Throughout the book are anecdotes from Fry’s own experiences, sidebars, bits of humour, and re-useable templates for everything from queries to press releases. In some instances examples are taken straight from The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book so you can see the relationship between the promo and the actual item.
Reviewed by Magdalena Ball
The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book
Your guide to Successful Authorship
By Patricia Fry
2006, ISBN 0-9773576-0-0, softcover, 328 pages, RRP$19.95
If you’re a writer and you spend any time on the Internet, the chances are that you’ve come across Patricia Fry’s work. She’s probably one of the most well known writing gurus, and in addition to her 24 published books—many of which were written for aspiring writers–she’s published countless articles on how to be a better writer, operates an editorial service for books, authors and freelance writers, and is the president of Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network (SPAWN). So when she tells you how to write, publish and sell a book, her advice is well worth listening to. As is Fry’s tendency, the book is easy to read, and written in perfectly clear prose, aimed at relatively novice authors.
The book starts right at the point of a book’s concept, moving through the nature of the publishing industry, how to target a publisher, write a proposal, identify an audience, put together a plan, and structure your book. Not until all of those elements are covered does Fry delve into writing the book itself. It’s an important process flow which is deliberate. For non-fiction in particular, it is critical to have a clear sense of market, theme, and structure before the actual writing process begins. It’s isn’t a bad idea for fiction either. While Fry is clear (as always) that fiction writers often break these rules, her suggested advice is excellent for anyone who wants to be certain that the book they are writing has a reasonable edge, an angle and a focus which is publishable. Without those things, the odds of being published are fairly slight, and Fry, who knows all about the publishing industry, makes that point several times throughout the book:
What happens if you don’t heed this advice? You’ve probably already witnessed some of the effects. You hear Elaine from your writers’ group whining incessantly because she can’t find a publisher for her magnificent manuscript. Yet she stubbornly refuses to follow publishers’ submission guidelines. (xvii)
The book also provides a fairly in-depth look at self-publishing, book promotion, and bookkeeping tips, healthy writer tips, and provides a number of useful resources from Fry’s own extensive collection. As will often be the case with a book aimed at a varied audience, some of the advice provided is relatively low-level, focusing on expectations, the bones of querying or how to write an outline, but there are some pieces of rather useful advice for more experienced writers too. For example, Fry recommends that you develop a prepared 30 second “commercial” beforewriting the book – something that incorporates a brief description along with a mini-sales pitch and is memorised and ready to pull out at every instance, from a surprise meeting with a publisher to a class reunion. Not only is this a great promotional idea which few authors would do prior to writing, but it also helps focus the writing effort, and helps create advanced buzz. Fry also suggests that you write the synopsis before you write the book, and provides advice on how to use that synopsis to do market research. Again, it sounds like advice which is primarily relevant to non-fiction, but when used for fiction, it can be a powerful tool to ward off block, and help ensure that you’re writing something that is already market driven:
What segment of the population will embrace your book? Who are you writing for? Who will seek out a book like yours for the entertainment value? Who cares about what you have to say? Who will benefit from reading your book? (85)
Other chapters which are relevant to more seasoned writers include some of the creative ideas about book promotion, including creating a “hot file”, the use of articles to sell books, special venues, and making best use of book festivals:
One SPAWN member typically sells a dozen or more copies of his children’s book during a book festival by offering to read a page of it to kids walking by. He’ll ask the parent, “May I read this poem to your child?” He engages the child in the poem by helping him/her relate to the words. This technique often results in sales. (256)
Throughout the book are anecdotes from Fry’s own experiences, sidebars, bits of humour, and re-useable templates for everything from queries to press releases. In some instances examples are taken straight from The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book so you can see the relationship between the promo and the actual item. This is a fun, easy to read book, which is full of straightforward practical advice. While the book aims to be a one stop shop for novice writers there are many innovative suggestions culled from Fry’s thirty plus years of writing for publication. From pulling together a book concept to promoting it and keeping track of costs, it’s a very useful addition to any writer’s library.