Review Of My 2023 Creative And Business Goals With Joanna Penn

Another year ends, and once more, it’s time to reflect on our creative goals.

I hope you will take the time to review your goals and you’re welcome to leave a comment below about how the year went. Did you achieve everything you wanted to? Let me know in the comments.

In the intro, 2023 was the year that Twitter died — and became X. What that means for me, plus The Verge does an overview. Thoughts on lighthouses and what yours might be, from The Comfort Book by Matt Haig quoting Anne Lamott; “We’re in an artist’s age now,” reflections on the changing author business model from Johnny B. Truant; The Future by Naomi Alderman.


This episode is supported by my Patreon community, who fund my future-focused thinking time. If you join the community, you get an extra solo Q&A show monthly, as well as behind-the-scenes videos on planning for the year ahead, AI and creative business, plus discounts, early access, and more. Join the community for the price of a coffee a month at


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

You can read my 2023 goals here and I reflect on what I achieved below.

  • J.F. Penn — Pilgrimage, Catacomb, and short stories
  • Up-skilling into direct sales with Kickstarter and Shopify, and building a fiction-first store
  • Joanna Penn — Writing the Shadow
  • The Creative Penn Podcast and Patreon move to monthly Community
  • Experiment with futurist technologies and share what I learn along the way 
  • Financial goals
  • Travel, speaking, health, and other things

Let me know in the comments below how your 2023 creative goals went.

J.F. Penn — Pilgrimage, Catacomb, and short stories 

Although I wrote and edited Pilgrimage in 2022, the publishing, launch, and marketing all happened in the first quarter of 2023.

The Kickstarter for Pilgrimage: Lessons Learned from Solo Walking Three Ancient Ways absolutely exceeded my expectations. It had 692 backers and funded at £25,771.

After the initial Kickstarter, I published the book on my Shopify store for a couple of months and then released it wide. You can find it here on my store, here on all the other retailers, or you can order it through your local bookstore or library.  

I wrote and published a stand-alone novella, Catacomb, and two short stories, With a Demon’s Eye, and Beneath the Zoo

I narrated the audiobooks for Pilgrimage, With a Demon’s Eye, A Midwinter Sacrifice, and I need to do Beneath the Zoo and Catacomb in early 2024. I’m committing to narrating as much of my fiction as possible (as human me!) as well as my non-fiction in order to ‘double down on being human.

I didn’t write action-adventure thriller ARKANE 13 as intended, but it’s first on my list for 2024. My creative process involves travel to specific locations to find stories, and I didn’t make it to Vienna this year, but I have a trip planned for the end of January 2024.

Up-skilling into direct sales — Kickstarter and Shopify

I’ve significantly upskilled this year in direct sales.

I’ve done two successfully funded Kickstarter projects, learned a lot of lessons, and improved my book marketing for launches.

I built a new fiction-first Shopify store, and I did a Shopify accelerator with Pierre Jeanty.

I’ve added lots of bundles and box sets for both fiction and non-fiction for digital and print products, which makes a huge difference in terms of being able to offer options to readers, and also make advertising worth it.

Click here for fiction bundles and box sets by J.F. Penn

Click here for bundles and boxsets for authors by Joanna Penn

I’ve worked with Matt Holmes on AI-powered Meta advertising direct to my fiction store, and I only use Amazon auto-ads now on a few of my non-fiction books. 

Joanna Penn — Writing the Shadow 

After more than a decade of working on this book on and off, I finally wrote and published Writing the Shadow: Turn Your Inner Darkness Into Words

The Kickstarter had 1,059 backers and made £36,454 on launch.

I am really proud of the limited edition, gold foil hardback with black ribbon, and I’m encouraged that people want these premium products.

I also did a normal paperback, large print, ebook, workbook, and narrated the audiobook. All the usual formats are now out on all the usual stores (but the limited edition was only for the Kickstarter).  

It was my biggest book signing ever, with over 430 books signed at the Bookvault factory in Peterborough, UK. 

As part of the Pilgrimage Kickstarter, I wrote and recorded a course on Writing Settings and Sense of Place.

The Creative Penn Podcast

I’ve been consistently podcasting for another year with 63 episodes in total. You can find the backlist episodes here.  

The Creative Penn Podcast
The podcast logo changes as I age!

I’ve done quite a few solo episodes, which take the longest to prepare:

#728 – The 15-Year Author Business Pivot  

#727 – How Generative AI Search Will Impact Book Discoverability in the Next Decade with Joanna Penn

#718 – Let Your Dark Horse Run. Writing The Shadow With Joanna Penn (audiobook excerpt)

#714 – Lessons Learned from 12 Years as an Author Entrepreneur

#690 – The AI-Assisted Artisan Author with Joanna Penn

#682 – Lessons Learned and Tips from Pilgrimage, My First Kickstarter Campaign

#671 – Writing Travel Memoir, Fear of Judgment, Fear of Failure, and Journaling with J.F. Penn

Thanks to my patrons at for supporting the show. Your financial support demonstrates that the show is still useful and makes it worthwhile to continue. I really appreciate it!


In the last few months, I’ve moved the Patreon to a monthly subscription — the price of a coffee a month, or a couple of coffees if you’re feeling generous!

I’ve added video tutorials on various aspects of AI and author business, with much more to come, as well as the usual monthly audio Q&A. 

The Patreon is now organized into Collections so it’s easier to navigate the content, which I will continue to add to over the coming year.

Patreon collections, as at dec 2023

Thanks also to corporate sponsors this year: Kobo Writing Life, Draft2Digital, ProWritingAid, Ingram Spark, FindawayVoices, Kindlepreneur, and WrittenWordMedia.

