The Author Wheel Podcast

Navigating the publishing world with Pamela Fagan Hutchins

October 09, 2023 Pamela Fagan Hutchins Season 4 Episode 5
The Author Wheel Podcast
Navigating the publishing world with Pamela Fagan Hutchins
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Should you self-narrate your own book? Should an indie take a traditional deal?

This week, mystery author and podcast host, Pamela Fagan Hutchins, is taking us on a journey into her writing world. We talk about the art of narrating your own audiobooks and how to manage continuity across multiple book series. Plus, hear first-hand why she's a dedicated indie who's just secured a traditional publishing contract—and the challenges that came along with it.

Pamela Fagan Hutchins is a USA Today bestselling and Silver Falchion Best Mystery winning mystery/thriller/suspense author (and recovering attorney and investigator) who splits time between an off-the-grid lodge on the face of Wyoming's Bighorn Mountains and a rustic cabin on Maine’s Lake Mooselookmeguntic with her husband, kids and grandkids, rescue pets and sled dogs, and draft cross horses. 

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Pamela Fagan Hutchins
Website: http://pamelafaganhutchins.com
Facebook: http://facebook.com/pamela.fagan.hutchins.author
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Greta Boris:
Website: www.GretaBoris.com
Facebook: @GretaBorisAuthor
Instagram: @GretaBoris

Megan Haskell:
Website: www.MeganHaskell.com
Facebook & Instagram: @MeganHaskellAuthor

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Greta:

Hi everyone and welcome to the Author Wheel podcast. I'm Greta Boris, USA Today Bestselling Mystery Thriller Author.

Megan:

And I'm Megan Haskell, award-winning fantasy adventure author. Together we are the Author Wheel. Today we have prolific mystery author and host of the Crime and Wine podcast, Pamela Fagan Hutchins, joining us. It's a really, really fun conversation and we talk about everything from narrating your own audio books to building an interconnected world for your books, to what it takes to become a hybrid author and why you should even want to. But before we get into that, Greta, what's been going on?

Greta:

Well, let's see Today. Actually, it was last week, but then it kind of fleshed out even more today. Isn't that like suspense I'm building? I didn't even tell you what it is yet.

Megan:

Anyway.

Greta:

I have this aha moment about the book I'm writing. I went for a long walk with an author friend and I have found that is so helpful when you're feeling stuck, to, kind of if you have somebody in your life that will put up with you, like just talking through your plot points and giving you ideas and what makes sense to somebody else. And it's interesting because we do talk about this a little bit with Pamela in this interview about one of the things that was a real help in her author career was writer buddies and their feedback and their help. So, just as a little thought for people out there, this can be really helpful when you're feeling stuck on a book. Sometimes go for a walk and talk it out with someone. And then the other interesting thing in my life what interesting to me anyway is that I'm doing some Halloween promotions.

Greta:

My books are a little on the scary side. They got that paranormal thing going on. So I put my lead magnet in Book Funnel, which we are gonna be talking to Damon Courtney from Book Funnel coming up on the podcast in a week or two. So that's exciting. You'll learn more about that, but I have it in there and it's already accruing new subscribers for my mailing list, so that's exciting. And then I've also been trying to be very creative with some new Facebook ads, so I'll be launching those, hopefully today or tomorrow. Oh also, I was just gonna mention that my Book Funnel promo. For anybody who is interested in seeing like maybe you've never done one, you wanna see what they look like I will put the link for it in the other wheel Facebook page so you guys can check that out and maybe one of those creepy books will peak your interest.

Megan:

Oh, that's a good idea. I'm actually in a Halloween promo as well, so we'll post my link too, and of course mine is fantasy focused, so fantasy and then Halloween spooky themed. But yeah, we'll do that.

Greta:

That's a great idea, and the one I'm in is obviously Mystery Thriller, but Halloween focused spooky theme. So, other than your Book Funnel program I mean Book Funnel promo what are you up to these days?

Megan:

So I've officially started drafting the Aether Book 3 this week. I don't have the official title yet. It'll be Aether or something. I think I've mentioned that. But anyway, aether 3 for now, and to do it because I've been so busy in other aspects of my life.

Megan:

I've actually been trying to do the whole morning routine thing. Good for you, oh yeah, we'll see. No, it's actually working really, really well, though. So I wake up about a half an hour earlier than I used to. So I wake up at about 6.15 each morning and then I go straight to my desk. No coffee, I mean. I put on my bathrobe and stuff. So I'm at least a little bit warm. But otherwise there's no breaks, no stops, no distractions. Straight to my computer, sit down and start writing, and then I stop at 7 when I have to wake up my kids for school and get them ready and stuff like that. But it's been super helpful. I'm slow, I'm gonna be honest, like I'm slower than I would be if I were to be writing later in the day or if you had some coffee.

Greta:

That the whole no coffee thing is really a stumbling block for me in this one. I'm like really trying to get behind you on this, but I don't know why I find it so disturbing. But anyway, go ahead.

Megan:

Yeah, you know, and that's a little interesting too, but if I went to go get coffee, I have to go downstairs, I have to make the coffee because I don't have a coffee maker with a timer. I'm snooty with my coffee and I do the pour over thing, so anyhow. But yeah, it's so I'm slower than I would have been or would otherwise be, but it's making progress. I'm getting words on the page. So yesterday and today I got right around 500 words between the time I wake up 6.15, so whenever I actually sit down at my desk and 7 am when I wake up the kids. So it's something. You know, it's forward progress. And then I'm more likely to actually do another writing session later in the day. So it's good.

Megan:

Next week I might take it a step further. Actually, even tomorrow I might take it a step further shut down everything on my computer the night before, accept Scrivener and leave that open to where I'm at in the book so that I have even fewer potential distractions along the way. And then, if I'm feeling good on the sleep and not getting cranky cause that's always my Achilles heel is waking up too early and then ending up cranky then I might bump it a little earlier next week to 6 am and see how, see if I can get a little bit more, but we'll see. It's all an experiment right now, but it's writing every day. You know, three days in a row so far. I'm checking off my little boxes and making the chain. So there you go.

