Monday, October 27, 2008

[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.

More at Ohmynews International.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

[Interview] Mary Arensberg

Award-winning novelist Mary Katherine Arensberg grew up in rural Ohio in the United States. She attended Utica High and the Ohio State University.

Her debut novel, Willa (Xlibris, 2007) received first prize in the novel category of the Arizona Press Women’s 2008 Communicator’s Competition. The novel also received second prize in the 2008 National Federation of Press Women’s competition.

Willa was followed by Woman of the Wind (Xlibris, 2007); Naomi of the Arizona Territory (Xlibris, 2008) and Miracle from the Mountain which is due out late October 2008.

In this email interview, Mary Arensberg talks about why she decided to self publish.

When did you start writing?

I started writing with the idea of publishing in 1993. I knew I wanted to become an author in high school and was encouraged by several of my teachers, but as often happens, life gets in the way. I married and had four children and I happily traded my goals for them. The youngest graduated in 1995 and I could devote my efforts towards writing.

I began by writing my first novel, Willa and found I had a well spring of stories tucked away in my brain. Once the story was finished I let a friend read it and she loved it, said I was as good as Jude Deveraux (one of my personal favorites.)

With the knowledge that I could produce a story people liked, I sought an agent. I checked out books from the library on agents; picked one and sent off the first 50 pages. I received a mimeographed rejection letter with every item checked as to why my work was bad! Right then I realized I had to learn about the publishing business as well as the business of writing.

How would you describe your writing?

I write good stories, nice to read with happy endings. I believe there is a place for good, nice and happy.

So far, all my novels are historical fiction with women of character, honor and a sense of duty as the main characters. They are set through the United States in varying time periods and range over cultures, nationalities and ethnicities.

Who is your target audience?

I write for mature women, women with experience in life, women who have out-grown the breathless romance novels and want to read about women of substance.

Don’t get me wrong -- I read romance novels for years but when I neared my fifties I wanted something different and when I couldn’t find any I decided there were thousands of ‘women of age’ who might be looking for just the stories I wanted to write.

Who influenced you most?

I was most influenced by my upbringing, my mother and father. They were ordinary farm people who lived, loved, laughed and gave me a wonderful childhood.

As I look back, I realize that while to a child my life seemed ordinary, it was very exotic to a kid who lived in a big city. That’s what I liked about Mark Twain, Nathaniel Hawthorne, even Edgar Allan Poe... their characters seem fantastic to modern day readers, but they actually knew people like they wrote about.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

I believe that every writer puts a piece of themselves into their stories. For me, it’s the "What would it have been like to live during the civil war?", "How would I have dealt with the social mores of the 1880’s?" or "How hard it would have been living on an isolated mountain?" I have beliefs that I adhere to.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

My main concern is writing the way I want to write. I’m not sensational, spiced up with sex or outrageous. I write good, nice stories with happy endings!

My biggest challenges have always been the fear of success! I take it hard if I send a press release out and no story comes from it and this after winning a national award!

Do you write everyday?

Writing is work. I took several writing seminars to help me realize this.

I do not write everyday. I work on more than one novel at a time, but when the deadline approaches I settle on the next to be published.

I write in the afternoon, I put on my headphones, shut out the world and time travel to the setting of story. I make an outline, gather my research material and have them and my encyclopedias at hand. I write until I run out ideas. I find my brain must keep the story true to the character and if I slow down, I re-read the manuscript.

I try to write at least a thousand words at each sitting and have, on a good day, accomplished 6,000 words.

How long did it take you to write your latest book?

My latest book is Miracle from the Mountain and I love this story. It was joy to write and I finished it in six weeks. It is in the process of being published and will be released in late fall 2008.

I chose to self publish [because] I had an agent who represented me for three years, all my novels were viewed at the publishing houses they were represented to and all were rejected: too long, too short, already have a similar one, don’t do that genre. Never once were they rejected because they were not good stories.

