#267 – Creating a Sustainable Writing Career with Patricia McLinn

Bestselling author Patricia McLinn is on the podcast this week to discuss the craft of writing and how to create a sustainable career as a writer. Patricia chats to us about her writing process, why discovering the writing process that works for you is so important as an author, and she gives us her best advice for creating and maintaining a long-standing successful career.

Bestselling author Patricia McLinn is on the podcast this week to discuss the craft of writing and how to create a sustainable career as a writer. Patricia chats to us about her writing process, why discovering the writing process that works for you is so important as an author, and she gives us her best advice for creating and maintaining a long-standing successful career.

  • Patricia tells us about her podcast, Authors Love Readers, and how a conversation with a reader at an event sparked the idea of talking about writing with fellow authors
  • Patricia explains why, despite writing series in two genres and books in three other genres, she doesn’t use a pen name, and she how this helps build readership across these various genres
  • Patricia talks about her publishing journey, from being traditionally published to 100% indie, and she tells us what drew her to the indie publishing world and what she loves about being an indie author
  • She tells us how, as such a prolific author, she keeps herself from reusing storylines, character names, or even specific phrases, and she gives us some tips and best practices for managing a large backlist
  • Patricia explains her writing process, which begins with writing dialogue and includes writing out of sequence, and she explains why writers should focus on finding and honing the writing process that works best for them rather than only using the advice of other writers
  • She discusses her long-lasting writing career and shares the long-term mindset she believes new authors should adopt in order to maintain a sustainable career
  • Patricia tells us her predictions for the future of indie publishing and explains why being open to new platforms and ideas is essential to a successful career as an indie author

Useful links

Patricia’s Website
Follow Patricia on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
Authors Love Readers Podcast
Secret Sleuth Series
Caught Dead in Wyoming
Premise of Innocence
Survival Kit for Writers Who Don’t Write Right
Seek Fast
The Creative Penn Podcast
The Talisman Ring
Detection Unlimited
Levels of the Game

Patricia McLinn is a multiple USA Today bestselling author whose first book was publishing in 1990 when she was a toddler. Her 60ish published books are predominantly mysteries and contemporary romance with a spattering of women’s fiction, historical romance, and non-fiction to escape any claim to focus.

After undergrad and masters degrees from Northwestern University, she had a career in journalism, including more than 20 years as an editor at the Washington Post.

She’s been traditionally published, hybrid, and is now 100% indie. Throughout, she has been a discovery/pantser writer, with an added twist of writing out of sequence.

Supporting and encouraging other writers who give writing teachers palpitations led to her book “Survival Kit for Writers Who Don’t Write Right.”

Episode Transcript

Transcript provided by Speechpad

Joni: Hey writers, you’re listening to the Kobo Writing Life Podcast, where we bring you insights and inspiration for growing your self-publishing business. We’re your hosts. I’m Joni, author engagement specialist at Kobo Writing Life.

Shayna: And I’m Shayna, author relations and promotion strategist. On today’s episode, we talk to Patricia McLinn, who is a USA Today best-selling author of more than 40 books and 10 series.

Joni: Yeah, we had a great conversation with Patricia. She is very, very passionate and knowledgeable about creating a long-term sustainable career as an author. She’s a hybrid author, and she’s been publishing for a long time. And she was really great to talk to. She talked a lot about her writing process, about maintaining long-term series, and coming up with new, fresh ideas. And it was a great chat we’re excited to share. So, we are here today with best-selling author, Patricia McLinn. Thank you so much for joining us.

Patricia: I’m delighted to be here. Thank you so much.

Joni: You are also a host of your own podcast. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Patricia: It’s called “Authors Love Readers.” And what it stemmed from was a conversation with a reader at an event, so obviously, this was a couple years ago, when we were still able to have events, who said she just enjoyed so much meeting an author in person and being able to ask her questions, and she wished she could meet more authors. And I thought, “I know lots of authors, and I love asking questions.” So I feel like I’m the conduit for the readers. I am the asker of questions on behalf of readers. And the idea is to let the readers, the listeners, get to know the authors as people. So we do fun things, different kinds of questions, and then we also talk about the writing and how that happens, and, again, questions that came from readers. So it’s a lot of fun. It’s almost like letting the reader eavesdrop on a couple authors at the bar or at a conference. Not that we spend all our time at bars, of course.

