Today Patricia Fry author of Oh! Olivia, is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about how she found success in writing a cozy mystery.
Welcome, Patricia. I’ll turn the floor over to you –
Writing about animals is nothing new to me. Throughout my forty-year career as a freelance article writer, I often wrote about two of my favorite animals: cats and horses. My first book was Hints for the Backyard Rider, and I’ve written numerous articles on the behavior, care, and wonderment of the cat. Back then I had no inkling that my writing path would lead me to the world of cats in fiction.
Many of you know me as the author of the 52-book strong Klepto Cat Mysteries—cozy mysteries featuring Rags, a larger than life cat who takes things. The stories become interesting when the things Rags gets his paws on turn out to be clues in the current mystery.
When I sat down to write the first book in this series nearly ten years ago, as I entered my senior years, I had no idea that this would be the most successful writing venture of my long career. I don’t know the size of my fan base, but by the amount of royalties, I can guestimate that sales are in the 3,000-book range per month. And people are often surprised to learn that the e-books (Kindle) far outsell the print books.
Rags definitely has fans. People love him as they would a real cat. They beg me not to let him ever die. They often write to ask if there will be more stories—“When will the next book be out?” The truth is, Rags is a real cat—well, sort of. I patterned him after my mother’s confident, cool cat. My own tabby, Lily, was also an inspiration for this cat character as she was the klepto cat. She constantly carried her stuffed toys around in her mouth, often dropping them at my feet.
To answer fans’ question: Yes, there will be more Klepto Cat Mysteries, but there’s also something new brewing in the Klepto Cat Mystery factory. There’s a new cat on the block who has inspired a new mystery series: The Calico Cat Mysteries.
We were in the midst of the pandemic year—2020—when we lost our precious Lily to kidney disease. Three months later we saw a picture of a tiny calico who had been found living under a house in the Los Angeles area and who needed a home. We embraced her immediately. She came with a name and some baggage, as many feral cats do, but it didn’t take long for Olivia to become an integral part of our family.
Olivia proved to be such an interesting and rather unique cat that I began sharing pictures of her and true stories about her on my blog and at my facebook page. People adored her. The more I got to know her and the more her growing number of fans encouraged me, I began to think seriously about featuring her in a Klepto Cat Mystery story. And it happened. Olivia debuted in Book 51—Calico Calamities.
Fans loved the Olivia character and they wanted more, so I sat down and sketched out a couple of story ideas, fleshed out Olivia’s purr-sonality, and before I knew it, I had a new book with fresh and interesting characters both human and feline. The first in the Calico Cat Mysteries, Oh! Olivia, debuted in May of this year.
And it appears that the work I’ve done over time to promote the Klepto Cat Mysteries has paid off in creating interest in my spin-off series. When you launch a book there are generally things you do right and things you wish you’d done better. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
1: If you want to launch a new series and if your current series is successful, target the same audience. Take advantage of the reputation you’ve established. Marketing will be easier the second time around. If it is a new series, do as I did nearly ten years ago before I wrote the first word of my first Klepto Cat Mystery. Research the field—topic, genre, etc., to make sure your book is a good idea—that there is an audience for your book. If not, throw that idea out and go with a topic or a genre that IS selling.
2: Continue promoting. Sure you can take advantage of your laurels, but this is not the time to rest on them. You must get word out about the new series. As I mentioned, I’ve attracted potential readers of the new series to my blog and facebook pages. Already Olivia has a fan base. Along with this preliminary promotion, I had a new website created—CalicoCatMysteries.com. I’ve established a new facebook page dedicated to the Calico Cat Mysteries and I continue to promote Olivia and her first book at all three of my facebook pages and through my blog.
3: I belong to pertinent organizations. I’m past director of SPAWN, now WPN, so I continue to learn marketing tips and resources through WPNews and the Market Update. (There’s always something new on the horizon in the book publishing and marketing industry). I’m also a ten-year member of the Cat Writers Association. I participate in the organization, attend and speak at their conferences, and take advantage of the promotional opportunities at the organization website. Network, network, network.
4: I keep up with other bloggers and organizations related to mystery writing and cats, as well as book reviewers and I often reach out to them when I have a new book to promote.