Megan:

I love that. Yeah, the other thing I did wanna talk about briefly, and I think we mentioned this last week a little bit, but now we have the link. So we are prepping for the Write Anyway, summits hosted by Pages and Platforms and Sue Campbell, and we're gonna be presenting a new mini course why you need an author and mission statement. So for you listeners out there, if you haven't given our seven days to clarity, uncovering your author purpose, which I think is what we've titled it.

Greta:

Did I say that, perfectly, did I. That's the title, yeah.

Megan:

Awesome. But if you haven't taken that yet, this is kind of a little introduction into why it's important and sort of what the general process is in a approximately half an hour little mini course presentation. So we're doing that, but the summit itself has over 25 speakers and presenters. It's also free. Well, free if you attend live, so you can register for it using the link I'll put in the show notes. But then you can also purchase the All Access Pass, which gives you access to the recordings as well as a bunch of extras from the present presenters, like different tools and worksheets. We put in a worksheet for the seven steps as well, so that link will be in the show notes.

Megan:

Full disclosure. We are affiliates of the program, but obviously we are presenters in the program as well. So we do. You know we only promote things that we actually believe in. But if you do choose to purchase the All Access Pass, we will earn a commission on your purchase. So if you want to support the show, that's actually a great way to do it and get some fantastic resources while you're at it.

Greta:

Yes, go for it. I think it is gonna be really amazing. I'm looking forward to it myself.

Megan:

Yeah, yeah, me too. All right, well, that's it for now. So let's get on with the show. And here's Pamela.

Greta:

So today we wanna welcome Pamela Fagan Hutchins. She is the USA Today Bestselling and Silver Falshian Best Mystery Winning Mystery Thriller Suspense Author and Recovering Attorney and Investigator. She splits her time between an off the grid lodge on the face of Wyoming's Big Horn Mountains and a rustic cabin on Maine's Lake Moose Look Magoonic. I'm gonna have to get her to help me with Moose Look Magoonic, with her husband I can pronounce husband Kids and grandkids, rescue pets and sled dogs and draft cross horses. She is also the host of Crime and Wine podcast and she writes both independently and for book a tour. So welcome, pamela. We are so excited to talk to you. We've already, like, discussed all the things we're gonna talk about on this podcast.

Pamela :

Thanks, I'm so excited to be here.

Megan:

Well. So I have to ask how do you actually pronounce that?

Pamela :

But the Moose thing, the Moose look, moose look magoonic. Moose, we all just call it Moose, look for short Okay.

Greta:

I can say Moose look, moose look magoonic, or Moose look. So, pamela, why don't you start just by giving our listeners a little bit of a better picture of who you are and how you got to be the amazing Pamela Fagan Hutchins that you are today?

Pamela :

Well, my editor calls me Pamela freaking Hutchins, but she doesn't say freaking. So you know there's a theme here. I'm a little bit of a hard charger, kind of intense energizer bunny type and I'm really into reading, writing and adventure. You know, whether it's like you were talking about in my intro, whether it's the sled dog activities or, you know, trail riding in the mountains, we're really into that kind of thing and I end up writing the kinds of books that I enjoy reading and that are reflective of the kind of adventure and lifestyle that I love. So I write about the places I love, I write about murders and I write about people that are either forced to solve them by their job or because life throws those things at them and they can't avoid it. And I throw in all of that crazy adventure, fun, fast lifestyle. So that is kind of a blending. You know my life, my writing, they end up kind of feeling seamlessly connected.

Greta:

Not the murder part, I hope.

Pamela :

Not the murder part. Not the murder part.

Megan:

I have to imagine murder is pretty rare in Mooth Look.

Pamela :

You know it is, but it's a spooky place. I mean Stephen King, maine, you know it's. You could hide some bodies there.

Greta:

Yeah, oh. Whenever you got a lake, it's just rife with possibilities for burying bodies, you know.

Pamela :

And we say that murder is as simple as shovel shoot shovel and shut up. You know there's lots of places, just dug a body. So the great, the great, wide open.

Greta:

I love it.

Megan:

So tell us so before we get into it. Like we've got some things we want to talk about. First of all, this. This episode might run long. I'm a little worried, but we have so many things to talk about. But first, what has been sort of the biggest roadblock as you were getting started writing? This is the question we ask all our guests when you were first getting started writing, before you know, before you you know, finish your first book, publish your first book, or within the first series, what has been the biggest roadblock to finding success as you define it?

Pamela :

I think for me it was pre publication and it was overcoming lack of knowledge, lack of confidence and lack of and when I say lack of knowledge I mean everything from knowing what I wanted to write but not knowing how to deliver it and not knowing when it was good enough, and then lack of knowledge on how to pursue a writing career. So those really got in my way for a while. Now I was super lucky because the first novel I published took off, and so you know, I kind of was sitting there thinking, wow, this turned out to be easier than I thought it would, of course, than three novels later. One tanks and you're like, wait a second, maybe I don't know what I'm doing after all, but for me the big, the big difficulty was in confidence upfront and confidence and direction in what to do and how to do it.

Megan:

So so what did you do to overcome that? How did you find your confidence?

Pamela :

I turned to people who were better than me, and in fact, I would recommend that most highly for everyone to constantly be working your way up the food chain of authors to someone who writes better than you, who's published more than you, who knows how to do more than you, and think about what you can do to help that person, to make them want to, in turn, do something nice for you.