Shayna: That’s so much fun, tough. That’s awesome. Because, a lot of times, like, readers will hear, like, the same answers over and over. So if you can get, like, more into the down, into more interesting stuff, that’s always cool.

Patricia: Yes. And as much as I focused it for readers, it fascinates me how much there is in the interviews and in the podcast for aspiring writers. Because the writers are talking about how they got started in, and how they continue, and how they hone their craft, and hone, not just, you know, the craft is putting the words on the screen and dealing with those, but also honing their careers. And so, I think it’s got a lot for aspiring writers.

Shayna: Very cool. So, you have many different series, in different genres. And can you…Well, first of all, how many do you have? And which genres do you write in?

Patricia: Shayna, are you hinting that focus might be an issue for me?

Shayna: No, I’m impressed. There’s a lot. There’s a lot going on.

Patricia: I have six series in romance, and three in mystery. I refer to one of them as a “trilogy to be,” because it’s still, it’s got two books now. Third one’s coming. It’s coming. But it is a trilogy to be. So, and then I have some nonfiction, and then I have some historical fiction, and then I have some women’s fiction. Yeah, focus is an issue for me. Let’s just face it.

Shayna: Did you ever consider, because some authors use pen names for different genres, because I’m guessing there is a theory that readers will get confused if they see suddenly an author’s name that they know as a romance author, and then they suddenly see them as writing a mystery. Did you ever consider that yourself?

Patricia: I actually tried. The first two mystery books that I wrote were traditionally published, and they were under “PA McLinn,” under the theory that more men might buy it that way. Didn’t work. They didn’t, and I was getting comments from some readers going, “Somebody is using your name.” Said, “Well, it’s me, but thank you so much for being concerned about it.” And I bought back those books from the traditional publisher, to bring them out myself, because at that point, I’d started on the indie journey, and knew that I could do well with them. I didn’t know quite how well, but it’s been a pleasant surprise. And I decided to go with Patricia, because the “PA” was kind of a pain, you know, having two names. And I did not have two websites, but trying to do it within, you know, separate it in the website. And I thought, “I just don’t need this in my life.” So, I did it as Patricia, and the great thing is a lot of guys have found the books, and really enjoyed them. The “Caught Dead in Wyoming” series.

So, I know a lot of people say you have to have the different names. And I have not found that. I might have benefited from coming from romance to mystery, because the romance readers, by and large, tend to be more eclectic. They will read in other genres. Mystery readers tend to be more strictly mystery. And there are, of course, romance readers who are very specific in their sub-genre, even, of what they will read and what they want. But overall, I think they venture, and they love to read, and they go out and read lots of things. So, that’s been great.

Joni: So you mentioned you started in traditional publishing, and then you move to hybrid. And I believe now you are 100% indie. Is that right?

Patricia: Yes, I am 100% now.

Joni: Can you tell us a little bit about what drew you to the indie world?

Patricia: Ooh. Do it my own self. I’m told by family members that was my first phrase as a kid. Yeah, having that control. You know, it’s the great thing about indie. It’s also the toughest thing. You do it all, you know, but you also get to oversee it all and make those decisions. And it takes away a whole layer of frustration of, you know, being in a much larger entity, as, in traditional publishing, where your work is one of many, and they have to look at the overall process and the overall production. And I look at mine. So, you know, it’s the number one import. So I really, I like that. I like the control. I like the more direct relationship with the readers. And I’m beginning to sell books on my website, for also a more direct relationship. I find that the vendors in indie are much more transparent for…between the author and the reader, where in traditional publishing, the author has to fit into what the traditional publisher is doing. And you guys and the other vendors offer a platform for the author and the reader to find each other when maybe they don’t fit perfectly into a traditional publishing view. So, I really like that.

Joni: I’m just thinking of another interview that we did recently, where we were talking about finding your readers, and finding, like, almost figuring out where they fit and where to find them. Do you feel like your readers maybe don’t always fit into one place, that… You mentioned having different genres and maybe crossover between them?

