How to Be a Successful Author in Both Fiction & Non-Fiction: Interview with Joanna Penn

Have you wondered what becoming a successful author actually takes, and if you can do it in both fiction and non-fiction? Our guest for today has authored 24 books, 14 in fiction and 10 in non-fiction.

Becoming a Successful Author in Fiction and Non-Fiction: An Interview with Joanna Penn

Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn is here to talk about how she has created a personally-fulfilling and financially successful business as an author. We talk about her early days as a “corporate slave” and how she escaped her golden handcuff situation that so many others face but never leave.

She also shares how she broke through her own block around writing fiction, even after she was a published non-fiction author, and where she stands on hybrid publishing, indie publishing and traditional publishing.

Joanna also explains why you need to read and you need to write if you’re going to be a successful novelist. And we wrap up with a breakdown of how to write fiction. The step by step process goes something like this: pick a genre, understand the structure of a good book and set a deadline for yourself. You’ll hear more details on that process and why you need different platforms to be a successful author in fiction than you do in non-fiction.

If you want an in-depth look at the life of a financially successful writer who loves what she does then join us for episode 172 of The Portfolio Life!

Listen to the podcast

To listen to the show, click the player below (If you’re reading this via email, please click here).

Show highlights

In this episode, Joanna and I discuss:

  • Why does she have a secret pen name?
  • How does she transition between writing fiction and non-fiction?
  • What does she recommend doing if you are struggling to write a book?
  • Why are box sets so critical to your success as a fiction writer?
  • What is the biggest bookstore in the world?

You get what you focus on.

Joanna Penn

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Takeaways from Joanna about writing fiction and non-fiction

  • Are the only real writers the ones who write fiction?
  • How do Jung and Plato relate to writing fiction and non-fiction?
  • When does she knows she’s burned out?
  • When would she ever consider giving up non-fiction?
  • Why are horror writers the psychologically healthiest people she knows?!

I don’t know what I think until I write it!

Joanna Penn

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On the successful author mindset

  • Is multiple streams of income relevant to authors like it is to entrepreneurs?
  • Why the journey just begins when you finish writing your book.
  • What is the creative process of writing a book from idea to completion?
  • The tough love advice she has for aspiring authors.
  • What are two key pieces to make a living as a fiction writer?


What steps can you take to move forward on an idea or project you’ve wanted to do but have procrastinated working on? Share in the comments.