My 2024 Creative And Business Goals With Joanna Penn [Updated]

Happy New Year 2024!

I love January and the opportunity to start afresh. I know it’s arbitrary in some ways, but I measure my life by what I create, and I measure it in years.

At the end of each year, I make a photobook, and I publish an article here, which helps keep me accountable. If you’d like to share your goals, please add them in the comments below. 

2023 was a year of change, culminating in my 15-Year Pivot, and so 2024 will be a year of consolidation and optimization of my new creative and business processes — as well as writing and creating, plus surfing the wave of more change ahead.


Joanna Penn writes non-fiction for authors and is an award-nominated, New York Times and USA Today bestselling thriller author as J.F. Penn. She’s also an award-winning podcaster, creative entrepreneur, and international professional speaker.

You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below. 

Show Notes

  • J.F. Penn — Spear of Destiny, and the Gothic Cathedral project
  • The Creative Penn Podcast and Patreon Community
  • Streamline The Creative Penn website, redo my Author Blueprint, and update my backlist books
  • Optimize my Shopify stores and Meta ads
  • Experiment more with AI tools that allow me to do more human creative things
  • Speaking and travel, health and fitness
  • Financials

As ever, I am a full-time author-entrepreneur and this is my job, so I have a lot of goals. If your goals are simpler — like finishing your book, or publishing for the first time, or selling 1000 copies, then fantastic! You don’t have to have such extensive goals as me. 

Please share your goals in the comments so we can keep each other accountable.

J.F. Penn — Spear of Destiny, and the Gothic Cathedral project

I’m planning on two major book projects, both launching with a special edition high-quality hardback and other exclusive products on Kickstarter, then selling the main editions on my store before publishing wide to all the usual places. 

Spear of Destiny, An ARKANE Thriller book 13 will be first, possibly launching in April/May. I’ve already started the research in terms of reading and thinking, and I have a trip booked to Vienna, Nuremberg, and Cologne at the end of January for more in-depth research and story hunting. 

Spear of Destiny, cover mockup, jo penn on DALLE3

The Gothic Cathedral project is a chaotic mess of ideas right now, which I absolutely love. I have some vague thoughts on what it might turn into. I trust emergence!

There will certainly be a gorgeous limited edition hardback of my photos of Gothic cathedrals which I’ve been taking for over a decade alongside essays on various aspects that go alongside it — beauty, cathedral thinking (long-term thinking and building something that lasts), memento mori, craftsmanship, harmony, gothic sensibilities, and much more. 

It will be a non-fiction book under J.F. Penn that aligns with elements of Pilgrimage, and since many of the cathedrals feature in my novels, it also resonates with my fiction. It is very me, and hopefully interesting enough to some of you, too!

festive Gloucester cathedral cloisters, photo by J.F. Penn

There may also be a mystery novel alongside it, based on a stonemason character I am researching, but I am a discovery writer. I don’t know what I am writing until I commit time to the project and get into it, so that will become clearer as the year goes on.

I also want to narrate more of my fiction as part of my ‘doubling down on being human’ approach. I need to do Beneath the Zoo, a short story, as well as the two new books above. I also still need to do Catacomb, but it has a male protagonist so I am hesitating about doing it personally as a female voice. 

The first three ARKANE thrillers haven’t been in audio since I re-published the books in 2022 with substantial edits, so I am also considering narrating those, too.

But audiobook narration is a big job, and there are other options. I could hire the narration out, and there are also more AI narration options emerging. Somehow I will get everything in audio in 2024.

I have sooooooo many other projects in my J.F. Penn folder and I would love to get to a few more of them, depending on how the time goes.

I have several stand-alone novel ideas, and also many short stories, so there are lots of options to choose from. But two books could well be enough for my creative bandwidth and I want to give them both time and breathing space.

I’m aiming for a short story collection in 2025 or 2026, so I need to be writing them regularly, as they won’t all go into the collection. I really enjoy short stories and have a ton of ideas for them, so I’ll aim to write at least one or two in the year.