Patricia: Absolutely. I don’t think they fit into one place. And I, like, the “Caught Dead in Wyoming” series, I just got an email from a reader who said how much he liked it, and that it was not really cozy. And it’s not. It’s cozyish. I actually think of it as more of a traditional mystery, of what the original people who were described as cozies might have done, you know, Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers and some of those folks. But that’s not a segment that’s offered, either in advertising or on the vendors. So you kind of mesh, and find your way. And I think the readers are the same way, that they, you know, they aren’t all looking for a series set in a bakery. They’re looking for a variety of things. It fascinates me. I just did a survey with my readers, and asked who their favorite authors are. Wow, what a breadth of reading it is. We tend to think that the readers are monolithic, and if a romance reader is a romance reader, and they will read romance… Well, it’s not true though. The readers are wildly and wonderfully individual, and I just love that. Makes it harder to market, but I love it. Because my books, I think, tend to be the same way, too.

Shayna: I have some questions as an author. So, I’m an author as well. So, coming at it from that point of view… So, since you have written so many books, and I always wonder this, do you ever find yourself wondering, “Have I used this piece of dialogue before?”

Patricia: Yes.

Shayna: Have I used this metaphor before? Am I reusing my own stuff?

Patricia: Yes. And I’ll tell you, I make it even harder on myself, Shayna, because I tend to write long, and then cut. And so I’m, “Did I use it, and did it make the book?”

Shayna: Yeah. Did I use it and cut it, and so it’s okay to use it now?

Patricia: Yeah. Yes, yeah. So, I actually, I tend to keep files of those, and search through them.

Shayna: Oh, that’s smart.

Patricia: Except the tough thing is, then you have the phrase in your head, and if you did it a little differently, if you twisted it, and it did get in the book, that’s a problem. But yes, I search for those, and I also always tell my editors, my copy editor, and proof reader, “If this sounds too familiar, let me know.”

Shayna: Yeah, exactly. And do you remember the plot of all of, like, your early books, and, like…I don’t know that…I mean, I wouldn’t think you would forget the whole plot, but…

Joni: That’s a good question.

Shayna: …having written so many. I mean, I’m not as prolific as you, so…

Patricia: I remember the people. I remember the characters, and I remember segments of their story. And I don’t necessarily remember all of the details. But one of the things with being indie, too, is you go back and you refresh the series, you know, and if I have a big promotion coming up, we try, my main assistant and I, try to go back through and go through the book descriptions and back matter and all that, and make sure it’s up-to-date and working. So that helps refresh. And it’s like, “Oh, yeah. Hey, wonder what you’re doing now.” Then I’m thinking about the characters. And I have to be careful because then I’ll end up with another story idea. So, I can wonder. I can’t write about them, you know. They gotta stand on their own now.

Shayna: Absolutely.

Patricia: Shayna, I will tell you one thing I’ve found. It’s called seek fast. Well, I know, like, if you use Scrivener, you can search on all of the files.

Shayna: Oh, yeah, you can definitely search. Yeah.

Patricia: Yeah. I don’t use Scrivener. I’m back…I’m use word. I’ve tried Scrivener. And so, this seek file has been fabulous, because I, like, with the “Caught Dead in…” mystery series, I put all 10 manuscripts in there, and then I can search through all 10 at once.

Shayna: Wow, that’s good.

Patricia: Yeah, I love that.

Shayna: Then you really can find out if you used this name before, really fast.

Patricia: Well, and I also keep a spreadsheet of names, because I’ve used “Henry” for walk-on parts so many times. I really have to watch that, yes. And I have, even with a spreadsheet, I’ve used names. So, I have “Claire” on one series, and “Claire” on another series. Oops. Sorry, guys.

Shayna: I have to say another one here about coming from, like, an author’s point of view. So, I was listening to your recent interview on Joanna Penn’s podcast, and you were talking about being a discovery writer, and specifically, you were talking about how when you’re starting a book, you sort of hear the characters talking in your head, right?

Patricia: Right.

Shayna: And then that’s where you start. So, can you explain a little bit more about this writing process? Like, if you’re starting with voices, do the pieces of dialogue that you write down initially actually end up in the book? Like, how does it go from just, you know, dialogue to, you know, entire book plot? Tell me everything.

