A Review of The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book by Patricia L Fry

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book:
Your Complete Guide to Successful Authorship (Revised Edition)
By Patricia L. Fry
Matilija Press
2007, ISBN: 9780977357628, $19.95

The Author’s Workbook
(Matilija Press, 2007) 
55 pages. $12.95

The original edition of this book was published in 2006. When I reviewed it I was particularly struck by the comprehensive nature of the book and the way it guided both new and seasoned authors from the impetus of a book through to handling the post-launch life of an author. The new version is still comprehensive, and still contains a superbly structured, compendium of knowledge about the world of “authorship”. The book is still infused with Fry’s 30+ years of experience in writing, publishing and teaching writing and publishing, and is still a well written, easy-to-read book that will help authors at all stages of their careers. But the new edition has been significantly updated.

Some of the improvements include a lot more information on the much trickier area of publishing fiction, and lots more information on some recent trends such as online promotion, creating buzz, and using multimedia to promote books. As with anything Fry writes, she knows her stuff, and would be authors (and already been authors too) will benefit from following her advice. The book begins, as it should, with making sure the reader knows why they are writing a book – and it isn’t as facetious as it sounds. Fry says that there were 1.2million titles in print in the US, with 76% of them selling fewer than 100 copies. The number of titles in print has more than tripled since them, but the % selling fewer than 100 copies has remained constant. So getting a book published is, in most instances, hardly the road to fame and fortune. You need to be very clear about why you want to publish and clear about exactly what being published means. The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book busts a number of myths, but does so in a positive way that encourages authors to both look for the intrinsic benefits of publishing, and also to think in a calculated business-like way about how they will promote and sell their book.

As the President of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists, and Writers Network), Fry has her ear close to the ground when it comes to issues around independent publishing and around the areas that writers tend to need help with, and this book has been designed specifically to deal with those issues. The book contains chapters on how to find and pitch a publisher, on self-publishing (and Fry is very well experienced on this topic), on avoiding the sharks, on writing book proposals (and why they should be done, even with fiction, before writing the book), on organising a book, on researching, on self-editing, how to do a book signing, create a book trailer (this is new to this edition), how to use blogging and social networking to sell your book (also new to this edition), press kits, dealing with paperwork/tax issues, and an extensive list of references.

The book is enriched by anecdotes and examples from Fry’s own experiences in self-publishing, in querying and pitching, and promoting her own books. Much of the information in the book is innovative, and some will be news to even the most experienced author. For example, I was very excited to find a phone number you can right to find out how your book is selling through Ingrams. It’s a great way to keep tabs on your book’s performance in the long way between royalty statements. I also liked the idea of keeping a “hot file” of markets and angles to deal with weekly. There are also templates and samples of things like query letters, press releases, and samples.

The accompanying workbook has been designed to be used with the book, and takes the reader step by step through all of the questions that have to be answered, from the book itself (including the all important “elevator pitch”), synopsis, bio, proposal, promotional plan, query letter log, self publishing information, book sales goals, and self-improvement goals. It isn’t necessary, as all of these questions can be dealt with without the workbook and the questions are indicated in the The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book, but the workbook will translate the concepts into reality and ensure you don’t miss anything critical.

All in all, this is a really useful, well presented book for anyone looking to become an author. Read it before you start, and you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches.

About the reviewer: Magdalena Ball is the author of Sleep Before Evening, The Art of Assessment, and Quark Soup.