Pamela :

I became friends with authors that were able to point out what was wrong with what I was writing and once they told me it was clear as day, but you don't see it in your own work and who are able to give me some career guidance. So, but real, authentic relationships do want to others first, right, not, as I'm sure it's a lot of people's pet peeve as authors people that'll write to you and they don't even say hello first. They just get to what they want you to do for them. You know, when it's like, no part of that made me want to help you, but the people that you want to help are the ones that are helping other people, and so be that person that helps other people, and then maybe you'll get lucky like me, and have people that are better than you and more experienced than you, give you some tips.

Megan:

Yeah, it's so hard, though. I mean I well, first of all, there's the phrase you are the average of the five people you surround yourself with, or something like that. I don't know who said it or where it came from, but I've heard it a bunch and I've said it a bunch, so we're going to go with it. But. But I think that's very true. But it's also so hard sometimes to kind of get over that ego. If you will or be willing to put yourself out there for critique and not take it personally in the sense that you take it so that you can improve, but not take it personally in the sense that you feel overwhelmed or you feel discouraged or you feel like people are beating up on you because you need critique, but at the same time it's, it can be a thing.

Pamela :

You know when, when I was running the Houston Writers Guild, I ran a lot of critique circles and, by the way, if you hear snoring in the background, that's my Boston Terrier. There's no way I can stop him. We've tried, I've done a hundred of my own podcasts and he's become the background music of our, of our show. But when I was first trying to really work with people on accepting critique and even working first getting myself to, there's a place in your writing where all you can really stand is encouragement right, you're really, really needing encouragement. When you get to the place where you're like thirsting for someone to tell you what is wrong, then you really know that you're at the point where you're. You're ready for something with more rigor. And whether you find yourself a writing group or critique group or whatever, as long as it's one where people can be respectful of each other and follow rules, right.

Pamela :

And you know, I believe in two thirds positive, one third negative and telling your truth in the kindest way possible, but not skimping on the truth, because I think the worst thing you can do for another writer who is ready and willing and open to feedback is to withhold the truth from them, at least your one person's opinion of it. Right, you know you, I always tell people and I give them critique. I am one reader, you know you don't like what I have to say, go find another. They're going to be other opinions. I am one human. But when you're thirsting for it, when you realize I no longer want someone to treat me like my mom, would I want the cold, hard, brutal truth then get out there and find just somebody that can give you that one other reader's opinion that might make the difference in whether what you're writing is something that's going to stay under your bed or be read by. You know, thousands, hundreds of thousands of people.

Greta:

That's really really good advice. I know what you said too, about how there is a phase where what you need is encouragement. It's really interesting. I never thought of it that way before, but it's true, because I remember in the very, very early days, you know, and I was in a couple of critique groups that were not the best for me, or I'd give stuff I wrote to family members, which is really stupid.

Megan:

Unless they're certified editors, in which case it can be helpful.

Greta:

Well, that's true. Well, my dad was an editor and a publisher and in the beginning he was encouraging. Now he's not. I guess he figures I'm published, I can take it. But yeah, it's like it was soul-crushing. It made you want to stop in the very, very beginning. But I remember that transition and I had gotten into the critique group that I'm in to this day with a lot of published authors, and I remember Desmanne, who's a very good friend of mine. Now I read something I wrote and he goes, yeah, that joke. At the end it wasn't funny and I realized it didn't hurt my feelings. I realized as soon as he said it it's like, oh yeah, it wasn't it does make sense it's a movement, yeah, yeah.

Megan:

And I was going to say too I think I've never thought of it that way. First of all, looking back at my own path, that was the turning point for me as well. I mean, I faced all the same thing, those same confidence issues, right, did the same thing as Greta. I sent it out to friends who I thought at least had an English degree from college she's not a lawyer, but she had an English degree, right. So I sent it out to people to read for critique, that first novel, which is completely unpublishable and will never be published, and this is sitting in a drawer. But it was incredibly challenging and mildly discouraging to get that feedback.

Megan:

But then the next book. When that one was ready, I was going OK, I need an editor to look at this, I need professional critique, someone professional who knows what they're talking about, who's published books, who is actually in the industry, to come and tell me if this is good enough, because I think it is, but I'm not sure. And at that point that was the book that became my debut novel. So you're right, there is that inflection point where you go from just learning and learning and learning and you just need to be motivated to OK, now this is a real thing.

Pamela :

Yeah, for a lot of people that write, they've never made it to the end of a novel before and they just need to keep going and have the excitement and confidence to get back in the chair and put their fingers on the keys or their hands on a pen and do it. And if you tell them too much negative at that point maybe it all stops for them. But once you've written one and gotten to the end, written maybe two, and you're starting to realize something in gelling here, my instincts tell me that it isn't as good as my mom says it is Right. Or my rejection slips are telling me it's not as good as my mom wanted me to think.

Greta:

Yeah, that is very, very true and that is a you know, we teach that in one of the courses that we teach is about the four levels of mastery, and the first level is like you're so ignorant, isn't the right word. Do you remember the right word, Megan? It's incompetent.

Greta:

You're so incompetent that you have no idea that you're incompetent. That's the first phase and it's kind of a happy phase because you usually think you're amazing because you don't even know. And then you reach this next level where it's like conscious incompetence and it's very painful, but that's where you see the growth when you realize, oh, my taste, what I love to read, and my taste in literary work, I can't replicate it. I don't know how to replicate it.

Megan:

And then.

Greta:

But that's where you really start to grow. But the first phase, that sort of a happy phase where you're unconsciously incompetent, you know, sometimes you just got to let people get through that Yep, and a nice little happy bubble. So that's fabulous advice. So, speaking of trying new things and challenging new things, I the way I found you. I found you was because I am a big CJ Box fan and a big Longmire fan and I was looking for something like that and I saw a. A chirp sent me a deal on your first Patrick Flynn novel and it was an audiobooks and pretty much just digest audio books these days Because if I sit down I feel like I have to be writing. But I bought it.

Greta:

And skeptically because I noticed that the author had had narrated it and it was fabulous and I loved it and I have since bought both of the box sets the.