Patricia: With a lot of work. That’s a really interesting question, Shayna, about whether the original dialogue makes the book, because I have said in the past that I feel like I get to a point in the book that when I’m writing, I’m just writing words in order to have something to cut later. But those words almost always make it in, because there’s something about… It’s that feel of the characters, and that initial dialogue is usually some sort of conflict. And so, it’s got a core of conflict. So, yes, those words usually do make it in. In the shape that they are at the beginning, does not make it in, because it’s usually he and she, or just she and she, or, you know, the baker and the candlestick maker, or, you know, is it some…I don’t know their names. I don’t know who they are, I don’t know anything. I’ve likened it to eavesdropping at a restaurant, and picking up the sense of the tension between people. You don’t know why. You can guess. You can start to imagine how they got there, and where they’re going to go from there. But it’s this one snapshot, this moment in time.

And that, from that moment in time, it’s usually then, it is speculating. It’s what if, and it’s… What I find is I will try to write something else, you know, have this initial scene, and I’ll start to try to write something else about those people. And pretty soon, they’re talking again. So I just let them talk. And as much as they want to talk, I will listen. And those early bursts of dialogue are usually very central, very core to the book. And then I have to do all the other stuff.

Shayna: That’s really interesting, though. Because I don’t write that way at all, like, starting from dialogue. It’s very interesting. I like that, but, like, so, you also say…you’d also said in that same interview, these are my follow-up questions, that you write out of sequence.

Patricia: Yep.

Shayna: But that you don’t plot ahead of time. So, if you’re writing out of sequence, and you’re writing a scene later in the book, but you haven’t plotted it, then how do you know, like, you know, how they’re relating to each other this late in the book, if you’re not…You know what I mean? How are you doing that? That seems like [crosstalk 00:16:23].

Patricia: I don’t know how I did it. You know, I guess I have kind of a feel for the book. But that feel can be really dangerous, too, Shayna, because I keep thinking in my head… One of the books, again, in the “Caught Dead in Wyoming” book, where I thought not only was I perking along and knew what was going on, I was ahead of schedule. I am never, ever ahead of schedule. I was ahead of schedule, and I’m writing away, and the guy I thought was the murderer ends up dead in a scene.

Shayna: You just accidentally killed him.

Patricia: He was a goner. And, you know, non-writing friends say, “Well, just make him not dead.” Yeah, and Shayna’s shaking her head. You can’t do that. You know, that happened, they’re dead, you know..

Shayna: People used to ask JK Rowling why she had to kill off Sirius Black. She was crying… I think was her husband. She was crying because she killed this character and her husband’s like, “Why did you have to kill him?” And she’s just like, “Look, you know, you cannot…It’s just…”

Patricia: It’s there, and you can’t get around it. Yeah. So, how do I know? I think it’s, some of it, I tend to think of internalized a lot of story, you know, partly from writing for a long time, mostly from reading forever, you know, from little, little, tiny, bitty kid, and all that absorption of story. And you just have a sense of it. But then you’re also surprised, and if I’m not surprised, I’m bored. So I have to be surprised, and that’s why I don’t plot. I have tried plotting. My brain says, “We’ve done this. Let’s go play with something else.” And I’m lost. So…

Shayna: I got you.

Joni: Yeah, now, I feel like I’m the person sitting in a bar listening to writers talk about their craft. I’m curious…

Patricia: Where’s your Margarita, Joni?

Joni: I know. So, you have a couple of nonfiction books, and one of them is the “Survival Kit for Writers Who Don’t Write Right.” And is that kind of based on this process of writing that doesn’t follow the rules of how to write a book, but you find your own way?

Patricia: It is. It is, but it’s not really… I’m not telling anybody else in the whole world to write the way I do. You know, I refer to it…it’s part revival meeting and park tips, because the first thing I want the book to tell people is, the way you write is the way you write, and if it’s producing words, and it’s getting the stories from inside your head onto the screen and into paper or eBooks where other people can enjoy it, that is a great process. And there’s a lot of pressure, well-intended, entirely well-intended, for people to plot, and to follow this method or that method. And it’s usually because it’s worked for the person who’s extolling it. But it can derail people. So I want people who have a less standard way of writing to have that support, and the recognition that they can have a career, they can write books and have a career, doing it the way that they do it. That you want to keep honing your process, and you want to be open to improving it, but you also want to protect it. So, that is what “Survival Kit” is about.