Learn how to make beautiful physical books

In 2023, I published two physical hardback editions I am super proud of. The color photo edition of Pilgrimage, and the gold foil/black ribbon edition of Writing the Shadow, both printed with Bookvault.

I want to go a lot further in 2024 and learn the language of physical books, as well as investigate how I can make some more beautiful editions. 

I’ll be visiting some custom printers and papermakers, and generally delving more deeply into making books, and of course, sharing what I learn with you.

This is part of the over-arching trend of premium physical products becoming more important as the revenue models of digital head towards zero with the rise of generative AI and unlimited subscription and streaming.

Beautiful physical books were all the rage this Christmas with sprayed edges everywhere, and in the music industry, vinyl sales were the highest they’ve been since the 1990s, as reported by The Guardian

The Creative Penn Podcast and Patreon Community

The podcast will continue for another year, supported by my fantastic expanding community at and my wonderful corporate sponsors — Kobo Writing Life, Draft2Digital, and ProWritingAid.

I will continue with the weekly show, primarily with news and an interview, as well as sporadic solo episodes when I have something more significant to say. 

The Creative Penn Podcast

I’ll continue to share more content in the Patreon community. There will still be the monthly Q&A audio, which is like an extra solo episode every month, plus videos and tutorials on aspects of AI, creative business, mindset, and more.

You can join the community for less than a coffee a month (or a couple of coffees if you’re feeling generous!) at 

Streamline The Creative Penn website, redo my Author Blueprint, and update my backlist books

Now I have shared my 15-Year Pivot, I need to action it. This means cleaning up and my non-fiction backlist, and making it more evergreen.

I’m preparing for the changes that will come with generative search, which I outlined in a recent episode on how it will impact book discoverability

Amazon has already started experimenting with it through which can generate recommendations if you click Discovery Mode, powered by AI.

It’s in Beta and only on the .com store and I mainly buy on the UK store, but it still came up with some interesting things. There are also no ads on the page so it’s cleaner to buy from, making it a better user experience, but clearly, a more difficult environment for advertisers.

This is only the beginning of what generative search might look like … books with discovery mode on, powered by ai (Dec 2023)

I also want to rewrite my Author Blueprint and make it available in ePub format as well as PDF. It’s only available through my email list at and if you’re signed up, you will get that (hopefully) by the end of January. 

I have unpublished my courses, so you can no longer buy them. If you bought any of them, you have at least six months to go through the material and you can also download the videos, audio, transcripts, and other material for your personal use. I’ll email through Teachable about that in the coming weeks.

Optimize my Shopify stores and Meta ads

Direct sales was one of the emerging trends of 2023 and 2024 will see it expand even further, as more authors and creatives reach readers directly with their books and more services emerge to cater to them. 

Interestingly, these sales are ‘invisible’ to any of the charts or lists, and since Amazon is also opaque with their data, many indie authors are selling tens of thousands of books, and some are making big money in a kind of shadow industry.

Even Brandon Sanderson with his $41m Kickstarter didn’t make any list because Kickstarter sales are not counted in any lists. Neither are Shopify or WooCommerce or presumably BookTok sales through TikTokShop, which is a form of direct sales.

Perhaps this will change in 2024, or maybe it just won’t matter anymore as the splintering of the business models continues.

Personally, I love the freedom (and the profitability) of my Shopify stores — and — but there is a lot more I need to do to optimize them, so I will be revisiting my Minimum Viable Stores to take them to the next level in 2024.

I have a list of things to do. I just need to action them. I could outsource this, but I have always built my own websites, and I like to tinker, so I will do it myself, it just takes a little longer!

I’d like to incorporate merchandise in some way, but at the moment that feels a little out of reach. Perhaps I will do it as part of the Gothic Cathedral project, so I will at least dip a toe into merch this year. 

Experiment more with AI tools that allow me to do more human creative things

Most authors hate marketing, which is why the rise of AI tools in this area is super helpful! Essentially, advertising will need less human input as the models become better at targeting, prediction, analyzing data, optimization, and even the creative. 

