Last Updated on: February 21st, 2016
I bet you have known a Patrick or a Patricia or a Patsy or a Pat of some kind during your time, haven’t you? Maybe you have heard of Pat the Dog, on the sitcom “Friends”?
I have known many “Pats”; all of the above, actually. When I returned to high school (I quit for a few years, and then attended an adult education center, from which I graduated before I went to university), my teacher, who become a significant mentor to me, was named Patricia, but I called her Pat. I also knew a Patrick, a Pat, a Patsy, a Tricia, and a Trish.
The most influential person, however, was my teacher, Patricia. She became like a second mother to me.
She also just happens to have the same name as the woman I sought out to answer a few questions I had about writing and publishing, and who actually answered my interview questions! However, she is not a Patsy… she hates that name! (She doesn’t mind Pat, though.) 🙂
Let’s all give a nice, warm welcome to author, writer and publisher, Ms. Patricia Sheehy!
(audience claps enthusiastically…. and cheers… and the crowd goes wild…)
My Interview With Patricia (Pat) Sheehy:
1. What advice would you give to a new/beginner novel writer? What about a blogger?
I’ve met a lot of people who like the idea of “having written” but don’t enjoy the process of writing. I always think that it’s sad to have your sights on an outcome when you don’t enjoy the journey. Writing a book is a long and sometimes painful experience, yet thrilling at the same time. For me, “having written” isn’t enough. So, my advice is this: write because you love it, not because you want a book to talk about at parties; come from a place of passion and determination, keep your expectations realistic and write for yourself, for the story you want to tell, for what burns inside of you. Be true to yourself.
I wrote my first metaphysical novel, Veil of Illusion, before metaphysical was a household word and was told by an editor at Bantam Books that it was compelling, much like the movie “Ghost”, but it had no place in the marketplace and they wouldn’t be acquiring it or anything like it. Editors acquire books, in large measure, based on where they see it on the shelves in a bookstore and how it stacks up in the marketplace. At that moment in time, I was ahead of the market. But look at how things have changed! What else? Write regularly, with discipline; half of success is showing up, not just dreaming of the outcome.
To quickly respond to the question of bloggers: that also requires discipline, even more so, because readers are looking for your content on a regular basis and you make a contract with readers when you start a blog. Bloggers need to understand their audience, what benefit they are providing in terms of content, and then they must keep their promise.
Writing has four sides: craft, art, business and pleasure. Every writer needs to delve deep within themselves to understand what they want from the experience and how much they are willing to give to achieve their definition of success.
2. After all your years of writing, do you ever “get sick of it”? Why or why not?
Like every working writer, I get tired and need a break from the writing life to re-energize my spirit. That’s when I take a mental or actual vacation. I’m one of those people who came out of the womb writing. I cannot NOT write.
The only time I became truly stuck was last year and nearly for a full year. Our adult daughter was diagnosed with advanced aggressive pancreatic cancer. We nursed her at home with the help of Hospice; it was six weeks from diagnosis to death and we were drained and devastated. Having your daughter die at home with you beside her, watching that last breath, closing her eyes against the night, and then living in that grief all require time and healing. I moved away from everything, going underground until I could catch my breath again or laugh at a joke or wake up and feel the sun streaming in through the window and not break out into tears. She died Feb. 5, 2012. I am only now getting my writing energy back.
Being a writer is how I identify myself, it’s how I understand my place in the world and I feel beyond fortunate to be able to carve out a living doing what I love. So, sick of it? Never.
3. How much money can a writer potentially make? (Please be as specific as you can without being personal).
Okay, if you’re John Grissom or Dan Brown or Nora Roberts, your income potential is written in the stars. But they had to pay their dues. A lot of it has to do with timing, as well as talent. And sometimes it’s breaking new ground when the ground is ready to be broken. Look at Forty Shades of Grey, not particularly well written, erotica romance that no publishing house would touch and yet, here it is, making, I assume, big bucks.
Series novels and suspense thrillers traditionally do better than other kinds of fiction. Today, for the average novelist, a small advance ($5,000 or so) seems typical and then you have to work off that advance before seeing royalties. If you have an agent and a publishing house, the author makes about a buck a book once the advance is met. Seriously.
Now, how much money can a writer potentially make is a bigger question: I make royalties on my books, but I don’t earn a living on those royalties; I make my daily bread writing marketing materials for business, as well as magazine articles/essays. I cut my teeth in the industry as a staff PR/Communications professional and then went out on my own. Most writers find various avenues to use their writing skills in order to earn a living that affords them the lifestyle that they want.