Greta:

Patrick Flynn box sets. I've listened to the first box set but I haven't got to the second box set yet, but I love them and your narration is is spot on. It's really great. So how, how did you get the courage to tackle that? How did you learn how to do it? Because most authors don't narrate their own books and most authors should not narrate their own books.

Pamela :

Oh, do I agree with, with everything that mouthful you just said. So I had had hired narrators royalty share. I threw ACX back in the day for my first oh, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 12 books and no 17. I had some nonfiction. So for my first 17 books I worked with all these narrators and I first of all you know just surge of overconfidence thought I can perform them, and part of that was because I am somebody who is very comfortable as a speaker or on stage and so I felt like, okay, I can do this. You know I was.

Pamela :

I actually competed in they called it what did they call it? When I was in debate in high school, but I read stories. I competed, reading stories allowed, so whatever. Then whatever, I think they called it prose, a dumb name. But you are reading prose and, and for me the hurdle was I don't know what equipment to buy. I don't know how to set up a sound studio. I don't know how to Engineer it. You know how to get those all the specifications right.

Pamela :

And I decided with my Maggie killing in series that I would do it, and I made all the mistakes. I mean, I literally Recorded a whole book, only for it not to work, and cried and cried and cried and then I decided, okay, I'm going to do it again, even though this is the most demoralizing, you know, time-wasting experience of my life. And so I did and I got it right and I Discovered that they did sound good, that the, you know, once you got past the skeptics which I totally get I pretty much don't listen to author-read Narrated books but once I got past people skepticism, that you know, I could deliver it and I Discovered I could make money, especially because these were indie books. I went and published them on chirp, where you can Offer deals on your book, where you can apply for and get deals with bookbub, where they do bookbub chirp deals on your book. And I've made a lot of money with these, these self-narrated audiobooks.

Pamela :

And If you're not a performer, if you're not Technically adept, if you're not willing to try new things or if you actually should be spending your time writing, then you should not narrate audiobooks right. And and in fact I haven't narrated my last few, even one of my Patrick Flint's I gave over to a professional narrator At the, my seventh one, because I took up an additional book contract and I just all of a sudden was overwhelmed. But when I had the time, it was a great way to do a final proofread. You know, I would record these audiobooks before I published them and I used it as my final proofread and I was still able to make whatever changes I wanted, to just hit pause on recording and, you know, turn to your laptop and say that didn't work for me. Whatever, it is that when you're reading it feels weird and I found it to be a wonderful part of the process and I'm not averse to the idea of going back to it again.

Megan:

That's great. That's actually a technique I use sometimes for the editing process, right as part of the kind of final proofing. I don't usually read the entire book, but I'll definitely read chapters that I'm worried about or sections that I'm worried about, but to kind of double up and multitask, that's kind of brilliant, like I'm intrigued.

Pamela :

It really works, and I had never Taken the time not since my first or second book to read the book aloud, even though I know it's a great proofreading technique, you know. And yet I did it and I it was just golden on, I'm catching those last few errors more than my proofreaders were catching, because I would send it to a paid Copy editor, then I would send it to a team of proofreaders and then I would record the audiobook and then I'd keep catching the errors. So it really was Super useful. Multitasking.

Greta:

Mm-hmm, it's crazy that whole process of editing and how, how many drafts and, and then there's. But if you think about it, like say, your book is seventy five thousand words, that's seventy five thousand potential errors. I guess it does make sense that you know, but it is kind of crazy. Well, I think that's brilliant. Megan is Reading her books chapter by chapter on YouTube right now, so I think she's being very brave too.

Megan:

I am well and it's. It's an interesting process because and this is kind of what has me, you know, intrigued about your system here too and kind of your feedback on this because I Don't feel like I have the quality of a professional narrator I am not a voice actress, right, but I'm getting practice Reading chapter by chapter and putting it up there on on YouTube, and so I'm kind of I have been sort of Thinking about or percolating on the idea of trying to then convert those over to Audio books, but I don't know if that would actually work because, again, I don't know the technical requirements of the audiobooks, even though I've had audiobooks produced. I've always looked the engineer or the producer to. You know, the, the narrator handle all that stuff. So I don't actually know the specifications, but it's kind of an interesting Idea to think about as far as, like, if you're gonna do it, if you're gonna read the book anyway, why not try and see if it works?

Pamela :

I actually ended up being a Overpaid narrator for other people's books for a while as a side hustle, because I thought it was fun. And then I realized I was just procrastinating from writing my own books, so I gave up on that.

Greta:

Okay, now I'm gonna segue here again. When you say procrastinating on writing your own books, and I look at your website and you have so Friggin many books that this blew me away that you actually have a paid guide to your series. Like I, as a reader, could go spend a buck 99 on Kindle and and Download a guide to figure out where should I read, where should I start, how did this all these Books intersect and I was blown away. You are very prolific.

Pamela :

I, I have been at times and and I think, like a lot of authors, I also had, you know, I had a couple of books in the can before I started publishing that were ready to go, and so you know, not Nora Roberts level, you know, I think however many she had like 18 or something under the bed, but I still had four. So it was a nice head start. When I'm really cranking, you know, I'm not fast like the fantasy writers that write one a month or the romance writers that write one a month, but when I'm really cranking I can do four or five a year. I'm not cranking right now. Right now I am so not cranking. I'm practically retired right now. But I just Always have been this kind of person that can't stop, won't stop. So it's a disease. It's a disease.

Greta:

So you're not cranking, but you're kind of cranky. Is that real? Yeah, yeah.

Pamela :

Yeah, I. I'm having a lot of trouble with forward momentum and it's probably the first time in my 12 years of serious writing career that I've had this problem. So I have lots of empathy for people who say oh, I have writer's blocker, I'm having trouble getting going. I'm having trouble getting going for my first time ever, and it's not because I don't have time. I've got all the time in the world.