And then, there are tips of things that have worked specifically for me. Will it work for other people? Don’t know. But, you know, I put them out there, and this is how I do it. And if you can take a piece here and there, and all writing advice is a buffet. It is not a fixed menu. You can pick and choose, you can try what you want, you can go back for more later, you can skip it, you know, you can fill your whole plate up with pickled beets. You can do whatever you want. It’s all a buffet, with the craft and with the business, and marketing, you don’t have to do everything that people say. I’m passionate about that, can you tell?

Shayna: I think also, if I would guess, it’s because, like, if you’re writing bromance, there definitely is a bit of a, you know, a formula that some people have followed, and that readers are used to, you know. There’s, you know, a conflict here, and they get together here, and that kind of thing. And some authors are good at… They just do that automatically, because they understand that that’s how stories work, and they do it without having to plot it out, if you’ve already internalized it, or if you’re just really good. And then, others, who have no experience with this at all, because books that are not plotted ahead of time can often have a lot of problems, in that they seem really long and dragging. And why is that? Well, it’s because maybe you didn’t put any conflict in, kind of, anywhere.

But if you’ve already internalized all that, you know, it’s obvious to you, because sometimes when I’m reading books about writing, I’ll be like, “Oh, well, I’m already doing this. And this and this. So that’s good. I’m just gonna skip this.” Because sometimes it just comes, you know, some things come natural, and are just obvious to someone who’s interested in, you know, writing. But, yeah.

Patricia: And I think that’s really interesting, Shayna, because I think a lot of times, those of us who have taught writing, or speak about writing, that we are not always the best at explaining what we do the best, because it comes naturally. So, I don’t think I’m particularly good at telling people how to write dialogue. I can tell them why it’s important. I can tell them, you know, go out and spend 15 years as a journalist, taking notes for quotes from people, and you get a feel of the rhythm, and how different people speak and all that. That’s, you know, not particularly practical. And I think that I’m probably better at… What I’ve had a great deal of, or had a great deal of difficulty with was coming up with a plot structure that worked for me. And you do have to have structure. You know, that’s the bad news, but you can come to it second. You don’t have to start from structure and write into the characters. You can start with those voices, but as you write out from the voices, you’re absolutely right. You need structure, or it’s gonna be a mess. You have to do it at some point.

Shayna: Yeah, for sure. I definitely understand, like, not being able to explain. Sometimes I do beta reads for people, and sometimes with dialogue, it’s just like, “This is…can you just do this better, this part? This sounds like, I don’t know, this is robots. I don’t know what’s happened.” And you can’t say exactly why, but it just doesn’t sound right.

Joni: Yeah, I think a lot of good writing is intangible. Like, some people are just phenomenal writers, and you can’t really say why exactly it’s so good. It just works so well. Yeah, it’s just what makes it difficult to teach, I guess. I’m curious, as someone that’s been writing for a long time, and presumably has a pretty established process, and when you do this podcast and you talk to other authors, and you’re…I assume you’re also hearing from other authors that have read your books, do you ever take tips from other people and apply them? Is there anything that you’ve heard that’s changed your process at all?

Patricia: I’ll tell you a mechanical thing, a specific thing was from my friend Dale Mayer, who told me that on Word, you can create headings, which… I have a tendency to start using something and not bother to read the instructions or learn any of the stuff. I just dive in and see if I can figure it out myself. And so, I didn’t know a lot of these tips and tricks. And that has been fabulous for moving pieces around, because when you don’t write in sequence, you have things in the wrong place. And sometimes… I usually keep them in a separate file and try to keep one file of the manuscript with the core of where I think the timeline is, but pieces fall in there, and I’ll be writing one scene and another scene pops up, so I just start writing it. I’m not letting go of any of those pop-up moments.

And then I can create a heading, and then, by using the heading, you can click and drag the heading, and it takes the whole section wherever you’re going in the manuscript. I love that. Thank you, Dale.

Shayna: That’s amazing.

Patricia: Yes, yes.

Shayna: I don’t think anyone fully understands Word. It’s often when you’re trying to create an EPUB or something, suddenly, it’s like, “If you’ve set up Word this way…” I’m like, “I don’t even know you…”

Patricia: I don’t know! I will tell you, Shayna, I decided that they didn’t need to know a lot of things about me, so at one point, I told them that my native language was Portuguese. And you get some really interesting warnings and stuff. And you’re going, “Yeah, this looks really scary, except I can’t read it in Portuguese.” And it’s still working, you know. What the heck?