I decided to self publish and researched the industry thoroughly.

What made you decide to publish your books through Xlibris?

Xlibris was recommended by another author. This is why I chose Xlibris: They are a print on demand, no huge investment up front. Packages range from under a thousand dollars to over fifteen thousand dollars. They deliver what they promise.

They have an online bookstore and my books never go out of print and are always available. They use Ingram book distributors and my books are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, Target and MSN shopping online outlets as well as small bookstores. My books are sold internationally through Amazon U.K. and in Germany.

They provide copyright and Library of Congress service and ISBN. The royalty payments are better than traditional publishers. They provide me with 10 to 20 free paperbacks and 5 to 10 hardcovers and when I hand sell those I make enough to pay for the publishing package.

They also have marketing and publicity packages, including AP Newswire, Online listings and direct emails.

What advantages or disadvantages has this presented?

The advantage to this is that I own my work, it is never pulled from the shelf and I have complete control over the content. I look at this opportunity as my business. I will get out of it what I put into it.

The disadvantage is that self publishing is still looked upon as a vanity and many opportunities are denied in the traditional world of books and that’s not fair to readers who are looking for new stories in their favorite genre.

I believe self publishers like Xlibris will become the way of the future.

What did you find most difficult about the work you put into Miracle from the Mountain?

I find editing the most difficult. I have very poor eyesight. I can direct the story straight from my brain and through the keyboard into reality, but I can’t see those darned small letters!

When the manuscript is finished I run it through spell check and then print it out. I spend a week reading it and marking typos and errors and then make the changes in the saved file and then I print it out again and read it aloud to my husband where I catch another 20 to 30 mistakes, I correct those and burn it to a disc.

What did you enjoy most?

I love the characters in my stories, they are like meeting new friends, and they take on a life of their own and balk when I try to reshape them.

How different is Miracle from the Mountain from other novels you've written?

While all of my books are historical fiction they are set in different times and locales, the heroines are different ages and social backgrounds. Miracle from the Mountain is a semi-mystery. It’s a little spooky, a cross between Poe and Twain.

What is your most significant achievement as a writer?

My most significant achievement was when my first book Willa won first place in the novel category of the Arizona Press Women’s 2008 Communicator’s Competition and then going on to win second place at the National Federation of Press Women’s competition.

Related article: Mary K. Arensberg, AllTheseBooks.com.

More at OhmyNews International.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

[Interview] David Wellington

David Wellington was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but currently lives in New York City.

He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from Penn State as well as a masters degree in Library Science from Pratt Institute.

He has written eight novels, among them Monster Island (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2006), 13 Bullets (Three Rivers Press, 2007), Frostbite (online serialization) and Plague Zone (online serialization).

His short stories have also been featured in anthologies that include The Undead: Zombie Anthology (Permuted Press, 2005) and The Undead: Skin and Bones (Permuted Press, 2007).

In this email interview, Dave Wellington talks about his concerns as a writer

When did you start writing?

I started writing when I was six years old. I didn't publish my first book until almost thirty years later. It took a lot of practice to get it right.

How did you decide you wanted to be a published writer?

I've always believed that a writer has to be read to know if he's any good or not, and the only way to get people to read your books is to publish them. Unfortunately, that's often the hard part.

I spent a lot of time sending manuscripts to various publishers and getting very little feedback. It has become very rare that a major publisher even reads an unsolicited submission -- they just don't have the time.

What finally worked for me was putting my work on the Internet. I thought I might get a few readers who would provide me with some much needed feedback.

The results were surprising -- so many people read and enjoyed my first online novel, Monster Island, that a publisher actually approached me and asked to buy the book. I feel extraordinarily lucky.

How would you describe your writing?

I write action horror novels. Typically there are monsters involved, and people who have to fight those monsters.

Sometimes I like to try something different. My next book online doesn't have any monsters in it, for example, though some of the people are very scary. I suppose that technically makes it a thriller.