5: I’ve done blog tours, I write articles related to publishing, mystery writing, etc., I have done podcasts and webinars and panel discussions live and online related to mystery writing and/or cats. With a brand new series now to promote, I’ll be doing more of this.
6: I’ve had bookmarks and notecards created from my beautiful book covers which are hand painted by Bernadette Kazmarski. How do I use these? I hand out bookmarks nearly everywhere I go, and I’ll send packets of the notecards along with a first book order or as a thank you or an apology to fans.
7: An Olivia fan offered to create a stamp of Olivia’s paw print so she can pawtograph her books. Since I have a purchase option for all of my books at my websites, readers can order an autographed and pawtographed copy directly from me. Nice touch, don’t you think? And it seems to be paying off. The only caveat is having to go to the post office so often to ship books when I’d rather be writing!
8: I offer all of the mysteries in both print and ebook formats. And since there are some people who still do not use a computer, my book purchasing option at my websites serves a purpose for those customers.
9: I hire out most of the book production tasks. I do the writing and the promotion, but I hire a web designer, editor, cover designer, and book formatters who also submit the books to Amazon. This is probably the reason why I can produce an average of 6 books per year (Nine books in the year of isolation: 2020.) Amazon is my book producer, and I am in the KDP exclusive program. I can sell my print books through bookstores, etc., but the Kindle books are sold exclusive through Amazon and I have no regrets about that decision. The royalties I receive at the end of each month confirm that this is the right decision for me.
10: I do my best to keep my stories fresh—one way I do that is by continuing to pay attention to Olivia and our other cat, Sophie, as well as the cats I meet in purrson and online. I write from the heart more often than I attempt to create from that place of reasoning and logic, which gives some of my stories an almost fanciful flavor. My stories are a mix of what I know, what I’ve experienced, what I’ve observed, and what I can imagine. I enjoy using my mysteries as a means to teach and to spread an aura of kindness. At my website, KleptoCatMysteries.com, I offer a list of 100 things you can learn from reading the Klepto Cat Mysteries. Ah yes, my writing life is good. And, by the way, my cats are my muse.
Whatever your passion or your muse—no matter how rigid, fun, or frivolous your topic or theme, if you want to sell books, promotion MUST be part of your plan. Make it fun or trudge along reluctantly, but do it. You have no one to praise for your success or to blame if things go awry but yourself.
Thank you for giving readers an insight into your writing career, Patricia, and good luck with Oh! Olivia, the first book in the Calico Cat mystery series.
Readers can learn more about Patricia Fry by visiting the author’s website.
The novel is available online at Amazon
About Patricia Fry: Patricia has been writing for publication for over 45 years. The first Calico Cat Mystery will be her 94th published book. But she didn’t start out writing fiction. She had a passion for writing nonfiction articles, and she wrote hundreds—maybe thousands—of articles over her career for around 300 different publications including, Woman’s World, Entrepreneur, The Toastmaster, The World and I, Western Horse, Cat Fancy, Cats Magazine, Los Angeles Times Magazine, Your Health, Writer’s Digest, and many, many others.
Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s she wrote columns, articles, and books for authors teaching about the business of writing. She presented workshops for authors and gave presentations in dozens of cities throughout the US.
In 2010, she wrote her first cat book—Catscapades, True Cat Tales. The following year she shifted from writing nonfiction and teaching, counseling, and mentoring other authors and she wrote the first in the award-winning Klepto Cat Mystery series, CATNAPPED. This series is 51-books strong as of April 2021 and counting.
Patricia is past president and director of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists, and Writers Network—now WPN, The Writers and Publishers Network). She is a professional member of the Cat Writers Association since 2009, and she has been writing a daily blog—Catscapades since 2009.
Patricia has almost always had a cat at her hearth and in her heart, loving many mixed breed cats as well as a Himalayan, a Persian and a Siamese. She prefers the long-to medium haired cats, but she has also shared her home with short-haired cats over the years. All but two of the cats she’s had over the years were adopted. Several of them were rescues and some of those came from feral beginnings. Every one of her cats had a story and those stories sometimes appear in the mysteries she writes.
Currently, Patricia shares her home with Sophie, a seventeen-year-old classic formerly feral tortie, and Olivia, the gorgeous diva calico featured in the Calico Cat Mystery series.