know shifts or whatever standing up there doing that work over and over I mean there's there's burnout in every job you know I think writers potentially at the moment they're sort of trying to write faster and faster to keep up the money and so we talked about that about loneliness and isolation which is quite common weight gain hugely common digestive issues which can be related obviously and then mental health problems or just you know mental health experience let's call it that I'm trying to be a lot more you know careful with my language around mental health also alcohol caffeine supplements substances which I think again working in a pharmacy you guys with know a lot more about these are things that headaches ice creamy green all the things that are quite common in perhaps every job that involves focused attention you're not getting enough breaks you know that type of thing and then the book moves on to the healthy writer which is the things you can do to kind of offset some of these issues okay well this is where I don't remember if it was from the podcast or the book but I remember hearing you say that you changed an on commute to a commute so you had the option of just going downstairs or upstairs and writing and then you decided to create a commute get a coffee get to a place and then come back as if it was like your job can you tell us a little bit about why you made that decision yes sure say to two points that so first of all when I first left my job in 2011 I found that first year very hard because I had been working in offices for 13 years I've been working you know often in big open plan offices which were very hard in one way as an introvert you know overstimulating but in another way it was like suddenly you're on your own and even though I like working on my own it was difficult so I started writing in a library at that point I would you living in Brisbane and then in London and would get on the Underground would commute to the library would then meet people at lunchtime so other writers and I think that's another thing if you just work on your own all the time even if you're a happy introvert you do miss that social aspect and the always the mental health support of having a community so you that was important and then now so now I'm very well used to my life as we talk in 2018 seven years on but I still I still have different physical places for different part of my creative life so this morning I was at the local cafe at 7 o'clock and I write at the cafe I write first draft or edit or you know I do the writing and then I'm talking to you in my home office I've got my stand-up desk I've got all my you know my accounting stuff my you know the admin that goes on whenever you run your own business so so I think that that commute you know if you go from it just gives a structure which is very important but also having a different place to do different things plus that social aspect okay well let's talk about a specific chapter of the ultramarathons I was most interested in I'm a regular marathoner where I run the marathon but recently I did something different which is I would run for two minutes walk for 30 seconds run for two minutes walk for 30 but in your book I think it was at the 77th kilometer which is about three-quarters of a way to the hundred K so that's bonking just as you would in 18 miles and 26 miles in a marathon can you talk a little bit about how you became a writer athlete because I was just at AWP in Tampa and it was tough for me to find many people to go run with a lot of times writers separate that no no that athletic thing is one thing and then writing is another thing but you're a writer athlete how did that come to be I really appreciate you saying that I definitely don't think of myself as an athlete certainly my co-writer dr. Ewen Lawson he is a runner so if you ever see him at a conference go running with him he is you know he does all that I walk ultra marathons and marathons but generally ultras say I've done several 50 kilometers and also I've done a hundred and six in a weekend and I'm I've got another hundred in a couple of weeks time so for me it was partly a mental shift which was I am strong and I am the type of person who does movement and I see this real big shift in my brain was from exercise to movement and enjoying my physical body because I think writers and probably you know very educated people like pharmacists anyone who's got lots of degrees you know and who works with their brain a lot we often think we are just brains you know yeah I mean you and I are talking right now we're basically two brains talking because of you know our bodies are in different continents I mean it's kind of crazy but I think as writers and you know educated people you almost sometimes forget that you have this physical body and we almost lose the pleasure that is associated with physical movement and we put it in the same box as I must do exercise and that becomes I think that just you know runs out over time people are just like oh I just can't be bothered to go to the gym again whereas what I thought was I wanted to be outside I want to be in the fresh air I want to be listening to audiobooks I know you listen to a lot of audiobooks I want to be away from a physical desk I want to be looking at something other than you know a small focal length that we we probably all do in this work so for me it was it was a mindset shift it was an attempt and has worked you know to become more physical to experience more and for me because I'm like a bit of a type-a I'm driven by goals I needed a stretch goal so it's funny because of course you know the hundred and hundred plus kilometers in a weekend it hurts but the point is the training the point is not so much the hundred K it's more that the training that you have to put in to do a hundred K is the is the reason you're you're doing it and then the other thing I mean like yoga for example yoga's a completely different you know the other end of the scale I never I tried yoga for years never really you know gelled with it and this time I found a great studio and my goal with yoga is to sit cross-legged now anyone who thinks you know if anyone listening thinks that's weird try sitting cross-legged as an adult especially if you stand or sits for your job you will find that your hips are very tight so to sit cross-legged with your knees touching the floor that's actually a big deal and kids do it really easily and we lose that so my goal for yoga was to become you know to have that functional movement to sit you know in that way and and that I I'm almost there I still sit on a block but my knees are you know it's working so we do encourage people to start thinking of movement instead of exercise you know and just in eating for enjoyment instead of diet great tips and they they make a lot of sense I guess I just I keep hearing over and over again that your although you're a writer and you're alone many parts of the day it sounds like everything you're doing has some teammate or some support the last thing I wanted to ask about the healthy writer was you mentioned something about calling your husband a kilometer 77 or getting