Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Today A Book Inside will be hosting a special interview with Patricia Fry, author of 28 books, 11 of them on publishing. As well as being a seasoned author, Patricia is the CEO of Matilija Press.
Carol Denbow: Welcome Patricia. Lets begin by telling our readers how you were inspired to write your very first book and what year that was published?
Patricia Fry: I started my writing career in 1973 when I began writing articles for horse magazines. The first piece I wrote (and sold, by the way) was on what to do with all of those horseshow ribbons young riders accumulate when they compete. I also wrote about hairdos for horseshows, how to make riding chaps, how to raise a foal, a humorous piece on being a horseshow mom and so forth. I loved the process of writing, so it followed that I would write a book. And in 1978, I landed a publishing contract with the first publisher I approached, A. S. Barnes Publishing (New York and London) for my first book, "Hints For the Backyard Rider."
I keep reading about freelance writers and authors who have been writing and publishing now for an entire decade or for 6 years or maybe 15 years. And I have to chuckle. I'll bet that most of them would roll their eyes if they knew that some of us old-timers started out writing on manual typewriters. We used bound dictionaries instead of spell-check, "white out" instead of digital correction and we sent all manuscripts and correspondence through the mail at 8 cents for a first-class postage.
Carol Denbow: I see on your Website that you have published books in different genres. Most writers keep with the same or semi-related subject matter for all their books (assuming they’re written more than one). How do you decide on the subject matter for your books?
Patricia Fry: Since I wanted to establish a career as a freelance writer, I was interested in writing for a variety of publications on a variety of topics. So, as I branched out with new article ideas for a wider range of magazines (business, parenting/family, spiritual, women's and so forth), I did the same when choosing subjects for books. My second book was a 360-page comprehensive history of the Ojai Valley, California. I actually wrote this book at the suggestion of a local bookseller who said, "We get a lot of requests for a book about this city." I spent 5 years researching and writing The Ojai Valley, An Illustrated History and established my publishing company, Matilija Press, in order to produce it. This was in 1983, before self-publishing was fashionable.
I have 28 published books now and most of them came about because of a perceived need. I followed the Ojai history book with two books related to the local pioneer cemetery—profiles of those buried there from 1876-1900 and (the second book) 1901-1920. I also wrote the history of a local world-known private school on commission. Outside of the history realm, I penned my fascinating experiences working with a local hypnotherapist who used past-life regression therapy with his clients. It started out that I was going to write his story focusing on his work. But the hypnotist died 8 months into the project and I put the material away. Seven years later, when I realized how much my life had changed after having worked with this man, I wrote my own bizarre story. This book is called, Quest For Truth, a Journey of the Soul.
I wrote The Mainland Luau, How to Capture the Flavor of Hawaii in Your Own Backyard in response to the many people who expressed an interest in the luaus we used to present at our home every year. I attended other luaus, interviewed people from all over the U.S. and Hawaii about their recipes and techniques and came out with this still popular book in 1996.
I overheard two women talking in line at the grocery store once about how hard it is to bond with their grandchildren who live out of the area. I went home and wrote another popular book, Creative Grandparenting Across the Miles. I became a mentor some years later and Liguori Publications (which had published the grandparenting book) accepted my book on youth mentoring shortly after.
As a freelance article writer, you must always be on the lookout for ideas. And, for me, this trait or habit has spilled over into the realm of writing books. In some cases, if the topic was popular in article form, I'd create a book on that topic.
Currently, after 35 years as a career writer, I write mostly about writing and publishing and 11 of my books are on these topics. My hallmark book is The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book. It's 340 pages, $19.95 and has earned dozens of 5 star reviews by my peers and colleagues.
Carol Denbow: Patricia, it sounds as if you have a tremendous amount of publishing experience. Please tell us your choice method of publishing (traditional, self-publish, POD) and why you prefer it.
Patricia Fry: People ask me often, what publishing method I recommend. I always give the same answer, "It depends on your project and it depends on you."
