SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network), Patricia keeps her finger on the pulse of the industry and thoroughly enjoys her side-business—working with other authors on their projects.
How did you get started in your line of work?
By the time I was the young mother of three little girls, I realized that I had a knack for and a growing passion for writing. I decided that someday, I would write articles for publication. I couldn’t figure out how to work even an at-home career into my busy life at the time, so I just contented myself by reading about the writing life and studying the magazines I hoped to someday write for.
In the meantime, I also enjoyed honing my writing skills. I wrote stories for my daughters, letters and journal entries. Heck, I even enjoyed writing grocery lists.
When my girls were 13, 14 and 15 years old (in 1973), I decided to start my writing career. Because I had been studying, I knew some of the important rules for getting published. I set up a borrowed manual typewriter in the corner of my bedroom and began to write about what I know. I submitted my article ideas to a few magazines I was very familiar with. As a result, I sold the first several articles I wrote and many others since then.
Five years later, I sold the first book I wrote to a New York publisher.
My original article (and book) topic was horses. As a family, we owned several backyard horses. The girls were involved in local horse events. We also did a lot of trail riding and horse packing. I had been subscribing to several horse-related magazines for years and knew what was missing in some of them and what I could contribute. This made breaking in easier than if I had just tried the scattershot method.
Over time, I expanded to include many other topics, thus began submitting articles to a variety of other magazines, such as family, parenting, regional, spiritual/religious, business, pet, travel, hobby, writing and others. I wrote for both consumer and trade publications.
In 1983, I established my own publishing company, Matilija Press, in order to produce a comprehensive local history book, “The Ojai Valley, an Illustrated History.” I borrowed money to produce 5,000 copies of this book and, because of my diligent promotional tactics, I sold enough books so that I was able to pay it all back within a matter of months.
It wasn’t long after this that it became necessary for me to start supporting myself. While I thought my writing and publishing businesses were bringing in enough money, I discovered that they weren’t actually supporting me. Very reluctantly, I went to work at a 9-5 job.
I became despondent. I missed writing and being in my home office. And I was convinced that a job would be my future.
One early morning during my meditation walk I realized that I had to find a way to write no matter what else was going on in my life.
I started getting up every morning at 4 and writing for two hours or so before work. I also wrote on weekends. I finished an entire book within 8 months on this schedule. I decided that if I devoted those early morning and weekend hours to my article-writing business, perhaps I could build it to the point that I could quit my job. And so it was that within the year, I was writing full-time at home, again.
What was your path towards publication like?
It seems as though my path was easier than those that many authors are on now. But that may be because I did my homework. I studied, first, the magazine industry and then the publishing industry before getting involved. I continued this study as I proceeded along and as things changed and shifted within the industries. That said, I must confess that the transitions occurring in my nearly 40-year career came about at least partly because of peer pressure and circumstances.
Would I have started producing programs, books and online courses for other writers and authors if others hadn’t come to me for assistance, information and support? Would I have started my editing practice if authors hadn’t requested my help? I’m sure that some of my books for authors would not exist if I hadn’t paid attention to the needs I observed among new authors.
My path toward publishing has been fairly smooth. Not only did I get a publishing contract on my first try, but I’ve had publishers accept 5 of my previously published books for publication. (I turned two of those contracts down.)
I love having my own publishing company and have produced many of my books through Matilija Press. I don’t recommend self-publishing (establishing your own publishing company) for every author and every project. But, for the most part, I like having the control, making all of the decisions and keeping all of the profits.
What is your biggest obstacle when it comes to pitching yourself as an author and what steps have you taken to overcome that obstacle?
My greatest obstacle has actually become my greatest asset.
I have found over the years that personality sells book, so I am a firm believer in putting yourself in front of your target audience as often as possible. I didn’t do much in order to promote my first book because I wasn’t all that savvy about book promotion back in the ‘70s.
By the time I self-published my 2nd book, however (in 1983), I knew that promotion was key to selling books and I planned to promote my local history book through public speaking to a variety of groups. I had no problem getting speaking gigs. And I seemed to aptly entertain and inform audiences by writing my speeches and reading from them.
After a while, however, I realized that I needed to speak without the written speech crutch. I knew how it felt to speak off the cuff during the question and answer portions of my talks. Sometimes I told a story that wasn’t scripted. To me, this is what public speaking is all about and I so wanted to become that sort of speaker. I had recently heard about Toastmasters and decided that I should attend a meeting.
Unfortunately, fear started taking over and my confidence level sagged. I wasn’t ready to face the learning curve and I kept putting off attending a meeting. In the meantime, I began declining speaking invitations. As it turns out, I had inadvertently presented myself with a major obstacle—one that I knew I had to overcome.