Megan:

Sometimes that's the problem, though. Yeah, I mean I don't know about for you, but sometimes it's. It's when I'm busier I'm able to get more done, like, and not just you know, and the work stuff, the marketing stuff, but also figure out ways to get more writing and too, whereas, like summer vacation, when everybody's kind of you know, lazy and oh I don't have to wake up early, and then pretty soon it's like, oh, I'm not ready, oh wait, yeah, and I need a good hard deadline.

Pamela :

I need to. I need to really feel it. So, but I have a million reasons why I'm being a slacker right now with the bottom line is Is I need to sit my butt in the chair and type more words? Yeah, so so explain to me, because when I was looking on your website, you have.

Greta:

How many books do you have? By the way, I've got 24 published novels and I have. I think that's correct.

Pamela :

I have 17 plus 7, yet 24 published novels, and then I have three more that are being published in January by book a tour. They're doing a simultaneous release that I'm terrified of and and then I have I have like five that are in progress in various stages. So you know there could be an explosion next year of Pamela Fagan Hutchins books, but I didn't publish anything for over the last year while I was working through the book a chair contract, but it's a lot of them so.

Greta:

So, before I go to the next question, so, before we get to the book, a chair contract, because that's something I want to ask you about as well. What I was seeing on your website is that all these different series and you have several are kind of interconnected and but yet Patrick Flint takes place in the 70s and these other ones, I think, are more modern. So I'm curious about that and and so anyway, but I have thoughts, but first I want to hear how are they interconnected? How does your brain work?

Pamela :

My brain works, as there's only one Pamela Fagan Hutchins world and that the characters that inhabit it, whether they're in the 1970s or whether they're 40 years older, in, and they're in 50 years older, having me years as far as 2020. I'm not a mathematician, I'm so 45 years older, but that they're all in one world and that they they don't exist in alternate realities and they all have the potential of Intersecting. So, for instance, with Patrick Flint, I have a new series that started coming out last year, the Jen Harrington mysteries, and they're also set in Wyoming, and they're set 40 years later and the Patrick Flint characters are there and their appropriate age, which is 40 years older. In those books, and then with all my other books, there are reasons for Characters to have connections and to enter each other's world.

Pamela :

The first series I wrote was the Katie Connell mysteries and that was a Texas to Caribbean, now a mystery.

Pamela :

So then the next series was her Texas best friend, and Then the next series was her law school roommate, and the next series was her Island best friend or Caribbean best friend, and then the next series was you know the law school roommates Friend from. You know the books that we met, you know back there and so I kept spinning off and it gave me, selfishly, a Way not to have to write more than three or four books per protagonist and they stayed fresh to me, really fresh, and I also saw the books is kind of a Without thinking of them as trilogies, which most of them were as a story arc right that you go across three books and within each book you have an arc and you have a plot, and within the series itself, or the trilogy, you have an arc and and and a character progression. So it worked for me and then I built those all into a super series. So that's what I did and it works for me because I just they're real to me.

Pamela :

So why, would they be real to each other was how I looked at it. Now it does get really super confusing trying to remember who did what, when, where, why and to whom. You know and how, and and thank God that we write and I have all my books in vellum in one and I have one that's just the Pamela Fagan Hutchins library, and each time I write something new I throw it at the end so that I can search it all at once and it's all you know, several million words right there in one vellum file and I can search it and try to figure out how to how to continuity With something I wrote ten years ago that I have to be consistent with because they're all in the same world.

Megan:

That's interesting. We actually just taught a or held a story Bible masterclass where we talked about all the things that you have to do to keep track of your series, but you take it to a whole nother level the complexity of how much stuff you have to keep in your head or on the page or be able to search and keep consistent, because I have enough trouble doing it with my five book series versus doing it over multiple series and multiple worlds or multiple story arcs, I guess.

Pamela :

I think that if you write fantasy and I think you do, right, yeah, I do I think that's harder because you are. You are, you're creating a world that is your own world, right, and it everything's different from the world the rest of us inhabit. So hats off to you, because I only have to keep my characters, continuity going within a world that's just like the one we live in for the most part. So I think yours is harder.

Megan:

Well, thank you, I actually you know. It's funny that you say that, though, because I feel like, with with fantasy, once you build the world, if you can stay in the world, it's so much easier versus having to build a new one for each series. Yeah, but because I don't know. I think too that even with you know mysteries or things that are set in contemporary earth, you know the US, even the place that you live. Right, you still have to do world building. You still have to understand what that town or city or place looks like. You still have to understand what the shops are and who's there and why they're there, what the culture is like. So I do think there's still. I think you're not giving yourself enough credit. Let me put it that way.

Pamela :

I think one of the things that this is me personally as a reader and so it's bled over into me as a writer is one of the most important things to me is authenticity, and that you really believe in the world, whether it's fantasy or contemporary mystery, and so that that really means that whatever is happening is authentic to the place and the time and the culture and the predominant religion and whatever ever subculture and and you know, et cetera is going on, and for the place, you know is because that then informs who the characters are and how they act, and and so I do think it's super important and and I really encourage people to pay a lot of attention to it, because building that really authentic world means that you can layer in really authentic characters and authentic events on top of it.

Megan:

Yeah, absolutely.

Greta:

Another thing that we've had conversations about is especially with this whole AI thing, and everybody's terrified that computers are going to write our books, which, based on how AI writes my book descriptions. They're not writing any books anytime soon, but what? One of the things that a lot of authors have been talking about is the idea that we are offering people in a immersive world.

