Thursday, January 17, 2008

Patricia Fry, Guest Author

Today, our guest blogger/interviewee is Patricia Fry. Patricia is a full-time freelance writer and the author of 27 books. While she has written on numerous topics during her 30 years in the business, she focuses now on writing and publishing issues. Patricia's hallmark book for authors is her newly revised "The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book." She has also produced a one-of-a-kind "Author's Workbook" as a companion to this extremely valuable book. Patricia is also the president of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network).

I’ve started this off by asking Patricia a few questions, but you’re welcome to post a question in the Comments section if there’s something you’d like to know that I didn’t cover. So, let’s get started.

Helen: Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.

Patricia: I’ve been writing for publication for over 30 years. I started out writing articles for magazines. In fact, that was my mainstay for years—how I earned my living. I’m also the author of 27 books, including 10 related to writing and publishing. Writers are generally passionate about something—their writing, of course, but, often, also their topic/genre. I’ve always been a “give me the facts ma’am” kind of writer. I thrive on teaching, coaching, mentoring through my writing. Today, my passion involves helping other freelance writers and authors make the decisions and take the steps that will help them to realize their writing/publishing dreams. I do this through my books, articles and one-on-one consultation work. I also travel around presenting workshops and conducting seminars for writer and authors. On a personal note, I live in a small town in California and enjoy whatever cats are in my life at the time—usually rescued kitties—and gardening. I spend time with my grown daughters and adult grandkids as well as my widowed mother. I walk every day to keep my body from becoming permanently attached to my office chair. But mostly, I work. I put in anywhere from 8 to 12 hours per day working with clients as well as my own writing.

Helen: How did you get invited to speak (all expenses paid) in Dubai? That must have been an amazing adventure. What one thing surprised you most about that experience?

Patricia: Yes, it was an amazing adventure. It was my first time in a foreign country. The opportunity came about because of my writing. I’d been contributing regularly to The Toastmaster Magazine for many years. The organizers of the Toastmaster Convention in the Middle East were accustomed to seeing my name in this international magazine, liked my articles and, I think, wanted a woman’s influence at their convention that year, 2006. I was the first woman ever to be invited to give a keynote speech at their convention. My assignment was to speak for an hour in front of 800 Toastmasters from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan, Oman, Bahrain and Pakistan, most of whom spoke English as their second language. What surprised me most about the experience? How warm and welcoming the people were and how well-received my presentation was. I’ve written of my experiences during those 4 days of travel and experiencing Dubai and my preparation for the trip. I’ve created a little book called, “Once in a Lifetime: Adventures in Dubai.”

Helen: There are a lot of informative articles on the SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) site, but there also seems to be even more that members can access. How long have you been president of SPAWN and what changes have you seen in the organization?

Patricia: SPAWN was started in 1996 as a face-to-face networking organization. We had 3 chapters in Southern and Central California—each meeting once a month. When the Internet became so prevalent in our lives, attendance dwindled and we moved SPAWN online. We are now an Internet presence, only. I have been actively involved from the beginning. Yes, we have an enormous amount of information and resources for anyone who is interested in publishing. And we send out a free newsletter to a subscriber list of around 2,000 every month. Membership earns authors, artists, freelance writers, publishers, etc., additional perks such as participation in a discussion group and a forum (for the purpose of networking with other members), Market Update, a truly meaty newsletter that includes industry news and updates as well as numerous opportunities for authors seeking publishers or promoting books, freelance writers, artists, screenwriters, and so forth. Members have access to the Market Update archives and we provide a nifty search feature so they can easily locate the information and resources they are seeking. Members also receive a free book of their choice when they apply for membership or renew. Membership in SPAWN is $45/year.

Helen: Do you think e-publishing and self-publishing are viable options for most authors or only for those who have a platform already in place for selling and know how to set up a shopping cart on their site?

Patricia: These avenues are certainly viable for many hopeful authors. I have to say that anyone who wants to shift from writer to published author, in order to experience any measure of success, MUST build a platform and be prepared to become an aggressive marketer. As far as setting up a shopping cart on their site, authors don’t have to know how to do this, they can hire tasks such as this done. Publishing today is highly competitive. There are more people writing, more people approaching publishers with their manuscripts and more people promoting books. An author needs more than a great story or a fantastic nonfiction book idea. He/she needs a business head and the willingness to shift from writing mode to business mode. I tell authors that publishing is not an extension of your writing. E-publishing and self-publishing aside, even those authors who are fortunate enough to land a traditional royalty publisher must take on the role of marketer/promotions manager for their project in order to succeed.