Joni: So, switching gears a little bit from craft into career, I guess, something that’s coming up a lot, I think we’re seeing in the indie community more and more is, it’s still a fairly new business. Like, the people that have been in since the beginning, it was, what, maybe 2012, so it’s still relatively young. And I feel like a lot of the authors that were really successful during that gold rush period are starting to think more long-term, like, they’re starting to burn out. You can’t release a book every eight weeks for that long. I know this is something that you’re quite vocal about. Do you have any tips for authors on making a sustainable, long-lasting career work?

Patricia: Being stubborn never hurts, truly. And you said 2012, and I actually put my first book up with vendors in 2010. And I tried a website before that, direct to readers. I still have that URL, because if you vendor guys go berserk, I have this a backup. So, yeah, I think one of the things to recognize… I think people get myopia, and they’re looking at, “Oh, my god. I have to do 12 books a year. I have to do a big release. I have to have a release plan, and I have to have a huge marketing plan.” Each book is the most important. And when you get more books, and you have a new book come out, you know, it’s 1/60 of my body of work. It’s important because I love the books, but it is not the end-all and be-all. So, my major tip would be where you set your horizon, and I think people set their horizon too close.

So, I think you have to stop and think about, do you want to be writing in 30 years? Do you want to be writing in 40 years? Do you want to have a career? And those can be two different things. You can be writing for yourself and for fun, and doing it now and then, and that is perfectly legitimate. And I think a lot of people who would be happy doing that, some people who would be happy doing that, are dragooned into having, you know, “I gotta have a career. I gotta do it this way. I gotta have this ranking in this place.” And so, the first thing is keep that horizon long, but also be really honest with yourself. Try to recognize what you want, and what is success to you. And for me, the success is being able to continue to write and support myself. I’m not looking for the big, you know, mega bestsellers. I almost think the mega bestsellers are harmful to a career in ways, because it limits you on what you can do next.

Shayna: And there’s so many examples of authors who have been so paralyzed by their own success that they can’t…they have trouble writing the second one.

Patricia: Yes, Shayna, absolutely. I have not had that worry. So I’m grateful. Thank you. So, you can keep going. I think that people, and I absolutely was guilty of this, especially early on in the traditional world, where you had much less possibility of affecting the outcome, of getting tense, of getting all scrunched up about, “I gotta do this, I gotta do that. And if this doesn’t happen, you know, oh, no, oh, no.” And if you can relax and look at it in the bigger view, and the bigger context, you know, it’s one book, and if you’re gonna write 100 in your career, it’s one release in 60. It’s one year of down sales in 40. And you can take a lot of that pressure off yourself. And the pressure is not particularly productive, from what I can tell. Deadline pressure, yes. But there’s this other, “gotta do this, gotta do that,” I don’t think is. So, we said the word earlier about sustainability. You know, if you can’t sustain what you’re doing, you need to change things, because the idea, at least to me, is to have a career, and that involves time. So you’ve got to be able to keep doing it over time.

Shayna: What year was it that you stopped… I mean, I’m sure at some point you had a full-time job that wasn’t writing. What year did you go full-time writing?

Patricia: Well, I had a transition. When I first published traditionally, I was working full-time as an editor at the “Washington Post.” And for several years, I was basically writing full-time and working at the Post full-time. I got really, really tired. I kept calling co-workers by character names, and different character names. Like, it wasn’t consistent. So, eventually, I went part-time at the Post. And I honestly can’t tell you when that was anymore. I would have to look it up. But I worked part-time at the Post, and the wonderful thing about that being a part-time job was I had benefits. The not-so-wonderful thing was when news happened, my part-time job became, you know, 13 days in a row, after 9/11. Now, that was just the way it was. Eventually, I sold my house, kind of accidentally, that’s a long story, and saw that I could use that to support me, if I move someplace less expensive to live. So I did that. And that was in 2007. And I wasn’t sure I was going to publish anymore. Because I had done well enough in traditional that they didn’t cut me, which they did to a lot of writers, including some who are now fabulously successful, which just feels wonderful. But I never did well enough that they left me alone. So it was a constant friction.