Greta:

We're not just offering people one story, we're offering them, and I love that idea that there's only one Pamela Fagan Hutchins world and I kind of have done that same thing. I have one series that's more humorous and it has ghosts in it and stuff like that. And then I have a series that's domestic suspense and has no ghosts and it's not that funny and but they're both in the same world and I have, like my readers who like both worlds, in joy, like I'll put the same. I have a wine that I made up. It's called red ravish. That's in every book in my one series that's with the publisher, and so I just had my indie like mortician series person just run into a restaurant and find this wine and just love it, and so my readers like email me oh my gosh, you have red ravish in this. It's like this idea that you can plant these little things that make your world feel like you say it's layered in, real and authentic. You know, bringing in those those elements.

Pamela :

And then your readers feel like they found a special Easter egg that you hid within the pages just for them and they're super excited and start looking for more. You know.

Greta:

Yeah, it's just, it's a lot of fun and it works for, I think, a lot of authors too that our brains just kind of go there right. We have this imaginary world that we like to retreat into, and hopefully then we can take a whole bunch of readers with us.

Pamela :

Exactly, exactly.

Greta:

So talk, go ahead, megan your turn.

Megan:

I think we're both going to ask the same thing.

Greta:

Yes, I think so too, so you go ahead.

Megan:

Well, I was going to say so. Tell us I mean, given this, this interconnected world, there's only one Pamela Fagan Hutchins world. Tell us about the moving into a traditional contract, and you know publishing both indie and traditional.

Pamela :

I had always said that I didn't ever want to go traditional. I had, in the very beginning, sent out as everybody does query letters and I had a lot of success with it. You know the point at which I had three different manuscripts manuscripts out on full review with different literary agents my husband took me aside and said and he's the one that bought me the guide to literary agents and he said, sweetie, with all due respect, and I love you more than anyone in the world does, but you're a control freak and you don't want anyone telling you how to do it, when to do it, what to do. You know what your cover is going to look like, what your release schedule is going to look like. I'll support you whatever you want to do. But if you want to go indie, I'll help you do it.

Pamela :

And at first I thought that meant I was just going to put an ebook out there and then fade into oblivion and that someday maybe, you know, I'd write another book. But, as I said, the first one, the timing was good with Kindle and it did very well. And so I then launched on to this 10 year journey of writing indie books and it was great. But I reached a point where I realized I'm making money, which is, for me, is one measure of success, right, you look at it and say is this been worth my? You know my investment? And yet I am not with what I write, who my audience is and how I reach them. I don't think I'm going to jump any more big levels, so to speak. I'm going to make my little six figure income not little. I'm not minimizing that, but I'm going to do that and that's going to be it and I'm going to work really hard to do that. Or I could see if I could find somebody else to help me expand into their audience, somebody that wants my audience, that I can expand into theirs. And I had had several podcast guests on Crime and Wine that were writing for Booker Chore and had written for multiple other publishers. Some of them had written indie and were Booker Chore and they were all telling me they loved it and that these are my words that Booker Chore is like a super indie, meaning that they were nimble and made decisions like you would if you were an indie with your own books, but they were doing it on the order of magnitude of you know, huge, you know, as far as their sales and their number of authors, but that they treated it as this is digital publishing and we're not going to act like a chef, even though they own us. You know, we're going to act like Booker Chore and I loved that because that spoke to me.

Pamela :

So, anyway, I submitted to them and got in with an editor who I love, and we proceeded to not publish the book they were going to publish for me, because I didn't want to make the changes they wanted me to make. And I was thinking, gosh, my husband was right, I'm completely uncooperative. And so I said hey, I'll just talk to you guys in a year, because I'm going to go ahead and publish this book and if I'm going to publish it, I'm going to write a few more and make it worth my while. And they said wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. What about another book? Tell us another book you'd write. And I said Okay, what about this? And they said that sounds great, write us a pitch. I wrote him a pitch and they said Super, now let's change.

Pamela :

And they started going through the list again and I thought, oh God, it's just sitting working for me and I said no, I really don't want to do this. They said, okay, we'll do it your way. Signed a contract Nice when I'm turning into the first bit of it and they're like, could we change? And again it was back to exactly the same thing and it was a decision point. It was like am I going to be able to do this? And my husband said, pamela, you owe it to yourself to try and do it their way once, because you have just been telling us that your way is tapped out and you don't think you can find that many more readers. I said, damn it. And I wrote the book they asked for and it didn't kill me. And it was. If they wanted me to write a more procedural, to have a deputy as my protagonist instead of amateur sleuth. And I was fighting like a horse from first time, with a bit you know. No, I will not know, I will not. I did. It didn't kill me, it turned out great.

Pamela :

My beta readers like it even better than the stuff I've written Indy. The process didn't kill me, it nearly did and we're going to have to. Really, I'll tell you. I've been told, no matter what, they won't do what you ask them. They're fantastic, they're wonderful. And if you tell them you don't like their covers. They're going to say, oh, we're so sorry, and they're going to do what they want. They changed all the covers for me. I'm nervous about the release strategy and they've offered to change that for me. They're being awesome and I'm just a nut job because I've been an Indy for 10 years, you know, and I think I know everything right, except I don't. That's why I'm with them. So finally, I just said you know what Succeed, or fail, let's do it your way, because this was me in the first place saying let's, let's do this because I want to try something different. It's almost like I said it's almost killed me, but I love them. I love them and it's almost killed me.

Greta:

You know, I thought that's a fabulous story because I think we do that like, especially when we've been doing something for a period of time, we get in our little rut, our little way of doing things, and then this is like a real step outside and, like you say it, what doesn't kill kill you, makes you stronger, right, that's probably exactly.

Greta:

Yeah, police procedural scares the tar out of me too. I don't blame you for putting your foot down on that, because everybody's so picky and they know where they think they know because of how many CSI episodes they've watched, or whatever.

