Six Steps to
Getting Your Articles Published
Interview With Patricia L. Fry
Interview by Jenna Glatzer
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Amazon.com 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
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
Do you have to be an expert in the areas you write
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
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 http://www.absolutewrite.com. Reprinted