some support and he said something that kind of motivated you or helped you get to the hundredth kilometer can you tell me a little bit about that story yes this is a 77 I really wanted to give up I was I was crying these events have time limits on each of the stations so if you don't reach a station by time they basically throw you off they would I was right at the back and for me to keep making the timings I really had to push it and so I was at 77 I was always at this station basically I had a choice I could have just retired at that point and gone and I was in a lot of pain my blisters burst it was it was horrible and I found my husband and and he goes well I can come and get you but if I do you're gonna have to do this again because you basically haven't done 100 so tough love you know get on with it tough love and I think in a similar way of writing community like I have another book called the successful author mindset and in that I do try and give some tough love because I think it's very similar in many times you know it's like writing a book finishing a race like this you know achieving a goal there's a moment where you really feel like giving up and you kind of have to have someone kick you or learn to kick yourself which is look just get on with it it doesn't have to be happy happy all the time but you will be really pleased with the results so he definitely supported me there and over the years I've built a writing community as well okay great well I want to move to the next section which is going to be how our listeners can self publish themselves and and do that can you tell me a little bit first about your story in terms of where you started with very little because at first they're going to look at you and say well look at all their Twitter followers look at her fantastic web page look at her podcast episodes and downloads but tell us a little bit about where you started in terms of when you made that decision around 2011 yes sure well it was way before 2011 so around 2006 yeah 2006 I kind of looked at my life and I was like oh I have a house I have a car I have all the things I meant to have I have a good job they pay me well but I'm really miserable what's the point in my life I mean really I just get some money and we spend it on stuff and you know really so I was I was very miserable and I started listening to a lot of brilliant Americans Americans great at self-help like you guys you know you have Tony Robbins you have you know real people who have a positive attitude towards self-development and so I started to listen to these start to read these books started to realize that I could change my life that even though I had made decisions that led me to the point where he was which was at the time I was implementing accounts payable into a global mining company which let's face it is not very creative so I started writing my first book in around 2006 because I thought well I want to write something I'm like I'm attracted to books I like learning from books so if I write a self-help book from everything I'm learning then maybe that will that would be a good thing and I'll learn how to change my life so that first book which I rewrote later on it's called career change you can still find it on Amazon it's it helped me discover how you change your life but more importantly when I finished it I discovered what the traditional publishing process involved and I really didn't know before that so you you know emailing all these different agents and maybe somebody might be interested enough to take you on and then two years later maybe you'll get a book deal and then maybe they'll publish the book and then maybe it will sell so I was like no that's crazy I am NOT going through that lengthy process I want to change my life now so at the time this was before the Kindle this was I was living in Australia so the only way to the rarely self-published was to actually print copies and have them in your in your house and then try and sell them so I went I started back then when it things were hard and then 2008 2009 was when the Kindle launched and I saw the future and when okay this is going to be amazing because there are 20 million people in Australia and there are 380 million I think in America yes yes so I saw the writing on the wall which was I need to sell to Americans and what is the point in having a book in a market of 20 million so I got on the Kindle I learned about self-publishing I learned about marketing so just to be clear I have a degree in theology so religion and I have a second degree in psychology so I have no training in why official training in writing or publishing all marketing I've learned all of that along the way so basically I put my first book up in 2008 and then started my site the creative pen started learning all these things blogging about it podcasting started the podcast 2009 and then basically by 2011 I had four or five books that I'd written I had my first novel all of which had done while having a day job and I was able to leave my job in in 2011 say yeah it was certainly a longer journey than just oh I think okay well I remember clearly in the story there was something about 2,000 books that you you had and and you expected them to go but then how did you get rid of them how did you sell those books I feel like there was a time in there where you you first got these books because you had that how did you end up selling them was that part of the the journey or the growth process well this called it part of the grace process because basically these first 2,000 books that I had printed that were in my house and I have a picture a really funny picture of me standing there with them looking so pleased with myself but they as I said that was before the Kindle and this is a big lesson for people so everybody listen the answer is print on demand Oh 2,000 books I would say 1800 went in the landfill that we all learn these lessons that change our lives right and that lesson made me go oh if I want to sell physical books and I have all my books are available in print so print ebook and audiobook or most of them in audiobook but basically now you can use print-on-demand so if if anyone listening if you go to Amazon if you search for Joanna pen and pick up one of my books you can order a print copy that print got that order will go to either Amazon's own print company create space or Ingram spark who print all over the world one copy just one will be printed and shipped directly to you and I just get some money so it's like a miraculous so you don't have you don't have any warehousing you don't have to pay up front you don't have any shipping you don't have to go to the post office it's all done for you and you just get the money in your bank accounts so it's now publishing itself is completely different to what most people think it is the publishing part of my business and I have 28 books right now and they are all independently published they basically that publishing part of it takes a couple of hours compared to the writing and the marketing which are pretty much the full-time job so and you have to do that however you publish so that's the reality of the world