Matilija Press
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Six Steps to
Getting Your Articles Published

Interview With Patricia L. Fry
Interview by Jenna Glatzer

patricia fry

Patricia is the author of "A Writer's Guide to Magazine Articles for Book Promotion and Profit" and "Over 75 Good Ideas for Promoting Your Book." She started writing for publication in 1973 and has been a full-time writer since 1990, appearing in hundreds of magazines and authoring ten books.

How did you make the leap to full-time writing?

After my children were grown, I divorced and had to go to work to support myself. I hated working for someone else. I desperately missed writing. I knew I had to find a way to write no matter what else was going on in my life. So I started getting up at 4 AM and writing until 6 AM and then I'd get ready for work. I also wrote on weekends. I finished a whole book on that schedule. And my spirits were raised considerably. When I realized how important writing was to me and how much I loved being my own boss, I got busy pitching articles to magazines on weekends and during my early morning writing sessions. When I'd built up enough contacts and confidence, I quit my job and went headlong into writing. That was about 12 years ago and I haven't regretted it for a minute. 

What are some of the differences between self-publishing and having a traditional publisher? Pros and cons?

When you self-publish, you pay all the expenses and you have all the control. But you also have all of the responsibility. 

When you have a traditional publisher, your book might get some exposure it wouldn't ordinarily get-catalog and bookshelf space, for example. To keep your book in that catalog and on those bookstore shelves, however, you will have to actively promote it. 

What are the most effective ways to market a book?

That depends on the book. When I revised and reprinted my 360-page comprehensive local history book, I sold almost enough books through my personal mailing list to pay the printing bill. That book also sells consistently through local bookstores.

While I sold very few copies of my mainland luau book through my mailing list, I had tremendous response through book reviews in cooking magazines and press releases to newspapers. In fact, that book is in its third printing and was recently picked up by a traditional publisher in Hawaii.

One of my favorite methods of selling books is through magazine articles. Articles provide much greater exposure to a larger audience than most ads.

Should a writer only plug their books in bylines, or is it acceptable for a writer to mention their work within the body of an article?

When you write a book, you become an expert in that topic. Of course, it's okay to mention your book in an article if it's presented in an informational way and doesn't appear to be a blatant commercial attempt.

If your book is a study of travel maladies, for example, and your article features how to avoid motion sickness, jet lag or a weather-related ailment. There's probably little need to mention your book in the body of the article. Your tagline stating, "Margaret Robbins is the author of "Does Traveling Make You Sick?" should be enough to elicit sales from folks interested in your topic.

Let's say I'm writing an article based on people I know. Do I need to get their permission to tell their stories or quote them?

Absolutely. I always let people know when I want to include their story or their quote in an article. I interviewed Miss America 1997 for an article for The Toastmaster Magazine a few weeks ago. I liked her story and would like to write more articles about her. If I get another assignment, I will contact her for permission to quote her again in that specific publication.

What's the most original way you've promoted your work?

Probably the most original and most extreme was when, together with my former husband and good friends, I put on a full-blown luau for 100 strangers just for the newspaper publicity. 

I also liked my idea of hiring sales representatives in other cities to visit bookstores with my book. I have friends and relatives in nearly every state. Why couldn't I pay them a percentage of the price of the books that they place in bookstores in their city? I would help sales along by sending news releases to area newspapers. That idea didn't fly, though. And I don't think it was for lack of validity, but rather because I didn't follow through. 

When you self-publish, how do you get bookstores to carry your books?

It's usually fairly easy to get local, independent bookstores to carry your books. And some mega bookstores will carry books by local authors. Unless your book begins to show some success and you can show this to the powers at the top of the large bookstores, it's pretty difficult for an independent publisher to get in.

Barnes and Noble and Borders will order books from small publishers when customers request them, however. But they won't find you if you're not listed in Books In Print. You get listed in Books In Print only through your ISBN (International Standard Book Number) which you obtain from Bowker. This company is the guardian to Books In Print. as well as Barnes and Noble and Borders online are generally happy to list your book in their online bookstores.

How personal do you get with an editor? Once a piece is assigned, do you ever contact the editor again before turning in the final piece?

Good editors make themselves available to their freelance writers. They want you to ask questions if you need clarity with regard to the assignment. However, I strongly urge writers to avoid calling or emailing editors for frivolous reasons. 

Do you have to be an expert in the areas you write about?

No, but a good writer/researcher will be a near expert when he finishes the piece. A writer can write about anything that interests him or her as long as he has a strong sense of curiosity and good research skills. He should not be afraid to contact experts and to ask questions.

Can you give us a breakdown-- how much of your income comes from articles, how much from self-published books, how much from traditionally published books, speaking engagements, etc.? 

I'd say that 60% of my income comes from magazine articles, 30% from my self-published books and 10% from royalties.

How do you manage your time between career and family? Do you have a schedule?

Do I have a schedule?!!? Actually, I didn't start writing until my girls were teenagers and then I wrote pretty much just during the time they were in school. 

My schedule now, however, would curl most writers' hair. I get up at 5 AM, squeeze my fresh CA orange juice and heat a cup of designer decaf. I'm at the computer by 5:15. I work until 10 or so, take a 3-mile walk, run errands, have lunch and I'm back to work by noon. I work all afternoon until 5 PM. Most evenings, I can be found surrounded by stacks of research materials while I semi-relax in the living room.

What's one thing you wish you'd learned earlier about the publishing business?

To put all proceeds from books sales into a savings account, at least until the printing bill is paid. Then it's there when you want to reprint that book.

How much money and time should a writer plan to invest if s/he plans to produce and market a self-published book?

The answer to this question depends on the type of book, scope of research, size and complexity of the book and so forth. I can tell you that my revised local history book, "The Ojai Valley, An Illustrated History" took nearly two years to prepare. Even though the book was written, I wanted to revise it and had to chase down new (old) photographs, do some new interviews and tons more research. I had to have someone type the book into the computer page by page. The book has 360 pages with about 150 old photographs. I bought a new cover photo and had the cover redesigned. The printing bill alone for this book was around $6,000 for 2000 copies. I don't do my own page layout and design or cover design. I think the whole cost was up around $10,000. That book retails for $19.95.

The Mainland Luau, How to Capture the Flavor of Hawaii in Your Own Backyard, on the other hand, took about a year or less to complete and the printing costs were about $3,000 for 2000 copies.

As for time and money spent marketing. I'd suggest giving it much more time than money. My book, "Over 75 Good Ideas for Promoting Your Book" is a collection of low and no cost marketing ideas. It doesn't have to take a lot of money to do a good job of marketing. It does take time, though. I recommend setting aside some time each and every week to devote to marketing. Be it 2 hours a day or ½ day twice a week, commit to it and be consistent. 

Anything further you'd like to add?

Being a working writer is difficult for many of us. Most of us just want to write. We don't want to think about the business end of it. But when you can't not write, you have to find a way to justify the time you spend writing and that usually means combining the right and left brain and creating a business.

Copyright © 1999-2000 Jenna Glatzer
Originally printed in Reprinted with permission.

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