And I thought, “Okay, I’m just gonna write for myself. I’m gonna write whatever I want.” And a couple things happened. One specific thing happened was, we had Chris Anderson come to the Novelists, Inc. Conference. And Chris was then the editor of “Wired” magazine. He now runs TED Talks. And he had written the book, “Long Tail.” And he stood in front of this room of all traditionally-published authors, and said, “Publishing as you know it is dead.” Yeah, there was a huge gasp, and sucking in of air. And I said, “Well, what’s gonna replace it?” He said, “We don’t know.” So, he did not give any of us answers, but what he did was make all of us alert, to pay attention, and to watch what was coming. And I know that several of the people in the room that day, including me, were very early into the indie books. And it’s because of that talk.

And that’s why I’m so vehement, and you mentioned being on Joanna’s, on “The Creative Penn” podcast. And I didn’t have a chance to say it on that podcast, we should be on our knees, thankful to her, for what she’s doing in looking at the futurist information. She is gathering it for us. She is our signpost out there, telling us what to pay attention to, putting it in our head, so that it triggers, as these things come closer, and we’re prepared for it. It is a tremendous service. And I know some folks say, “Oh, you know, I’m not that interested, and I don’t want things to change.” Well, tough. You know, it’s gonna change. Doesn’t matter. You know, not liking it, closing your eyes to it isn’t gonna stop it. The only thing that you can do is pay some attention… And you don’t have to be out there doing AI experiments right now. Just listen and pay attention, and that will help prepare you for when it becomes viable and necessary in the business. And I think this goes back to what you asked before, Joni. This is part of having a long-term career, too, watching what’s ahead. And being open to it as it comes. I need to get off the soapbox.

Joni: No, but I think it’s really important, and I think you’re an example of somebody that has adapted to a changing landscape. Do you have any idea what the changes coming are? Like, what are your predictions for the next 10 years?

Patricia: Oh, boy.

Joni: No pressure.

Patricia: No pressure. You know, the one prediction… I don’t have really specific hardcore predictions. But I think that whatever does happen will offer more ways to have an author career. The change from traditional to indie has been phenomenal, and I don’t see that changing. I think there are going to be ways…you know, maybe more direct selling, maybe multimedia. I just think, you know, it’s… I don’t know. I don’t know, but I do feel very strongly that it’s gonna be a pain. You know, it’s gonna be a learning curve. It’s always a learning curve, but, you know, the thing is that keeps all of us from being stagnant, so it’s kind of built-in cognitive pushing. So, all of us have that. But I think it’s going to be… I think it’s going to broaden the possibilities, not narrow them. And that is the best news.

Shayna: So, do you have any upcoming releases that you would like to plug, because now’s the time.

Patricia: Well, I will have… This is kind of in reverse chronological order. I will have book 11 in “Caught Dead Wyoming” series, and there will be at least 12 books in that series. I don’t know beyond that. And a new release in the “Secret Sleuth” series, which is a woman who is trying to learn to write, which has actually been a lot of fun. Her great aunt is an established writer. So, the two voices are kind of both me. One’s the old curmudgeon, and one is the one trying to start up. And then, the third book in that trilogy, that I mentioned, the trilogy to be, will actually be a trilogy, and that’s “Premise of Innocence,” is book three. It’s “Proof of Innocence”, “Price of Innocence”, and “Premise of Innocence.”

Shayna: Fantastic.

Patricia: But I would also like to say, about “Survival Kit for Writers Who Don’t Write Right,” it is out on all the vendors as an eBook. And close your ears, you guys, but say this to the people out there. It’s also on my website for 99 cents, because I wanted it to be available to anybody who needed to hear those words, and to have the support to write the way they write.

Shayna: That’s great. You just want to share your wisdom. We’re behind that.

Patricia: And something else I feel strongly about in folks starting out is to watch their money. Don’t go in debt. Keep cushions, and that’s not just starting out, keep cushions all the way along, because as things change, you’re going to need those cushions. And they will give you the cushion, the monetary cushion, will give you the power to take advantage of changes. But at the same time, you don’t need a real elaborate business structure. You just keep track of taxes, be good with the government, keep your cushions. And that’s really all you need until things get more complex. But, again, the writing will push the business. And I see some folks getting very wound up about, you know, “Oh, I haven’t written my first book, but I need an LLC.” No, you don’t. Or whatever the comparable business structure is in their country. You can write. Write first. Write often, and see where that carries you. And then have that build the business.