we're living in now with the internet and the tools we have you can publish an e-book print audio book and you can just do that basically from your laptop okay well let's talk about the two different books I everyone seems to like successful saw publishing but I remember hearing in the podcast episode that you really liked how to market your book and that's the one that I kind of gravitated towards because I already had the book so can you tell me a little bit about the difference between those books so successful self-publishing kind of for the first-time writer and then how to market your book for somebody that's put together a book but maybe doesn't know how to build a platform you know you have the 70,000 Twitter followers the email lists and things like that so maybe start with successful self-publishing yes so in terms of the difference first of all successful self-publishing is a free ebook on all platforms so people want to understand the technical side you know and the process to follow like you know how to work with an editor how to find a cover designer you know what what links you need to upload then successful self-publishing covers that but one of the things that most new authors forget about or is the marketing so how do market your work I first the first edition it's on the third edition now and that book I first wrote when I was learning all about marketing so when I you know that first book again I didn't understand how to reach people and one of the keys is how you reach people that's probably it's very different to you I imagine like you're obviously I go to a pharmacist around the corner from me and the reason I use that store is because it's around the corner from me I'll use that one it's very very different if you have a book on a site like Amazon which has millions and millions of books or if you have a website on the internet when there are billions and billions of websites so you have to start to learn how to get your your information or your entertainment whatever you're writing in front of the people who want it so I think the difference with how to market a book it is is entirely about marketing and publishing to me is a separate part of the process to marketing so publishing helps you get your book out there and then marketing helps you get people's eyes on that book and your target market and kind of understanding how to do that and I think one very important thing up front because the word marketing makes people feel a bit icky sometimes is to say that marketing is sharing what you love with people who want to hear about it like for my thrillers on the JAF pen for example so I mentioned that I have a degree in theology and I like going to you know I write about a lot of places with cathedrals so for example my book gates of Hell has the Sagrada Familia and Barcelona you know I travel to all these places I write about them my next arcane thriller will be set in New Orleans in San Francisco so I came over there did some research found some interesting stuff going on in those cities that I'm going to make into into thrillers so and when I'm when I'm there you know I'm sharing pictures on Instagram and on Twitter and on Facebook and I'm writing articles about you know labyrinths like the one found on the the ground in the Cathedral there in San Francisco you know that type of thing I'm not saying buy my book buy my book I'm actually attracting people through sharing what I love and the same with nonfiction you know it's it's being helpful so if you've written a book about some aspects of of pharmacy in your ami all that like this podcast for you it's like well I'm talking about things that hopefully will be helpful and maybe some of those people even though they can get it for free some of them might actually buy the book or you know buy the audio book or listen to my podcast or you know that type of thing so it's very much a generosity idea that I think is is the Internet I live in there are different Internet's I really think and it's it's a lot to do with your energy and you attract the type of people who have the same energy as you and you can tell you know we have really good BS radar I mean people can go to the creative pen comp em with the double n and they can pretty much get everything I know for free you could just sit there and just read it all and listen to 300 odd podcasts and or you might just want all the information in a book so that's what we do for nonfiction we are generous with our information we come on shows like this you know we get out there and try and help people and a percentage of those people will will buy well let me talk just briefly about my wife and I and our reading habits I would have never seen that anything was free so I'm glad you mentioned it because I am strictly audio where my wife will absolutely not touch audio and she is strictly ebook so I when we hear about and I'm glad you mentioned because I just didn't really think about it that way myself that went on Amazon see there's a print book an e-book and an audio book we think oh well you know people switch in between but there's people like me who just will never read a print book or an e-book and then there's my wife who will never touch an audio book so I appreciate you letting me know there are so SRI I know there's the free podcast but I didn't know there were the free books because I just never I just never see them I don't ever look at an e-book so no that's really that's really helpful oh good and just so people know my audiobooks are produced by professionals but they are technically you know independently published in that I pay directly for the audio production and then I load it up to audible and iTunes so you can actually self publish audiobooks now as well although I wouldn't recommend reading it yourself but it's interesting because at the moment I can't make an audiobook free so I would love to do that but it's not available right now but as you say the podcasts are free and and but it is a very it is a very interesting world but that's why it's so important to have your material available in different ways so that you attract people who consume in different ways I also have like you know I have a podcast but I have a youtube channel so if people like seeing then you know my youtube channel the creative pen might be more for them yes Johanna pen to come back for a second episode so I'm gonna stop it there because we're at about 30 minutes and I know that you're kidding to you but we're going to hear again from joy in a pinch as we get to next Monday and she'll complete this and talk a little bit more about her books and certainly how you can become an author a successful one and also develop your presence as she has support for this episode comes from the audiobook memorizing pharmacology a relaxed approach with over 9,000 sales in the United States United Kingdom and Australia it's the go-to resource to ease the Pharmacology challenge available on audible iTunes and amazon.com in print ebook and audiobook thank you for listening to the pharmacy leaders podcast with your host Tony Guerra be sure to share the show with the hash tag hash pharmacy leaders [Music]