I started out in 1978 with a traditional royalty publisher. Three of my subsequent books were produced through a traditional publisher. I used Booklocker (considered a POD) for an ebook some years ago and I have done a lot of self-publishing. I actually had a traditional publisher lined up for my book, The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book a few years ago, but decided to fire him. I realized that I had the platform for selling this book. I have the credentials, the opportunities and the know-how when it comes to promoting the book, so I self-published it and I'm glad that I did. I had to put up the money, but I have all of the control and I get all of the profits.
I've seen a lot of changes in publishing over the years and the main one that is affecting so many authors now is the high level of competition. Mega bookstores have room to carry only about 8 percent of all titles in print. A whopping 76 percent of titles in print sold fewer than 100 copies in 2006. I haven't seen the stats for 2007, but I'm sure it is just as grim. I travel around the U.S. every year speaking to hopeful and struggling authors at writer's conferences.
I share these statistics and tell them that this is why it is so important that, no matter what publishing option they choose, they study the publishing industry and write a book proposal. A book proposal isn't just for the publisher, anymore, although most publishers of fiction as well as nonfiction want to see a proposal. A book proposal is for you—the author. It helps you to determine whether or not your book idea is viable. Of course, I include explicit instructions for how to write a book proposal in my book, The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book and I have a stand-alone book on this topic, How to Write a Successful Book Proposal in 8 Days or Less.
Not only that, I teach online courses and I've just started a new book proposal course. It's not too late to enroll. At the end of 8 weeks, each author/student could potentially have a completed or nearly completed book proposal. http://www.matilijapress.com/course_bookproposal.htm.
Carol Denbow: Book writing and publishing is a hard job for anyone, especially with the first book. Does it get easier with each new book?
Patricia Fry: You really can't say this because each project is different. Of course, it is easier because you know more about your options and the steps to take after you've done it once or twice. But the overall experience and process could become more complicated the 2nd or 3rd time around depending on the magnitude of the project, your expectations and so forth. Producing a book is much like giving birth, each child comes into the world with very different personalities and they develop at different rates.
I work with other authors on their projects (editing, coaching and consulting) and I try to instill in each of them that publishing is not an extension of their writing. You cannot enter into the publishing arena with the same mindset, attitude, perspective and expectations as you use when writing your book. Authors, today, must work harder at perfecting his or her manuscript (folks you MUST hire a qualified book editor before approaching publishers and before self-publishing). The author will find it more difficult to locate and land a publisher. This takes skill and creativity as well as a willingness to conform and, in some cases, they must jump through hoops. And it is extremely challenging to sell copies of your book. Authors, it is your responsibility to promote your book no matter which publishing option you choose.
Carol Denbow: Your books are a great resource for new writers and experienced authors, where can viewers see your Web site and locate your books?
Patricia Fry: See my book showcase at www.matilijapress.com. The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book is available through my website at www.matilijapress.com/rightway.html.
I also have a unique ebook for struggling authors. It's called The Author's Repair Kit. This small ebook helps authors revive and repair a book with lagging or non-existent sales. I wrote it for the many, many authors who neglected to write a book proposal BEFORE they write the book and who didn't think through the business end of bringing out a book. Many of these people are trying to promote "bulldozer" books. In other words, they are marketing their books to the wrong audience. The Author's Repair Kit helps to turn a failing book into one that actually turns a profit.
If anyone is interested in a preview of The Author's Repair Kit request my free report, "The Pre-publication Book Proposal." PLFry620@yahoo.com
I'd also like to issue an invitation for your readers to check out SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network). www.spawn.org. This is a 12-year old networking organization and resource center for anyone interested in or involved in publishing. Subscribe to our free e-newsletter.
Carol Denbow: Patricia, always a joy to speak with you. Thank you for being a guest today on A Book Inside. Also, thank you to the viewers who stopped in today to read our special interview with Patricia Fry.
Readers can post comments and/or questions for Patricia Fry by using the “comment” link below.