Patricia Fry is the President of SPAWN, the Small Publishers, Artists & Writers Network. She is the author of 28 books and many articles on the subject of writing and publishing, and brings her years of experience directly into her work.
She recently released the second edition of her comprehensive book on writing, publishing, and promotion entitled THE RIGHT WAY TO WRITE, PUBLISH AND SELL YOUR BOOK: Your Complete Guide to Successful Authorship. The book is truly a step-by-step manual for anyone who wants a career as a self-published author. It is full of advice and anecdotes, checklists, directories of resources, samples and examples, and more.
DS: Patricia, thank you for this opportunity to interview you. Though it is a large book, I really appreciated everything that you detailed in so many topics. There was no chapter inside where I didn't learn something new and I always enjoy learning more, especially about this industry.
PF: Thank you Dan. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to hopeful and struggling authors through my books (I have 11 on writing/publishing-related topics) and interviews such as this one. In an industry where approximately 3/4 of titles fail each year, authors certainly need information and knowledge. It's their insurance against failure.
DS: In a marketplace full of other books about writing and publishing, written in many cases, I imagine, by friends and colleagues, what makes your book stand out?
PF: Yes, I do have many friends and colleagues with books related to writing and publishing. Most of these books focus on one aspect of publishing or writing--self-publishing, book promotion, writing fiction, making money through your writing, etc. Mine is unique in that I've attempted to capture the entire scope of the publishing industry: your options, the possible consequences of your choices and your responsibilities as a published author. I want hopeful and struggling authors to understand something about the industry before getting involved. But I also walk the author through the entire process of publishing whether they want to land a traditional royalty publisher, go with a fee-based POD "self-publishing" company or self-publish in the traditional way--establish their own publishing company.
DS: Did you sit down with the intent to write this because you felt there was a need for one "complete guide", or was this the result of a lot of previous works you wanted to collect together?
PF: As the president of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) and as a professional in the writing/publishing field, I travel and I meet a lot of authors. Many authors tell me the same story of failure. They are disillusioned with the industry, deflated and broke after making some bad choices. They tell me, in essence, that if only they had spent more time studying the industry, they might have made better choices. Most of them didn't know they had options. They just went with the first "publisher" who expressed an interest in their manuscripts. So I decided to write a book designed to educate hopeful authors so they would be more well-prepared and definitely informed when they entered into the world of publishing.
DS: How long have you been writing professionally, and do you think your purpose has changed over time?
PF: I started writing for publication in 1973. I began dreaming of writing articles for magazines when my three daughters were babies and vowed that someday I would follow this dream. In 1973, when my girls were in their early teens, I sat down at a borrowed manual typewriter, set up in the corner of my bedroom and I wrote my first article. I began writing to fulfill my own creative desires. I guess I needed to be published in order to validate my writing. But I also wanted to help and teach through my writing. I've told people for years that I can't not write and this is still true. And I continue in my efforts to teach and help. So, while my writing focus has changed over the years (I write fewer articles and more books), my purpose hasn't changed all that much,
DS: When you first started writing and tried to get published, how hard was the process? Do you find it to be easier today, or do the choices available makes the process even more difficult?
PF: The first article I wrote I sold to the first magazine I submitted it to. I also sold my first book to the initial publisher I approached. You don't hear about this happening in today's highly competitive market. But I had done my homework. I studied the magazines before I submitted, so I knew what was lacking, what type of articles they used, their submission policy, etc. The same is true of my approach to the publishing house. My book fit a niche market and I chose a publisher that published books in this niche--books for horse enthusiasts.
DS: How much time do you devote to marketing your books and what has worked the best for you?
PF: I guess I market my books constantly, through my informative blog (which I add to daily) http://www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog/, through articles for writing/publishing-related magazines and newsletters, through presentations to authors, through SPAWN and so forth. I found you through a mention on my Google Alerts and contacted you about reviewing my book. While I certainly have other projects going on--those for clients as well as my own--the task of marketing my books is always on the front burner and I take every opportunity to promote them.
DS: Do you travel often to promote your book, or focus on other means?
PF: I use any and all means that occur to me and take advantage of marketing opportunities as they are presented. For example, if someone contacts me with a question about a publisher or how to determine the genre of their book or do they really need a book proposal, I will respond in the most detail possible and then I always recommend one of my books that I think would most benefit them--generally it is THE RIGHT WAY TO WRITE, PUBLISH AND SELL YOUR BOOK. But yes, I also travel. I participate in approximately eight or ten writers' conferences, writers' group meetings and book festivals each year both locally and in other locations. I'll be conducting a 3-hour seminar on writing a book proposal in Atlanta at the Spring Book Show (Georgia World Congress Center) March 29, 2008. I have to be in Nashville for the PMA Affiliate Retreat the following week, so, with the help of a writers' group leader in Nashville, I've set up a workshop and book signing at a local Borders Bookstore on March 31. I taught 5 workshops at the San Diego State University Writers' Conference in January. I'll travel to Baltimore for a writers' conference in May and I'll be in Phoenix in October. There are about half dozen events locally here in Ventura County, CA that I'll be participating in this year. Plus, I'll be in the SPAWN booth with my books at the gigantic Los Angeles Times Book Festival.