Pamela :

So I'm, I'm. They wanted me to write Wyoming, that's, that's what they liked, is how I did Wyoming. And they wanted me to have a female deputy. And so I went to my friend who's the chief of police and, and you know, down the hall from the county, you know, sheriff, and I said, travis, I can't do this without you. I'm absolutely terrified. I've, I've always, you know, turned to people, at least locally, for local information, if not job specific, if I hadn't done that job before, and he's been fantastic. And so I basically been on speed text with the police chief in the small town. That is really what the small town is based upon in these books. And I chose to stay small town because that also means you don't have CSI, right you?

Greta:

don't have.

Pamela :

it's all much more, not much more Longmire, it's much more CJ box right, it is really how it is in a smaller community. So I didn't have to worry about high technology for the most part and in fact what I worry about is weather, and you know bad criminals and mountain lions and you know the things that you worry about if you're fighting crime in the wild, wild West.

Greta:

Well, and that's sort of easier because you were already in that mode Exactly, you already have bad guys and mountain lions in your books.

Pamela :

It was a way for me to segue and these books are in the Pamela Fagan Hutchins world. You know I did not have to go and create a new timeline. I've managed to work in some drops in each book not a ton, because it's extraneous to what we're trying to achieve, but there are there little nuggets in there that are from my readers of my other series that they will recognize character names or songs on the radio that are make believe songs that I made up. You know that things like that, yeah.

Megan:

I think those Easter eggs are so important for readers though. So I think that's really smart of you, because you are, by doing that, you are bringing your current audience over and, hopefully, getting the new audience interested enough that when they go back to your backlist on your indie published stuff which they will because they're going to love your books then it's already you know it's already in place, and so they'll be. They'll have their own Easter eggs once they go back. Oh, that's what she was referring to, or there's that song again, or you know whatever. So I think that's so, so smart and the best way to maximize that hybrid published author, publisher yeah.

Pamela :

That right.

Megan:

How are you going to phrase that? Yeah, exactly.

Pamela :

And going forward now with my contemporary books. I can, I can reverse Easter egg right, and now I can even cross over ties into this new series, which is is going to be fun. I can't go back in time for Patrick Flint Maybe the ancestors of some of these characters. I can, I can write into Patrick, but it's it's working and we'll see how it goes. You know it's going to be my first release with them in January, but no matter what, I think I win right Because even if it's not a smash success by their standards, they're still bringing me new readers into, into what it is that I have already written and I you know. So who knows how it will go, but that was my goal.

Megan:

And.

Pamela :

I felt like I had nothing to lose other than a year and a half of tearing my hair out. It took me longer to write these books because you go through their process, but it was. It's still pretty fast. I mean, they're a digital publisher and they churn yeah.

Megan:

That's.

Greta:

I've always been really interested in book assure. Did you have to? Just a quick question, sorry to cut you off, megan Did you need an agent to pitch them, or did they have open submission, or how did that work?

Pamela :

I had just parted with an agent and I actually decided that I would wait until that was official because they don't require you to be agented. About half the authors are agented and half or not. I think it doesn't hurt because you've got somebody with credibility vouching for you. But I happened to know their maybe their second top selling author and be friends with her, and so I had, and she was also had become a reader, so I had her kind of advocating for me and that, I think, helped in the process. But honestly, they are looking for people that are writers, that they like their writing and they're willing to write in one of their genres and they understand digital publishing. You know that they are not so entrenched in traditional, traditional publishing that that transition is going to be hard for them and that for the most part, they want somebody that's willing to write not to occasionally write, because you know they want to feed the racist readers of series, so that but they also do standalone psychological thrillers. They've had fantastic success this year with freedom McFadden's housemaid series.

Greta:

She is just rushing it free to make that. We need to have her on the podcast because it's like, yeah, she's super nice.

Pamela :

I had her on mine and they just signed her to do the third in the series. She really is crushing it and they did a fantastic job with her. They they opened new doors for her. They hit new milestones for her as well, as she'd been doing that she hadn't been able to hit on her own and, and you know that's I think they're great. And there's other. You know, like the guy that founded Bookature's founded a new publishing company now that is non-compete is over, called Storm. You know there's some others that are doing this. You know, kind of I don't know what you would call it, it's almost like alt traditional you know, yeah, that they got traditional backing.

Pamela :

I mean, half of the authors that write for Bookature have Grand Central Pub book deals and they've got, you know, translations all over the world and things like that. So if they think that the sales merit it, they're going to die deeper and they've got all the relationships in place, but they're not going to waste all the money upfront because they're like an indie, like a super indie right, they're not that dumb. Let's see where we need to invest our money first, instead of dump you know scat money and then pulp a bunch of books.

Greta:

Very interesting. Yeah Well, we're just going to have to have you on next year again so you can tell us how the grand experiment worked Now fingers crossed. Yeah, but I do love like there's so many opportunities these days for people that did not exist in the past. You know, like you say alt traditional, that's like a whole new category. I like that. Thank you.

Pamela :

I couldn't think of a way to describe it. I can't. I just randomly came to me. So yeah, it is very much what it's like. Yeah, it's interesting.

Megan:

So tell us a little bit about your crime and wine podcast, because all the time I'm just like I'm not a thriller writer and I'm not so much a crime reader. I do like wine and readings.

Pamela :

Well, I started a podcasting sporadically. I usually do it about nine months at a time and then take a break with authors on the air, global Radio Network and Pam Stack. She produces all the shows and I'd been a guest on her show and kind of like everything. She said that I had the gift of gab. So I gabbed and originally it was wine, women and writing, and you know just the idea of the kind of books you read for book club and I talked to other women writers about their female protagonists etc. But as I got deeper into writing crime fiction, I kind of rebranded as crime and wine and I don't restrict myself to women only now, but really to the crime writers that I want to write. And then I mean I've had my heroes on the show. You know everybody, from Sandra Brown to you know more contemporary heroes, like Craig Longmeyer, who when I first had him on the show I credit long, I credit Johnson. When I first had him on the show I knew that I lived only half an hour away from him in Wyoming but had never met him and so it was fun to pitch him. And then when he said where do you want to do the interview, I said, you know how, about the Occidental, which is a bar in Buffalo, wyoming? You know that's the setting of his books. He calls it Absaroka, but it is, you know, of Durant, Absaroka, county, durant, but it is based in Buffalo, wyoming. The places are the same, and we met in the Occidental and people started realizing that we were doing a show and that that was the Craig Johnson, and so we had people on, because it's 10 o'clock in the morning on a Friday. So of course people are in a bar in Wyoming. You know it makes total sense, right? They're getting on their phones and watching the interview while they watch the interview, and that was a lot of fun. So it's been a fantastic way for me to meet other authors and in fact it's largely why I did it.