Leading into the next question: authors who choose to undertake the publishing and marketing of their books can earn significantly more per book, but the learning curve and upfront costs are a consideration. Also, digital has changed the environment and earning capacity even more.
4. Would you recommend self-publishing or traditional publishing? Why?
That’s a big question and a fairly loaded one at this time in the evolving industry. A few years ago, the only answer would have been “traditional” publishing as that was the way to garner approval and affirmation and break into bookstores, get reviews, etc. Agents and publishers were known to look down on authors who self-published and you felt “less than,” almost apologizing for having made that choice.
Today, the climate is altogether different and many agents and publishers are picking up books that have proven themselves by being self-published and marketed by the author.
But that leads to another piece of the question: if you are having success as a self-published author, why turn over the rights to a traditional publisher? One answer is that traditional publishers have a long reach across a broad spectrum of opportunities and global audiences. It’s hard to do that as a self-published author. On the other hand, my novels were published traditionally by a smaller press and for lots of reasons I was not happy and was able to negotiate return of all rights. I then re-issued the books under my own imprint, Arcadia House, and have been having reasonable success (meaning I make royalties every month, all of which come to me) but I’m not making mounds of money. I do like having control, however.
Then, there’s the other way of self-publishing, which is to use an On-Demand house, which puts their imprint on the book and every one knows its been self-published. This does still have a bit of a negative connotation in the industry and bookstores are reluctant to stock them. This choice can be expensive and your royalties less than if you develop your own imprint.
I think getting traditionally published is still every author’s dream but it’s important to understand the pros and cons. If you give up your rights to publish and your book doesn’t “hit” in the first eight weeks, it can essentially die on the vine and you have no recourse, no rights to the book. Also, you need to determine what digital rights mean in the climate. All in all, I honestly can’t recommend one way or another; it depends upon your goals, your definition of success and your tolerance for maneuvering the system; it can take years to find an agent and then a publisher, but, then, you can have the chance for reviews and distribution you can’t get on your own.
My recommendation: write the best book you can (which means write and re-write) and then put a plan into action. If you crave traditional publishing, then go out there and attend conferences, research agents and give it your best try; but I would also recommend putting a timeframe on these efforts and then, if you don’t get a contact, evaluate your goals and consider self-publishing. For me, I am working on another novel and will put it out under my own imprint and then I have a series in mind that I will also put out under Arcadia House.
5. What question would you like asked of you? What would your answer be?
One question might be: Why did you choose to incorporate metaphysical themes into your novels? And the answer would go something like this: I’m not sure I made the choice as much as the theme chose me. My novels are contemporary women’s novels (which I realize are being enjoyed by men as well) that have metaphysical issues incorporated into them and these issues help to create the tension and conflict we all experience throughout our earthly journey: do we have a soul mate . . . what about free will . . . what role does karma have . . . do we come into this world with a chosen destiny or simply the opportunity for the destiny we want? These are huge questions as we each try to live authentically.
I think my unique gift, if you will, is that I’ve been able to write in a way that the novels are compelling regardless of your personal questions and spiritual beliefs. I can’t remember a time when I haven’t been interested in what there is beyond the visible world.
As I’ve said before: write from a place of passion, from what you burn to know, not necessarily what you already know.
Patricia Herchuk Sheehy has authored four books, including the Amazon best selling novels, Field of Destiny and Veil of Illusion, which explore destiny, past lives and soul mates through ordinary characters who find their past colliding with present day experiences. Her non-fiction books include: Dancing Under the Full Moon: 101 Ways to Attract Money into Your Life, and Giving with Meaning. She has published close to 100 essays and articles in local and national publications, and has (three times!) been awarded Honorable Mention by Writer’s Digest for her personal essays. Patricia holds a Master’s Degree from Wesleyan University. She facilitates workshops and critique groups and coaches emerging writers. Her books are available in paperback and in e-book formats. You can purchase Patricia’s books in paperback or in Kindle and Nook formats from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. You can also “Like” her Facebook page here. Visit her website at www.patsheehy.com
Thanks, Patricia, for answering my interview questions. As a budding writer, I sure appreciate this!
(audience applauds for this wonderful interview)
(Patricia Sheehy smiles, and takes a little bow…. I curtsy, and smile, too)
(readers leave comments to show their appreciation…)