Finally, I picked myself up by the bootstraps and attended a local Toastmasters meeting. I joined and worked hard to earn my Advanced Toastmaster Silver status. I’ve been practicing what I learned ever since.
My latest book (number 36) to be produced by Allworth Press in the fall of 2012, is “Talk Up Your Book”—a book about public speaking and communication for authors. In the Introduction, I confess that I am not the best of the best when it comes to public speaking. However, I have come a very long way as a public speaker and, in this book, I share my knowledge and my observations as well as my perspective on public speaking and communication skills. I also include anecdotes and advice from about two-dozen other author/speakers.
I’ve learned over the years that the best way to fail is to ignore and avoid hurdling those obstacles that will and do come up for every author who desires some measure of success.
My longest learning curve was when I first began writing articles for magazines. Prior to that, I was a stay-at-home mom and I spent a good part of my days keeping my house spotless, gardening, sewing for the family, hanging new wallpaper, etc. I was Dolly Domestic. I also had a nice social life—lunch out, entertaining, and so forth.
When I decided to start writing, I had to learn to leave the dishes in the sink, at least until I finished an assignment. I had to retrain friends and family to take my work as seriously as I was trying to.
Now, because my business has evolved over the years and I am involved in article-writing, editing, book deadlines, running the organization, etc., each beginning of the year I re-evaluate my business and make any adjustments I see as necessary.
Sometimes I realize I am not having enough me time. I’d say that’s been my biggest balancing challenge—taking and making time for myself.
Since I start working every day around 4:30 or 5 a.m. and since I work at least part of most weekends, I can be flexible with my time. I feel that I have achieved a pretty good balance of exercise (a priority in my life), family (I now have two adorable great grandchildren and a 90-year-old mother) and time with friends/neighbors. I take mini-vacations every day.
This is how I perceive my daily walks. I seek out-of-town speaking opportunities and turn them into vacations. I enjoy time in my garden—I believe that writers need creative outlets outside of their craft. And we certainly need breaks from tedious tasks and the stress of book promotion. That’s why I try to break up these tasks by running errands, conducting an interview, reviewing a book or doing some fun research, for example. Because I still sit too much in front of the computer, I also see a chiropractor for regular tune-ups.
How do you promote yourself as an author, and what is your best advice for promoting your work?
Book promotion is actually one of my topics of expertise. I write articles and books about book promotion and the newsletter I write for the member section of the SPAWN website is heavy in the area of book promotion ideas and opportunities.
So what are some of my favorite methods of book promotion?
I promote myself through articles related to the topics of my books, my websites, a daily blog, opportunities such as this one to respond to questions, book festivals and speaking opportunities where my audience gathers.
My advice is, first, know who your audience is and speak to them throughout your book. Your goal when writing a non-fiction book is either to help your readers resolve issues or, perhaps, to teach them a new perspective or skill. If you are a novelist, your job is to appropriately entertain them. Know where your audience congregates, what they read, which websites they visit and so forth. These are the avenues through which you will reach them.
What was the best writing-related advice you ever received?
I was actually pretty much the ground-breaking writer in my world. I didn’t know another writer until I had been writing for quite a while. Well, I wrote a column for the local newspaper for three years and met other columnists during that period—but no one who was carving out a living as a writer.
I learned mostly by the old trial and error method. That said, probably one of the most important influences in my writing career was a boss I had during the brief period when I worked outside of my home office.
I was her personal secretary and she was a tough taskmaster. I learned a lot about striving for perfection from her. I constantly use this lesson when sending emails; editing manuscripts and when writing articles, the monthly newsletter and books and so forth. Sure, I will inadvertently make an editorial mistake. But I am much more careful since working with this meticulous boss and I care more about the written presentations I make.
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book?
“Publish Your Book, Proven Strategies and Resources for the Enterprising Author”, is a revision of my originally self-published book, “The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book”.
I wrote it in response to the many author questions I fielded through SPAWN, through my own websites, while out speaking or talking to people at book festivals, etc. This is a comprehensive guide to the world of publishing. Not only does this book help new and struggling authors to better understand the publishing industry and their responsibilities within it, it is a guide to successful publishing—whatever that means to the individual author.
The book includes all of your publishing options and helps you to determine which one is best for your book project. There is a timeline for those who want to self-publish (establish their own publishing company) and the book features chapters on how to write a successful book proposal, how to self-edit your book and even three chapters on book promotion.
The companion book is “Promote Your Book, Over 250 Proven, Low-Cost Tips and Techniques for the Enterprising Author”. This is a much expanded and completely revised version of a little book I wrote and self-published in 2000.
Originally, this book included only 75 book promotion ideas. One cool feature of this book is the inclusion of anecdotes and advice from nearly two-dozen other authors—some of them highly successful.
How did you come up with the idea for your book?
