Author of the Month
Pat McGrath Avery
[April 2008]
Chosen by reviewer and columnist Carolyn Howard-Johnson , MyShelf.Com

   The World of Publishing

Pat McGrath Avery Does It all

"There's no reason to feel competitive. I can't write what is in someone else's head
and no one else can write what's in mine." ~ Pat McGrath Avery

    Pat McGrath Avery is a quiet woman who gets things done. Somehow she manages to juggle her own writing and that of others most charmingly. She is a director of Authors' Coalition, has a family. Edits a newsletter called Salute! and also supports our soldiers, veterans and active, in other ways. She is truly a flag-waver in every sense. Here's what she recently told me in an interview:


Carolyn: You are part of a growing trend. The Author / Publisher. What got you started as a publisher?

Pat: Ten years ago I sponsored a poetry contest. One of the winning entries was a children's poem. It created a picture in my mind. That picture kept teasing me until I called the author and suggested we turn it into a book. That was the beginning.

Carolyn: Why did you branch out?

Pat: I published several children's books. Then I met a veteran who survived a massacre in the Korean War. He asked me to write his story. At first I told him no, but I changed my mind after learning what he went through as a prisoner of war. I wrote and published a book with his story. Soon after that, I met Joyce Faulkner at a book festival in St. Louis. She had just published a book. We found we shared similar goals. We decided to work together and we've been writing partners since then.

Carolyn: What is the reason behind your firm's name, River Road Press?

Pat: Nothing really. I love the water. We lived on a lake road and River Road was the closest name I liked.

Carolyn. Mmmm. Maybe that's how we often arrive at a title or name. Something that speaks to us. Speaking of things military, is that interest of yours tied to something in your background?

Pat: I have a totally non-military background. But I'm an example of "opportunity knocking at the door." When the veteran I mentioned earlier asked me to write his story, my first thought was that I knew nothing about the military. The more contact I had with him, the more I realized that the military is made up of individuals who give much in the service of our country. After several conversations with him, I decided that someone needed to tell the story from the point of view of the guys who lived it - not the strategy or the battles, but what happened to the guy who was there. As we shared his story, we found other survivors of the same massacre and we knew the complete story needed to be told. From that came the Sunchon Tunnel Massacre Survivors.

Carolyn: Yes, and Sunchon Tunnel was just released with a massive outpouring of acceptance at Veterans' Week in Branson. How does that reflect in your writing?

Pat: I have grown as a person from knowing these men. They are in their mid-70s and from them, I've learned much about survival, attitude, pain, friendship and personal growth. Joyce and I have helped other veterans tell their stories. Each one has been a journey for us. I hope that the respect, love and admiration we have for them has become a part of our writing. One very important thing I've learned is the importance of personal history - both for the person who lived it and for the person who learns about life by reading it.

Carolyn: You are a director of Authors' Coalition. I know it is a labor of love for you. Why do you think it's important to help other authors?

Pat: Authors are blessed because it's so easy and rewarding to work with your peers. There's no reason to feel competitive. I can't write what is in someone else's head and no one else can write what's in mine. But I can learn from what other authors have experienced, and vice versa. Our goal at Authors' Coalition is to help other writers and to pool resources to do together what we can't do individually. It's so much easier to market ourselves - in catalogs, brochures or at events - if a group of us share the expenses. I find that I learn something from every other writer I get to know.

Carolyn: As part of your putsch in the direction of military and Authors' Coalition's cross-promotional effort to sponsor booths, you spearhead a huge booth / presentation at Veteran's week in Branson, Mo. (Authors reading this can learn more about this booth at ). Please share on of the things that makes this effort different from the usual author / publisher participation in a book fair booth. Or two! (-:

Pat: Veterans Week in Branson draws a large niche audience - all interested in veteran or military-related events and products. Every year 50,000+ people come and most of them spend time in the "Command Center" or exhibit hall. They are there to meet and talk - making it a great place for authors whose books interest them. Although they love books based on historical events, they buy all kinds of books. The majority of the visitors are 40+ so they buy books for themselves, their children and their grandchildren. I think the week's veteran theme gives them a feeling of community so they are relaxed and feel at home from the moment they arrive. That makes it so much easier to talk to them. You can learn more about the excitement from last October's week at our Authors' Coalition blog.

Carolyn: What do you find most challenging about being a publisher?

Pat: The marketing. No matter how good a book is, it's a challenge to get it in front of people. Bookstores present a challenge to publishers because of the long return window. It's absolutely necessary to find other outlets.

Carolyn: When asked (like now! Ha!), what do you tell authors is the most important thing for them to do when querying a publisher.

Pat: Edit your own query letter and follow the writers' guidelines. I've received queries handwritten on napkins. Once I received an entire manuscript handwritten. Those are extreme examples but I have to admit that probably half of the queries I've received have been so poorly written that I throw them away. If an author doesn't put effort into a query, I have no reason to think he / she will put much effort into a manuscript - or in marketing themselves.

Carolyn: Speaking of marketing, you did a wonderful job publishing and co-edting a cross-promotional effort. Do you want to tell us something about it?

Pat: It's The Complete Writers Journal. One hundred authors contributed a quote about writing - some inspirational, some humorous and some technical. It's great for thank you gifts, journaling, taking notes or selling as an add-on. I use them all the time and I still read the quotes on each page. The retail price is $15.95 and it can be ordered from Red Engine Press. For authors who use them for promotional purposes, we sell them at 50% of list.

Carolyn: Thank you for sharing with, Pat. I hope everyone will consider Sunchon Tunnel Massacre. It is a part of our military history that so few of our citizens know anything about. At least, I know I didn't! And congratulations on being MyShelf's Author of the Month for April, 2008.

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