Who is your target audience?

My target audience is anyone who reads and enjoys a good story!

I write the kind of books I enjoy reading. They're fun, they're fast, and they have good solid endings.

Who influenced you most?

My main influences are the great pulp writers of the 1920s-1950s. Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith. Edgar Rice Burroughs, certainly.

More recently I've been inspired by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

My books tend to be about fantastic subjects that are beyond normal human experience. Yet I like to give them some level of realism to keep the reader grounded.

Often I'll put in things I know about firsthand. One of my books was about an employee of the United Nations; I worked for the UN at the time I wrote it. While I was in library school, I had a book whose hero was a librarian.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

When you publish a book you establish an expectation that you'll only ever write very similar books. I love writing about monsters but I want to do other things as well. Luckily I can publish one kind of book in print and put a completely different book on the Internet, so I have the opportunity to experiment with different styles and different genres without having to worry about who will publish a given project.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

The toughest part of writing is the first word. The blank screen is very intimidating.

Oh, and titles are very difficult, too!

Do you write everyday?

I write all day, every day. However I do take lots of breaks.

I find I write best a little at a time, a few paragraphs here, maybe another paragraph an hour later. I work a regular business day, from nine o'clock in the morning until six o'clock in the evening.

How many books have you written so far?

I have published five books so far, with a sixth due out in October, 2008. They are as follows:
  • Monster Island (Thunder's Mouth Press, 2006). Zombies destroy the world, and a UN weapons inspector must travel to New York City to retrieve vital medical supplies.
  • Monster Nation (Thunder's Mouth Press, 2006). In the American west, a young woman with amnesia must survive in the midst of a growing zombie epidemic. She quickly realizes that she, herself, is a zombie, although one that has retained her intelligence... and somehow gained other powers as well.
  • Monster Planet (Thunder's Mouth Press, 2007). The characters of Monster Island and Monster Nation return twelve years later to battle for the future of humanity.
  • 13 Bullets (Three Rivers Press, 2007). A state trooper in Pennsylvania uncovers evidence that vampires, long thought extinct, are still around and causing havoc. She must learn how to fight them with the aid of a crusty and very unlovable federal agent, the world's last, living, vampire hunter.
  • 99 Coffins (Three Rivers Press, 2007). More vampires are uncovered, in fact one hundred of them, under the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Soon our heroine finds herself fighting an army of vampires bent on destroying the town.
  • Vampire Zero (Three Rivers Press, 2008). The heroine of 13 Bullets and 99 Coffins must confront a vampire who knows all of her secrets, and stop him from killing off his own family one member at a time.
How long did it take you to write your latest book?

My latest book, Vampire Zero, is a third volume in my vampire trilogy. It took me approximately six months to write it.

It will be published by Three Rivers Press in October, 2008.

I've worked with this publisher before and have a good relationship with them. So far I've been very lucky -- everyone there is wonderful and very easy to work with.

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

The hardest part of writing this book was finding a place to do it. Normally I work out of my home but I could not do so with this book because there were too many distractions. I found office space where I could, or worked in libraries.

What did you enjoy most?

I enjoy the whole writing process.

I love coming up with new ideas and playing with them, and also I love the actual writing when words just seem to flow and shape themselves.

What sets Vampire Zero apart from other things you've written?

This is a much more psychological book than my previous works, which were just pure action.

This one has plenty of action as well, but it also gets deeper into the minds of the characters.

In what way is it similar?

This is the third volume of a trilogy and all the characters I love come back for this one, though some of them come back very much changed from how they appeared in 99 Coffins...

What will your next book be about?

My next book will be another vampire novel. The plot of this one is a secret!

After that I'll be publishing two books about werewolves.

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

The most exciting moment for me was when I got my first book contract. I had been working for nearly thirty years to get to that point with nothing to show for it! Suddenly I was a published writer.

My parents were extremely proud of me.

This article has also been featured on OhmyNews International.

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