As I mentioned above, I am in contact with a lot of authors throughout the course of my work. I speak to members of writers’ groups, at writers’ conferences throughout the US, and while attending book festivals, etc. Because I have an informative blog on issues of writing and publishing, 2 websites with resources for authors and writers and I write a lot of articles for publications related to publishing and book promotion, I frequently receive emails and telephone calls from authors, so I know what their questions and concerns are.
I’ve been writing books for authors since 2000. My focus is to help authors to help themselves achieve the level of success they desire.
My next book addresses the issues of promoting books through personality—honing and using your public speaking and communication skills. “Talk Up Your Book, How to Sell Your Book Through Public Speaking, Interviews, Signings, Festivals, Conferences and More” is scheduled for publication in the fall of 2012.
What was the most difficult aspect of writing this book?
The most difficult aspect of writing these 3 books for authors was the challenge of including everything the author needs to know in an easy-to-digest form without overwhelming the reader with too much material.
I realize that all 3 of these books are excellent reference books. While readers might (and many do) read them from cover-to-cover, their main purpose is as a reference—to be used when questions come up—to keep at your elbow as you are writing your book proposal, seeking a publisher, wondering how to approach an agent, creating your marketing plan, etc. I wanted these books to be easy to read, understand and use—mostly use.
I managed to accomplish this by simplifying text, instructions, guidelines as much as I could and offering resources and links to additional information. I always include an index, as well. AND, I do my best to make these books somewhat fun to read—not too dry.
Did you have to do any special research for your book?
Of course, research is necessary for an informational book.
Things change so fast in the world of publishing and book marketing that I had a lot of studying to do in certain areas of these topics (such as promoting books through social media, things related to the use of technology, etc.). I researched using the Internet, but mostly I relied on my colleagues with expertise in these areas.
I recommend checking in with other professionals in your topic whenever the need arises. Not only are they often good sources of information, it is important to stay connected to the movers and shakers in your field or genre. Networking with other professionals can lead to recommendations, reviews, etc. for your book.
If you could choose just one thing for your book to accomplish, what would it be?
Of course, I am thrilled when I hear from an author who is taking some of the advice in my books to heart and who are experiencing success as a result. My main reason for writing the original edition of “Publish Your Book” was to keep authors from making the most common publishing mistakes.
Prior to writing that book, I was meeting way too many authors with sad stories to tell about the poor choices they were making on behalf of their book projects. I didn’t feel as though I was helping enough authors simply by speaking to their writers’ groups or one-on-one at book festivals. So I sat down and wrote the book I felt they needed to read.
If I keep authors from making heart-breaking and expensive mistakes with their publishing projects, I feel I have accomplished a major goal with this book.
What’s ahead for your writing?
Book promotion, mostly.
However, I do have a few new ideas dancing around in my head—books that I think would be of interest to authors. I write a new e-booklet occasionally and post it at my website for free download. http://www.patriciafry.com.
The current one is “50 Ways to Promote Your Ebook.”
The one prior, I have turned into an ebook for sale at http://www.matilijapress.com. It is “50 Reasons Why You Should Write That Book.”
Other freebies now for sale cheap at my Matilija Press website are, “The Author’s Toolkit: How to Breathe New Life Into Your Book and Heal Your Publishing Mistakes.” I also expanded on another freebie ebook and created, “The Successful Author’s Handbook.” I may do more of these.
I also want to write something strictly for the fiction author.
While all of the books I mentioned above relate to fiction as well as nonfiction authors, I realize that those who write fiction have mental blocks against things related to left-brain thinking. So, for example, in “Promote Your Book,” I point out specific tasks that novelists can take on in order to use some of the book promotion activities—so they understand that this activity is for novelists, too and how to apply it in their situation.
There are around 120 ideas in this book specifically for fiction authors—most of the other 130-plus, relate to fiction, as well, it’s just not as easy for novelists to recognize. That’s why I took pains to point them out.
You can learn more about Patricia Fry at www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog
Order Publish Your Book: Proven Strategies and Resources for the Enterprising Author on Amazon.com today!
Do not reprint this post without permission. © Alyice Edrich
This post was sponsored by The Dabbling Mum.
For more articles like this, or to read about running a homebased business, improving your skills as a writer, creating crafts with your children, or dealing with parenting and/or marriage issues, check out The Dabbling Mum eMagazine and shopping portal.
Monday, August 20, 2012
Interview with Patricia Fry
Most Popular Posts Within Last 7 Days
My last perm was five years ago. It was over curly and didn't last long. But, I've been wanting to get another perm for the past two...
A few weeks ago I was asked if I would be interested in reviewing Zumba Fitness for Wii and of course, I jumped at the opportunity. First, ...
What makes Peter Pan so magical that adults can’t help but purchase a copy for the next generation of children? Perhaps it’s the way Wendy’s...