Experiment with futurist technologies and share what I learn along the way 

2023 was the year that generative AI went mainstream, and what was futurist is now very much part of the mainstream conversation for authors and the publishing industry.

Some of the important developments for authors included the following, all of which I have talked about in the intro to the weekly shows: 

In 2022, authors and the publishing industry could avoid AI, but it is practically impossible now.

Microsoft Co-Pilot is bringing generative AI to MS Word as well as other applications, and Google has brought Duet to Workspace and Docs. ProWritingAid and Grammarly use enhanced AI as part of their functions, and cover designers who use Adobe Photoshop and Creative Cloud have AI generative fill as standard, as well as other generative AI tools.

AI assisted artisan author

So much has happened in 2023, and I’ve been sharing what I learn in the intro to the podcast as well as in specific episodes including: 

#690 – The AI-Assisted Artisan Author with Joanna Penn

#727 – How Generative AI Search Will Impact Book Discoverability in the Next Decade with Joanna Penn

#701 – 9 Ways That AI Will Disrupt Authors and the Publishing Industry in the Next Decade [2023 Update] with Joanna Penn and Nick Thacker

You can find all the episodes and more resources at

I’m also sharing video tutorials and other resources for my community at including: 

  • Using Claude 100K for analyzing a book and generating sales descriptions
  • My end-to-end process for using various AI tools to write, edit and publish a short story, including the generation of the book cover 
  • Midjourney and DALLE for images — and much more.

While I have certainly had my moments of anxiety about what this all means, I come back to two things.

(1) Even if AI tools write and create ‘better’ books than me at some point, it doesn’t matter because I will still write and create. I measure my life by what I create, and even if no one wants the finished result, I will still do it.

(2) I can focus on doubling down on being human, and showing you my flaws and my humanity, and (hopefully) enough of you will buy what I make, and join my Patreon community, so I can keep doing this and not have to go back to a day job!

I go into more detail in The AI-Assisted Artisan Author, as well as my 15-Year Author Business Pivot episodes.

Financial goals

At this point in my mature creative business, my primary goal is to make enough money every year to sustain my lifestyle and investment goals, as well as be able to continue to write the books I want, when I want, and travel to places I want to visit

I don’t want employees and I don’t want the overhead of scaling up the business, so I am very happy with the way things are.

Overall, the company made more money than last year, in terms of both revenue and profit, which is always a good direction for things to go in.

I had a goal to double my book sales revenue in 2023. I didn’t quite manage that but I did increase it by 50% and take it back into the six-figure GBP range through Shopify sales and my two Kickstarter campaigns. 

These methods also require less advertising and promotional spend than retailer stores, so the profit margin is higher. 

I had a goal to increase foreign rights licensing and subsidiary licensing, which didn’t happen, but I will carry that goal over and see what 2024 brings as I write different kinds of books. 

Travel, speaking, health, and other things

It was a big year for travel and speaking and connecting in person. You can always find my photos at Instagram @jfpennauthor or Facebook @jfpennauthor

I spoke at Superstars of Writing in Colorado Springs and spent a few days in Washington DC on the way for book research. 

JOanna Penn at superstars 2023 with Jonathan maberry, dean wesley smith, ray porter, kevin j anderson and michael la ronn

I spoke at 20 Books Spain in Seville and really enjoyed the spring heat and the relaxed vibe, plus it was the first author conference that focused on AI, so it was a pivotal experience for many people.

I also spoke at London Book Fair the week after, again on technology and AI.

Joanna Penn in seville, with orna ross and sacha black, and at london book fair with michael anderle and Dan wood

We went to New Zealand for Jonathan’s 50th birthday and met up with friends and family. 

Jonathan and I went on a walking holiday in the Norwegian Fjords. It rained pretty much all the time, but we had a good break. Such a beautiful place!  

Joanna Penn in Norway, and New Zealand

I spoke at an author conference in Paris, France, and then went to 20BooksVegas where I spoke on various panels and had a Patreon meet-up.

It was also a significant conference for me in terms of the people I met and talked with, and the focus on AI and direct sales. 

Cashew and Noisette have helped with social media book marketing this year, and Cashew in particular has kept me at the writing desk with purring companionship. I love being at home with my cats!

You can find more pics on Instagram @jfpennauthor

Health-wise, I’ve been consistently lifting weights this year. I am now post-menopause and lifting is much better than long-distance walking. I am training for my old lady body — plus I love lifting and am getting stronger every month! 

My twice-weekly sessions with my personal trainer, Dan, are now focused on the three disciplines for powerlifting — deadlift (my PB is 90 kgs), squat, and bench press. I also walk to and from the gym (11km) twice a week, and do 8-10kms per day as part of normal life. So I still walk, I’m just not doing the longer distances.

If you’re interested in the benefits of lifting, I recommend Next Level: Your Guide to Kicking Ass, Feeling Great, and Crushing Goals Through Menopause and Beyond by Stacy T. Sims.

Thank you so much for being part of my community this last year — for buying my books in all formats, for being a patron of the show, for clicking my affiliate links, for leaving positive reviews on the books and the podcast, and for recommending them to others.

I wouldn’t have this career without you, so thank you so much and I hope you’ll join me for the year ahead.

How did your creative goals go in 2023? Please leave a comment and let me know.

I’ll be back with my 2024 goals on 1 January 2024.

The post Review Of My 2023 Creative And Business Goals With Joanna Penn first appeared on The Creative Penn.

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  • January 2, 2024