By the way, to self-publish means to establish your own publishing company. Today, the term is also used in reference to the many (I think 80-some) fee-based POD publishing services. I still consider most of these companies vanity publishers.

Helen: You wear a lot of hats – writer, speaker, teacher, editor, manuscript consultant. Are you very organized, or do you just not sleep?

Patricia: I love keeping busy. A day that involves writing is a happy day for me and a day when I can help a client move closer to his/her idea of writing or publishing success, is a good day for me. Yes, I am a fairly organized person. I think this comes with running your own business for many years and it comes with being a nonfiction writer. There’s a lot or organizing that must be done when you’re writing nonfiction. Most nonfiction authors and freelance writers I work with, need help in the organization of their projects. I also work with fiction writers/authors. They typically have very different challenges. The most common problems I see with authors today are muddy writing, repetition, sentences too long and cumbersome and the misuse of punctuation.

Do I sleep? I go to bed really early every night, but I’m up again by 5 (often earlier) and I head right to my computer and start working. Discipline is important in this business and it doesn’t always come easy. The good news is, it can be learned—or maybe it is conditioning that finally makes it stick.

As for being organized, one thing I do that I don’t think many people do is, I handle things as they come in. Rarely, does a project sit on my to-do list for more than a day or two. Quick tasks are accomplished usually within hours. I try not to allow pending work to collect on my desk.

Helen: Of all the books you've written for writers, which has been your best seller?

Patricia: Over 75 Good Ideas for Promoting Your Book. Amazon orders this book practically by the caseload every month. It’s a small, saddle-stitched book and sells for $6.50. I think that publishers may be ordering quantities of this book to give to their new authors. Maybe writing groups are buying it to handout to members. I wish I knew where all of those books are going. The book I recommend most often is my newest book—the newly revised The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book. This is a major contribution to the world of publishing. I wrote it in response to the questions I get over and over through my affiliation with SPAWN and while traveling and speaking with hopeful authors. I recommend it to anyone who is even considering writing a book or entering the publishing game. I recommend it to hopeful authors, struggling authors and any author who wants to self-publish, is considering going with a fee-based POD publishing service, who wants to land a traditional publisher, who has a book to promote, who is confused about distribution, who needs help establishing a platform or writing a book proposal. It’s all here. This should be required reading for anyone who is even entertaining the idea of producing a book.

A few months ago, I also came out with the Author’s Workbook. This is designed to help the author take the information he has read in The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book and apply it to his book project. It walks you through the entire process from book idea to book promotion and everything in between.

Helen: You have an amazing number of books available on your Matilija Press website, a lot of them yours. What advice, based on your own experience, do you have for writers who are thinking of self-publishing or e-publishing?

Patricia: The only book on my site that isn’t mine is Johanna’s Journey, a memoir that I published through Matilija Press for a friend who lost his fiancĂ© (she was my neighbor and good friend). Actually, I contributed to this book, as well. Johanna, who was 56 and extremely fit, willed me her 4 cats just months before she died of a brain aneurism.

I have 27 published books—some of them are out of print. Some were published through traditional publishers, one is an ebook, but most of them were produced through my publishing company, Matilija Press. You can order most of my books directly from my website.

Also at my website, you will find resources and articles for writers and authors. I provide a calendar of my upcoming activities and events. Of course, you can find testimonials. I love my testimonials sections. AND I offer something unusual, online courses on-demand. I teach courses on 4 different subjects for writers and authors: article-writing, how to write a book proposal, self-publishing and my newest course, book promotion. Instead of having to wait until I decide to teach the course or waiting for a course to fill, you can sign up for a 6-week or 8-week course when you want to and I’ll work with you as one of 10 or the only student. This is an online course on-demand. Check my courses out at Matilija Press.

Another important part of my website is my Blog. I blog daily.

Thank you so much Patricia. What great answers.

If you get the chance to meet or hear Patricia Fry in person, take advantage of the opportunity. She presents writing/publishing workshops throughout the U.S. and you'll see her articles published in numerous writing/publishing-related magazines and newsletters every month.

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