Joni: That’s great advice, too. We like to finish off hearing about your favorite books. We have a couple of rapid-fire book questions for you. That’s okay?

Patricia: Okay.

Joni: Okay. So, my first question is, your favorite book of all time?

Patricia: Oh. Oh.

Shayna: It’s hard.

Patricia: I have only one. My favorite book of all time. I’m thinking of one that I think, “Oh, how can I not do that one?” But I will say, for the mood I’m in today, it would be “The Talisman Ring,” by Georgette…do you say “Hayer” or “Heyer?” That’s…

Shayna: I think Heyer, but I’m not sure.

Patricia: Okay. H-E-Y-E-R. I love the humor in it. It’s got kind of two romances, that the older couple in it, the humor is very dry. I love that. But tomorrow, it’s gonna be a different book, Joni, and [inaudible 00:40:06] sequential days.

Shayna: What is the most recent book you read?

Patricia: Actually, it’s another Georgette Heyer book, but it’s one of her mysteries. And I tend to re, re, re, re, re-read them. Because they are books that I read before I was a writer, and I can reconnect to them as a reader, they’re very much comfort reads, and that voice of fiction and story, without me analyzing it. So I love those. And so, the one I am reading right now is called “Detection Unlimited.” Not the best title, but yeah.

Joni: All right. And our final question, is there one author or one book that’s inspired you to become a better writer?

Shayna: You can just stick with the same author and just [inaudible 00:41:02]

Patricia: A three-peat, huh? I will say… Gosh. There’s so many I want to… I want to say Dickens. I want to say Henry Fielding. If you ever read “Tom Jones?” I’ve loved that book. And now I’m going blank. And there’s a nonfiction writer who writes about geology, and he’s written a book “Levels of the Game.” Oh, gosh, what is his name? And it’s a nonfiction book, and it starts with the first point in a tennis match, and it ends with the last point, and in between, he talks about society, basically, and changes, and it’s Arthur Ashe playing, and it’s kind of the shift in tennis. And he is a writer who can interest me… And I love tennis, so that was how I first got involved reading him. But subsequent books, like, he wrote a whole book on orange growing. I am not particularly fascinated by orange growing. But I will read his books, and he can draw you in and be interested in what you’re not interested in.

Shayna: Is it John McPhee?

Joni: John McPhee?

Patricia: Yes. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Oh, yes. Yes. And I think that is, to have the ability… You know, there’s one thing to write stories that interest people who are interested in those kinds of stories, who love those kind of stories, but it’s a whole nother level to take a topic that the reader is not interested in, and still grab them. That’s fantastic. Have you read John McPhee, Shayna?

Shayna: No. I just Googled him on our site I just searched for him on the Kobo site while you were talking about the author.

Patricia: I recommend “Levels of the Game.” I think it’s fascinating. And it has some relevance now, too, because you had this Arthur Ashe, and Black tennis player who grew up on public courts, and his opponent had come up through the country club system, which was prevalent at that time. And it’s just, it’s not one guy’s a good guy and one guy’s a bad guy, it’s just the differences. And all shown through a tennis match. I just think it’s amazing. But there are a lot of other books, too, you mean people who would only let me have one.

Joni: I know. We could be here all day. No, that’s great. We will link to those, for anyone that’s interested in reading them. Thank you so much. This has been really, really interesting.

Patricia: Thank you. It’s great to talk to Shayna and Joni and to all of you out there.

Shayna: Thank you for listening to the “Kobo Writing Life Podcast.” If you’re interested in picking up Patricia McLinn’s books, we will include links in our show notes. If you’re enjoying this podcast, please be sure to rate, review, and subscribe. And if you’re looking for more tips on growing your self-publishing business, you can find us at kobowritinglife.com, and be sure to follow us on socials. We’re @KoboWritingLife on Facebook and Twitter, and @Kobo.writing.life on Instagram.

Joni: This episode was produced by Joni Di Placido and Rachel Wharton, and co-hosted by Shayna Krishnasamy. Editing is by Kelly Rowbotham. Music is provided by Tear Jerker, and huge thanks to Patricia McLinn for being our guest today. If you’re ready to start your self-publishing journey, sign up today at kobo.com/writinglife. Until next time, happy writing.