Pamela :

As my face to face community building shrunk, I moved up to the face of a mountain in Wyoming instead of living in the urban jungle of Houston. I needed another way to cross promote other authors, to get to know new authors and to keep building those types of relationships that we started this show, talking about right People that help each other, and and so originally my guest list just read like a menu of who do I want to meet, you know, ok, let's call Robert DeGoni next, let's call CJ Box next. And you know, and nobody ever said no, so it was great. I've really enjoyed it and it's how I've gotten great blurbs from books. You know I've had advice, friends, people referring me into their publisher. You know, for me it's been, it's been great, and then, you know, it's fun too.

Greta:

Yeah, I mean, that's sort of part of the reason that Megan and I started this podcast we want to help listeners, but it's also been a great chance to like have an excuse to. You know, let's see if Pamela wants to be on the show and then I get to pick her brain and and meet her.

Greta:

And you know we've had some amazing guests and it really is, and it is that you're not just walking up to somebody and saying, hey, give me your advice and help me out and teach me things. You're offering them a gift because everybody wants a little extra publicity and wants people to find them. And so I think Joanna Penn, who is one of my you know virtual mentors she she talked about that when she started her podcast back in the day was for the exact reason, the exact same reason you know. Well, it's a great opportunity.

Megan:

Yeah, to bring it back full circle, it's the five people you surround yourself with, right? So if you're getting you know locally, you might not have the opportunity to be friends with or pick the brains of or talk to, you know, the leading experts in the industry or your favorite authors or whatever. But by doing the podcast, yes, for us, right, like we obviously want to help writers, that's our whole focus is on making sure that we're getting you know tips and tricks and best practices and ideas and inspiration for writers. But guess what? We're doing that for ourselves too, and getting to meet some wonderful, wonderful people and have those conversations. So it's really, I think, been helpful for us to kind of up our own games too, both on the fiction side as well as the nonfiction side, as we continue to try, try to build both sides of our, our businesses. So, so, yeah, so for all of you out there, like five being on a podcast, Exactly, absolutely.

Pamela :

And you know what's really cool is it is very rare that I don't end a podcast episode and spend another 20 minutes talking with that person after we get off the air and then trade emails and become friends with I mean, it's really the exception rather than the rule. And they're the first people I think of when I think gosh, I've got a new release and I wonder if anyone would like to do a giveaway, you know, in my group to help promote the release or whatever you know. And it immediately becomes something where I want to do something for them again. I've just done a whole show for them. I've just plastered their name and their book everywhere. But that friendship is real and you carry that forward with you and they become part of, you know, your ongoing community of helping each other. It's just the gift that keeps on giving.

Megan:

Put good karma out and hopefully get good karma back in return, and I hate that. You know, I personally, when it comes to like cross promotions and things like that, I don't necessarily keep track of who I've promoted, right Like, I don't go tic-tac one for one Well, I promoted you, so now you need to promote me. I just keep putting that stuff out and figure at some point other people will return the favor, and if they don't, they don't. But if they do, awesome and we're all good, right Like. So it's just kind of that generosity wins the day attitude.

Pamela :

Exactly. The longer you wait to ask for something and just keep doing nice stuff, the more effective it is when you do actually need to ask. In fact, you realize you've never had to ask because people just noticed you were the kind of person that do for other people and they started doing nice things for you. It is a put the good energy out and the good energy comes back. It really works.

Greta:

Cast your bread upon the waters and it'll come back buttered Right.

Pamela :

There you go.

Greta:

Yeah.

Megan:

All right. Well, I think those were all the topics we had on our agenda for today. Anything else, Greta, that you want to ask before we do the final wrap up?

Greta:

Actually, I'm just going to wait till we hang up and then yeah.

Megan:

And then we'll have our 20 minute conversation.

Greta:

We'll have our conversation at that point, yeah.

Pamela :

Well, you guys, this has been great. Thank you so much.

Megan:

Well, so, pamela, tell us on air, here first, where we can find you, your books, best places to you know, meet you virtually online or engage with you, and of course, we will have all these links in the show notes as well.

Pamela :

Great. Well, you can get my books anywhere online. Don't be afraid to ask your local library to order them for you as well. And you will find me at PamelaFaganHudginscom. And the best place to engage with me, I think, is probably Facebook. I've got a Facebook page PamelaFaganHudgins author. I've got a group called Pamela's Posse. I've got a fairly strong presence on Instagram, but I don't know about you guys. I've tried TikTok. I am not yet TikTok. I'm not TikTokable. So anyway, one of these days maybe I'll figure it out, and that's probably the best places to find me Awesome.

Megan:

Well, thank you so much for joining us. This has been a fabulous conversation. I know I picked up a lot of tips and ideas, so I'm going to work on that self narration concept here a little bit. But anyway, thank you so much for joining us and to all of our listeners keep your stories rolling.

Author Wheel Podcast
Overcoming Roadblocks in Writing
Self-Narrating Audiobooks and Overcoming Writer's Block
Interconnected Series and World Building
Transitioning From Indie to Traditional Publishing
Easter Eggs and Publishing Opportunities
The Benefits of Podcasting for Authors
Finding and Engaging With Pamela Fagan Hudgins