I wrote about the potential impact in my recent episode on How Generative AI Search Will Impact Book Discoverability In The Next Decade, and we might be seeing the impact on the advertising industry starting already.

The Information reported on 19 December, 2023 that Google is reorganizing its 30,000-person ad sales unit, as “Google is relying more on machine-learning techniques to help customers … which don’t require much employee attention.” 

I’ve already transitioned this year. I only use Amazon auto-ads on KDP for my non-fiction books. I’m working with Matt Holmes on using more AI in Meta ads to my Shopify store. 

We use generative AI images and leave all the targeting to the Meta algorithm. It’s only going to improve. Mark Zuckerberg discussed this in an interview with Lex Fridman in June 2023.

“In the future, if you’re advertising on our services, do you need an ad creative? No, you just need to tell us, ‘Okay I’m a dog walker and I’m willing to walk people’s dogs and help me find the right people,’ and [we’ll] create the ad unit that will perform the best. Give an objective to the system and it connects you to the right people.”

By leaving it to the Meta AI instead of over-controlling the targeting, I’m selling more fiction than I have in years, which is fantastic.

I used to think I couldn’t reach people who liked my cross-genre books, but the AI algorithm can target based on so many more granular data points that we could possibly select manually. Of course, this works best when you control the sale, so you can optimize for Conversion rather than Link Click Ads, as many authors do to Amazon.

In 2024, I intend to rely as much as possible on the more automated advertising and marketing possibilities as they emerge.

I also intend to make a book trailer for the first time in years. I am getting some awesome pictures from DALL-E through ChatGPT and also with Midjourney V6 so I will use those to make a trailer for my Spear of Destiny Kickstarter. 

Text-to-video will improve substantially in 2024, so more tools will emerge as the year progresses. Check out Runway ML to see where the tech is right now and expect it to improve a lot this year.

In terms of my creative process, I love having ChatGPT and Claude as brainstorming partners, but as I have outlined in The AI-Assisted Artisan Author, I am not using them to pump out content ever faster.

I use them to spark new ideas and to riff on ideas with, as well as help me research. My creative time is so much fun now, and I would expect this to continue, even as more powerful models emerge in 2024. 

The models we use may change, as their specific functions become useful in different areas. I will play with whatever becomes available — perhaps Open AI’s GPT5, maybe Anthropic’s Claude 3, maybe Google’s Gemini Ultra, or the open source model, Mistral. Perhaps even Amazon’s Olympus, rumored to be twice the size of GPT-4.

While 2023 was the year that generative AI went mainstream in terms of awareness, 2024 will be the year that AI becomes part of business processes and incorporated more into daily life

I don’t have the bandwidth to go through all the potential possibilities, but in our industry, there will be data licensing deals for media companies and publishers — as there have been for The Associated Press and Axel Springer, which includes Politico and Business Insider. 

Even though The New York Times is suing OpenAI at the time of writing this, I expect that to be settled and a licensing deal reached, alongside other kinds of arrangements that keep journalism alive and continue to build generative AI.

In many ways, being paid to create content this way may even be preferable to the ad model that is prevalent now. The media could concentrate on better journalism rather than writing click-bait to retain advertisers and make people click. What won’t happen is the end of generative AI.

In many ways, 2023 felt like year zero, with experimentation and playfulness and testing the limits of what’s possible. 2024 is year one, where regulations will start to come into effect, but the growth and change in AI will continue apace. This technology is not going away, so if you have avoided it in 2023, it’s time to engage.  

Many of the tools we all use will have AI embedded as a seamless part of the experience. After all, do you even notice that your car satnav is powered by AI, or your shopping online, or your social media, or your TV choices?

The same will be true of the AI embedded into your MS Word or your Google Docs or your Adobe Creative Cloud, or any of the other services you use. It will have an AI co-pilot built in and you might not even notice. 

AI audiobook narration is now available on most platforms, albeit in a limited manner, and in 2024, I would expect it to go mainstream and expand the amount of audio available. 

