Review: Business for Authors, by Joanna Penn

6 Oct 2014 | Publishing

Back in early 2011, I made the decision to self-publish my novel Lycopolis – and that was largely inspired by Joanna Penn, who was then bringing out her first novel Pentecost. Fast forward three and a half years, and Joanna has now published five full length novels, two novellas, and a short story series – plus four non-fiction books. She blogs at The Creative Penn, and I know many Aliventures readers are regulars there too. Her latest book, Business for Authors: How to Be an Author Entrepreneur came out a few weeks ago, in September 2014. If you’re an author or aspiring author, whether you want to self-publish or get a traditional deal, read on…


Business for Authors is (as you might have guessed) a guide to the business side of being an author. It’s not a book about how to self-publish, or a book about the craft of writing — though Jo recommends plenty of great resources that can help you with these. It’s available from Amazon and other major e-retailers as an ebook and paperback, though you can also purchase the audio book and ebook combined directly from Joanna. (You get a discount for the audio if you buy the ebook elsewhere, too.)

What’s Included

The book is split into nine sections:
  • Part 1: From Author To Entrepreneur
  • Part 2: Products and Services
  • Part 3: Employees, Suppliers and Contractors
  • Part 4: Customers
  • Part 5: Sales and Distribution
  • Part 6: Marketing
  • Part 7: Financials
  • Part 8: Strategy and Planning
  • Part 9: Next Steps
At the end of the book, there are appendices with extra resources – including recommended reading, transcripts of interviews with other authors, and more. You also get a free workbook and business plan template (which you can download from Joanna’s site – there’s a link in the book).

The Price

On, the ebook costs $5.99 and the paperback is £13.99, though you may well find Amazon is discounting this by a dollar or two. (On, the prices are £3.99 and £9.99 respectively.) If you buy direct from Joanna, you can get it for $4.99. The audio and ebook combined are $24.99.

The Good

There was a lot I loved about Business for Authors. There are plenty of books addressing issues like writing and marketing books, submitting to agents, getting your manuscript online as an ebook, and so on, and some of these deal briefly with business issues, but I’ve not come across anything so comprehensive as Business for Authors before. While most of us start writing because we love it, if you want to make a full time or part time living writing, you need to be professional about it – and Joanna demystifies business and breaks everything down into short, easy-to-read sections.

Plenty of Practical Suggestions

I’ve known Joanna for a few years now, and she’s someone with a practical focus. She doesn’t insist that there’s one “right” way to do everything, but she gives plenty of helpful suggestions and offers alternatives where appropriate (e.g. whether you should set up as a company, whether you should have more than one brand). There were several sections in this book that would’ve really helped me set things up more professionally when I started out – I know my poor husband (who does my book-keeping and accounts) would’ve had a much easier time if I’d taken Joanna’s advice on these from the start!

Encouraging and Inspiring

I think “practical” can sometimes be seen as being a bit cold – but that’s definitely not Joanna. She’s a warm, encouraging, inspiring person and that shines through in this book. This is the sort of book that makes you feel positive about being an author – which I think, for many of us, can be almost as important as the information gained.

Demystifies Business

While I’ve slowly grown more comfortable with the idea of running a business (I’ve been working for myself for six years now), I’ll confess that a lot of business books and blogs go over my head. While Joanna uses business terms like “employees, suppliers and contractors”, she explains everything clearly and gives examples. I actually found it very helpful to think about the ways in which being an author is similar to other businesses – e.g. we have products (books) to sell to customers (readers). I know this sounds a bit obvious written down, but it’s easy to get rather caught up in the writing side of being an author and slightly lose sight of how the business side works.

The Bad

There was honestly nothing I disliked about Business for Authors – Joanna has a ton of experience with being an author and with being in business, and her expertise shines through here.

Certain Topics Not Covered in Such Depth

There are a couple of areas that Joanna covers fairly briefly but (quite correctly) explains she’s no expert in: copyright and financial issues like accounting and tax. If you want or need in-depth advice on these, you’ll probably want to turn elsewhere – Joanna recommends some resources. The book is definitely geared towards self-publishers, but Joanna does mention traditional publishing and offers advice on that too. Given it only costs a few dollars, I think traditionally published authors would find a lot in here to help them (and might even be inspired to give self-publishing a try).

Not for Total Beginners

If you’re just starting your first novel and the idea of running a business sounds terrifying, this probably isn’t the best book for you to buy right now! There’s a lot of information here, and you might find it a little daunting. Of course, there’s no reason not to buy a copy, give it a skim, and pick out the ideas that you find useful right now – just don’t feel you have to do everything at once.


Business for Authors: How to Be an Author Entrepreneur is definitely a worthwhile read, especially if you’ve already done a bit of research into self-publishing or if you’re looking at ways to make a serious income and are prepared to write several books. I’d highly recommend it to any fiction or non-fiction author wanting to get to grips with business ideas. Here are links so you can get your copy (ebook prices given): – $5.99 – £3.99 – $4.99


I’m Ali Luke, and I live in Leeds in the UK with my husband and two children.

Aliventures is where I help you master the art, craft and business of writing.

My Novels

My contemporary fantasy trilogy is available from Amazon. The books follow on from one another, so read Lycopolis first.

You can buy them all from Amazon, or read them FREE in Kindle Unlimited.

1 Comment

  1. Garry Rodgers

    Great review, Ali. There’s so much value in Joanna’s ‘Business For Authors’ – not just from the main content, but also the download links with a business plan and resources. Joanna has really led the way for indie / self-pubs to become author-entrepreneurs. Never been a better time to be in this business!

    Garry Rodgers Vancouver, Canada


  1. How I Make My Living as an Online Writer (And How You Could Too) — Aliventures - […] (From my review of Joanna Penn’s Business for Authors.) […]

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