[Interview] Patricia Fry: editorial consultant, publisher and freelance writer

Patricia Fry is an editorial consultant, a publisher and a freelance writer. She is also president of the Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network (SPAWN).

In 1983, she set up her own publishing company, Matilija Press and went on to publish over 28 books, among them, Over 75 Good Ideas for Promoting Your Book (Matilija Press, 2000); The Successful Writer’s Handbook (Matilija Press, 2003) and The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book (Matilija Press, 2007).

Patricia Fry talks about her writing and the work she is doing with authors who want to break into the publishing industry:

When did you start writing?

I was married with small children when I discovered that I loved to write. I wrote endless letters, stories for my three daughters and poetry for greeting cards. I knew that someday I wanted to write for magazines and I began studying writers’ magazines and the publications for which I wanted to write. But I didn’t start my writing career until my daughters were teenagers.

In 1973, I set up a small desk in a corner of my bedroom, borrowed a manual typewriter and wrote my first magazine article. They say to write about what you know. Our family was involved with horses, at the time, and my first article sold to a magazine called, Horse and Horseman.

I wrote several more articles for a variety of horse magazines and then decided to write a book.

In 1978, Hints For the Backyard Rider was accepted by A. S. Barnes, a publisher with offices in New York and London.

I’ve spent the last 35 years writing articles for all variety of magazines: business, animal/pet, parenting, lifestyle, religious/spiritual, writing, health/fitness, travel, regional, specialty and others. My writing has supported me for the last 20 years.

I established my own publishing company in 1983 before it was fashionable. I did so in order to produce a 360-page local history book, The Ojai Valley, An Illustrated History. I’ve since published several additional books through my company, Matilija Press.

How would you describe the writing you are doing now?

I continue to write non-fiction articles for magazines, newsletters and the web, only most of them relate to writing and publishing. I also have 28 published books, 11 of them related to writing and publishing. My hallmark book is The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book (Matilija Press, 2007)

But mainly, I work as a mentor/consultant, teacher, lecturer and editor for freelance writers and authors who want to break into the highly competitive publishing business.

I also write an almost daily publishing blog and I teach online courses on book promotion, writing a book proposal, freelance article writing and self-publishing.

As a teacher, workshop leader, national speaker, book promoter and president of the Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network(SPAWN), a 12-year-old networking organization, I meet a lot of disillusioned, disgruntled and broke authors. They tell me, in so many words, “If only I had known my options before getting involved in publishing and if only I’d known the possible consequences of my choices…” Most of them don’t even understand that it is up to them (the author) to promote his or her book. When I realized that most of these authors fail (and there are statistics to prove this) and it is basically due to their ignorance, I began gearing practically all of my writing efforts toward the hopeful and struggling author.

My goal is to educate and inform them so they make the right choices on behalf of their particular projects.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

I think the biggest challenge for most writers and authors is promotion -- getting known, attracting an audience. And it is no different for me. Like most writers and authors, I want to write. But I find that I must spend more hours in marketing mode than I can spend writing. Unfortunately, most writer types aren’t exactly “built” to advertise themselves. We want to create, not promote. This challenge is, indeed, universal.

And that’s why I include several chapters in my book, The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book, on promotion. And my book, Over 75 Good Ideas for Promoting Your Book is number 13 on a short list of most popular books on book promotion. I was surprised to discover this week that this little book beat out books by some well-known professionals within the book promotion realm.

Do you write every day?

I do write (or at least work in my home office) everyday. I support myself through my writing and editorial work with clients. So, of course, I must put in the time.

When I’m not writing or working with a client, I am promoting which includes scheduling workshops, writing articles for writing/publishing-related publications or sites, sending press releases, etc.

I come to work here in my home office around 5 every morning and work until around 4 each afternoon. I break for a morning walk everyday and to run a quick errand or two. Otherwise, I am generally in work mode.

How did you choose a publisher for your latest book?

One question I get often is, “What is the best publishing option?”

I always respond with this: “It depends on you and it depends on your project.”

I chose to self-publish (through my own publishing company) all of my writing/publishing books because I figure I have a strong platform (my following -- my way of attracting the appropriate audience) and because I don’t want to share the profits. I actually had a traditional publisher ready to produce my book, The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book and decided to fire him and publish it myself. It turned out to be a wise decision.

What are the advantages in this case? I got to keep my title and nothing important got edited out. I set the price and I am free to work with and negotiate with distributors, wholesalers, booksellers, etc. I have no problem getting books when I need them for a signing, book festival or such. And I get to keep all of the profits. This is not the case with some other publishing options.

Which aspect of the work you put into the book did you find most difficult?

For a non-fiction book of the scope and depth of The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book, it takes a lot of research and fact-checking. That, along with the fine-tuning of the book, was probably the most difficult aspect.

What did you enjoy most?

I think most writers enjoy the writing the most. Yes, that is what I enjoyed most -- that, and the organizing of it. I enjoy organizational tasks such as creating an index and organizing text into chapters.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

Probably the number and range of books I’ve produced and the scope of writing I’ve done.

I also pride myself for the work I seem to be able to do naturally to assist other writers along the competitive and bumpy road to publishing success.

My primary goal is to help writers produce quality work, of course, but more than that, they must understand that publishing is not an extension of their writing. In other words, they cannot expect to shift easily from writing mode into the world of publishing. It takes a transition from right to left brain thinking. In order to succeed, hopeful authors and, even freelance writers, must truly comprehend that writing is a creative endeavor, but publishing is definitely a business.

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