Google Play Books offers auto-narration on its platform for free, and you can also download the files and sell them directly on your site, and also now publish them on Findaway Voices by Spotify, which is expanding its distribution to more places. Kobo Writing Life accepts AI-narrated audiobooks (while being mindful of giving the listener a good experience). Apple has its own AI narration service. Amazon KDP has a limited beta in the US for AI narration. Monica Leonelle goes into more detail in an article on The Author Analyst.   

Even though I am AI-positive in many ways, and I have experimented with AI narration, I want to use my (human) voice as part of doubling down on being human, so I still intend to narrate my short stories and novellas. If ElevenLabs becomes an acceptable partner for FindawayVoices by Spotify, I might experiment with it in 2024 for full-length novels.

All this is great for consumers, but it drives down the revenue for audiobooks. This began with unlimited streaming and subscription models and continues with AI narration.

Once again, selling direct is the best way forward. My primary audio channel in terms of revenue is now selling direct — through my Kickstarters and my Shopify stores.

Thanks to Bookfunnel who enable us to sell audio as well as ebooks direct, and if you want to support more authors, then try listening to audiobooks or reading ebooks in the Bookfunnel app. The more of us who educate readers and listeners about doing this, the more they will buy from other authors, and the more we can build a sustainable ecosystem. 

To be clear, my audiobooks are also on all the usual apps, but you can also buy them direct from me, including multi-book bundles that work out even better value. [Books for authors at and fiction and memoir,]

As ever, I’ll keep you up to date on which aspects of AI impact our industry in the intro of The Creative Penn Podcast each Monday and I’ll share my experiments behind the scenes in the Patreon community.

Speaking and travel, health and fitness

I have a research trip to Vienna, Nuremberg, and Cologne booked for the end of January, which will feed into both Spear of Destiny and the Gothic Cathedral project. 

I have a few other things booked so far: 

  • Online. Sun 4 Feb 2024. History Quill conference. Writing and publishing in the age of AI. If you want an overview of the latest developments, then you can buy a ticket, even just for the day I am speaking.
  • Seville, Spain. Fri 8 March 2024. 20Books Spain. The AI-Assisted Artisan Author.
  • London, UK. Tues 12 March 2024. London Book Fair. Author Futures panel.
  • Las Vegas, USA. November 2024. Author Nation. Various panels

I may also be at Thrillerfest in NYC at the end of May, and I might have a bigger trip planned for October, depending on how things shape out.

In terms of health, I turn 49 this year and my goal is to start entering powerlifting competitions next year once I turn 50. I’m stepping up my training in 2024 in order to get to a good lifting form and weight for the three disciplines of dead lift, squat and benchpress. 

I’ll continue walking — I do 8 -15 kms per day as part of daily life — but I don’t intend to do any ultras or multi-day solos. I want to go into my fiftieth year healthy and fit, and stronger than I’ve ever been, and any free time for holidays, I will spend with Jonathan. He’s doing an MBA this year as well as working so he is very busy!


I have lots of things on a pinboard next to me and for many years now, I’ve had the statement, “I want to write the books I want, when I want, and travel where I want, when I want.” 

As long as my business allows me to do that, and I don’t have to go get a day job, then I am happy. 

I continue to value freedom — creative freedom in writing whatever I feel like, and who would have thought that I’d plan to write a book on Gothic Cathedrals!

Also financial freedom, and I focus on investing as part of my monthly accounting processes. If you want to concentrate on money and investing this year, check out my list of money books here

That’s about it — and I am excited to get into the year ahead! 

There will no doubt be many things we can’t see or anticipate, but if the world is in turmoil and you don’t know what to do about it all, just keep writing — even if it’s just for you. One day at a time, one word at a time. I hope you will join me on the journey. 

If you’d like to share your goals for 2024, please add them in the comments below — and remember, I’m a full-time author entrepreneur so mine are substantial. Don’t worry if yours are as simple as ‘Finish the first draft of my book,’ as that still takes a lot of work and commitment! 

All the best for 2024 — let’s get into it! 

The post My 2024 Creative And Business Goals With Joanna Penn [Updated] first appeared on The Creative Penn.

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  • December 31, 2023