DS: Where was the most exciting place you've been on tour?
PF: By far it was Dubai in the Middle East. I went there as a guest of the Toastmasters. I was the first woman ever to be invited to deliver the keynote speech at their annual Toastmasters convention. I spoke in front of 800 Toastmasters from the UAE, of course and Kuwait, Behrain, Saudi Arabia, Qa'tar, Pakistan, etc. for an hour. And this was an all expenses paid trip including a first class flight. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the people. They are most gracious. While my speech was not on writing--I spoke on creativity as a speaker--I took a dozen copies of the first edition of THE RIGHT WAY TO WRITE, PUBLISH AND SELL YOUR BOOK and sold them all within a period of 5 or 10 minutes.
DS: What was the impetus behind SPAWN? Were you involved with it from the beginning, or was it a network that you joined and later came to manage?
PF: Mary Embree, author of "Author's Toolkit" started SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) in 1996 and I came along for the ride. I was with her from the beginning when we used to have face-to-face meetings in three counties each month. The Internet eventually became a more important way for authors to meet up and we closed down the real time meetings and became an Internet presence only. Mary's idea was for authors, graphic artists, printers, illustrators, booksellers, to network and maybe even collaborate on projects. This is still going on through SPAWN and we have also become a major resource center for anyone interested in publishing. I write the incredibly useful SPAWN Market Update each month for members only. It is designed to keep a finger on the pulse of the industry and I always include opportunities for freelance writers, authors seeking publishers and authors promoting books, artists, screenplay writers, etc. I include resources for folks interested in publishing and I conduct interviews with people from the industry. The March edition features an interview with publicist, Kate Bando.
DS: What other projects are you actively involved in right now?
PF: As you can tell, my plate is pretty full. However, I have just finished writing a new book. It is a small ebook and it developed from a popular article I've been circulating on how to write a post-publication book proposal. The book is called, "The Author's Repair Kit." The subtitle is, "Heal Your Publishing Mistakes and Breathe New Life Into Your Book." It will be available soon at http://www.matilijapress.com/ and as a free giveaway book for new members joining SPAWN.
I also work with other writers and authors on their projects. I do editorial work, I help authors write their book proposals and so forth. I have some incredible testimonials from happy clients at my website. I also teach online courses on demand. This means that you can sign up at any time for one of my 6 or 8-week courses. The choices are "How to Write a Successful Book Proposal," "Book Marketing Course," "Establish a Freelance Writing Business," and "Self-Publishing." http://www.matilijapress.com/courses.htm/.
DS: You have written in a wide variety of genres. Is there any other subject that you have thought about tackling next?
PF: Hmmm, I have written a book for long-distance grandparents, for people who want to have a Hawaiian luau in their backyards, for horseback riding enthusiasts, for local history buffs, for those interested in youth mentoring and for teens who want to learn more about journal-keeping. But I am so focused, right now, on writing about writing and publishing, I can't see too far beyond this topic. This is my passion.
However, another passion of mine is cats. And I have a book of cat stories on the back burner. I would like to bring it out some day. Maybe I will.
DS: Is there anything in particular, an author or favorite book that influenced and inspired you?
PF: I've pondered this question before during interviews and can never come up with a great response. Actually, I feel as though I carved out the hand and footholds in the steep mountain toward publishing success so that I could make the climb to my goals and my dreams. It seems as though my inspiration came from within in the form of extreme desire and commitment.
There was a time in my life when I had to go out and get a job. I had been writing articles from the corner of my bedroom for about 13 years by then. I had completed two books and established a publishing company in order to produce the second one, a 360-page comprehensive history of the Ojai Valley, CA. But when circumstances in my life changed and I had to earn my own way, I realized that I wasn't making enough with my writing to support myself. The job was lovely, as far as jobs go, but I hated working on someone else's agenda. I wanted to go home and write. When I realized that a full-time job would be my future, I became despondent.
One day while walking, I realized that I had to figure out a way to write no matter what else was going on in my life. I started getting up at 4 every morning and writing before work. I also wrote on weekends. I completed my book--a memoir, "Quest for Truth" in 8 months on that schedule. I decided to use those two hours every morning to establish an article-writing career. Remember, this was back in the day before home computers. But I had graduated to an electric typewriter.
Within the next 7 months or so, I had established myself as an article-writer to the point that I could quit my job and I've been supporting myself through my writing ever since--for about 20 years.
DS: Your book is all about advice in all aspects of the business of writing. But if you had just one piece of advice for aspiring authors, what would it be?
PF: Good question. Study the publishing industry before getting involved. Know something about the business of publishing. When I go out and speak to authors, I generally share two pieces of advice. One is to study the publishing industry and the other one is write a book proposal. A book proposal can make the difference between a successful project and a failed attempt. You can learn volumes about your project and yourself as a potential author through a well-written, well-organized, well-researched book proposal.
DS: Thank you again, Patricia. I wish you and the folks at SPAWN all the best.
Copyright © 2008 Dan Shaurette. Reprinted with permission.
Besides being the newsletter editor for http://SelfPublishedAuthors.com, Dan is the author of LILITH'S LOVE, a modern vampire romance novel, which you can learn more about at http://Liliths-Love.com/. You can find out about all of his projects at http://DanShaurette.com/.