Patricia Mendez has catered and coordinated special events in the Los Angeles area since the early 1990’s. Her experience also includes coordinating a Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) community group for three years and working with women of all ages as a Director of Women’s Ministries for eight years. She met many “new nesters” who had the desire to entertain family and friends, but lacked know-how and experience. It was for this audience that she wrote her first book, EASY ENTERTAINING FOR BEGINNERS.
She has taught many cooking classes and currently teaches “Easy Entertaining for Beginners” cooking classes for novice hosts/hostesses in Torrance, CA. She speaks/teaches at women’s groups and has written articles/menus for website newsletters. She was recently a guest chef at Torrance Citicable Channel Community Cooking Show, airing in October 2008.
When Patricia is not writing or teaching, she is a home chef who loves to throw fun parties!
Welcome to Beyond the Books, Patricia.Can you tell us whether you are published for the first time or multi-published?
I have an autographed copy of a published collection of Haiku poems from my second grade class. (Ha-ha). Yes, it’s true; I was published in the second grade. However, this is my first time being published as an adult.
Can you give us the title(s) of your book(s)?
The title of my book is Easy Entertaining for Beginners.
How many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?
I researched very carefully whether the best course for me was a mainstream trade publisher or if I should consider self-publishing. After several months of reading, researching, asking questions, etc. I decided the best thing for me was to get behind the learning curve and self-publish my book. While I realize there are pros and cons to both traditional publishing and self-publishing, I felt I could put in the effort to promote my book and make a return for longer period of time if I self-published, especially with my genre of book – cookbook. So, I read, read, read and then I read some more. I did however pay a fee to a reputable consulting firm to give me an objective critique on the manuscript. I felt this was an important step before investing in the production and promotion of the book.
How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?
The critique of the manuscript from the consulting firm was very favorable with a few suggestions for minor polishing. I did send the manuscript for advance comments to several people. Of course, all of the well-known authors ignored my requests and one author who I had never heard of (I found in the Yearbook of Experts) agreed to look at the manuscript. The menus and music suggestions in the book were not to her liking and skewered me on several points. She was blunt and expressed her opinions very freely. I felt like I had been slapped in the face but reminded myself that if I asked for comments/reviews, I had better be prepared for people to give them. So I tried to learn from it and moved on. Thankfully that has been to date, the only negative comments the book has received.
When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?
My husband and I started Maple Heights Press in August 2007 and chose to publish the book ourselves. From that point on, I moved on from author to publisher and strove to learn everything I could about publishing and bringing a book to market. I set my goal to produce the highest quality book that would compete with books from major trade publishers. So I hired the best editor and book designer that I could find. I also hired a reputable advertising copy writer for the back cover matter, researched and found a competent book printing company and laid all the ground work within the publishing system to bring the book to market.
How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
It felt great and I was very thankful for all the support and help I received along the way. I acknowledged the many people that helped and supported on an acknowledgement page in the book. They each received a thank you note and autographed book. On the publishing date, August 1, 2008 we dined at a local restaurant owned by a celebrated five star chef with some friends of ours. With all the work of publishing the book it was very enjoyable to “stop and smell the roses” so to speak and just enjoy the moment.
What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?
I received the printed books 4 months before the publication date and immediately sent out review copies. I sent them to newspapers, trade journals and internet reviewers. I felt this was an especially important task because I was self-published. I could personally think that the book was helpful and useful and accomplished its purpose, but I really needed other people to review it and give their opinion for the book to appear legitimate. After all, it can be viewed that the person closest to the work (i.e., author), may not have the ability to be objective about it. Independent reviewers do have that ability. Since I am not a celebrity, all of the major newspapers and trade journals did not choose it for review. I was able to get several reputable internet reviewers to review it and they all loved it. Recently I have had a few small newspapers review it and their reviews were favorable as well. I had a good size newspaper in Florida contact me about featuring the book in a special “Entertaining” section of their newspaper this coming November along with 5 other titles.
If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?
For me, it is too early to tell. Self-publishing has been challenging and overwhelming and satisfying. It is many things and I think time will tell if I can fill that role effectively. I am certainly willing to give it my best effort! And by the way, there are so many other micro and small publishers who are very generous with their time and experience in helping others. Their articles and seminars have been a tremendous help to me.
Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?
Since my book has only been on the market for a couple of months, I am concentrating my full attention on promoting this one and not yet thinking too much about writing a future book. On top of all my publishing duties, I am as well, promoting the book as the author. This includes writing lots of internet articles, newsletters and I have been writing and querying articles for print magazines as well. I feel I have something to contribute to the scores of people who want to start to entertain their family and friends, but may be overwhelmed at where to start. I am so convinced that entertaining adds extraordinary quality and enjoyment to life that I want to help beginners gain confidence and pull off successful casual entertaining.
Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up?What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?
In my particular case, I think everything moved along just about as fast as it should have. I needed to take the time to understand what I was getting myself into (self-publishing), count the costs (not just financially) and make sure I understood as much as I could and would be able to see it through. I was very careful about getting lots of estimates and taking my time when making financial decisions about the production of the book.
What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?
In the area of book promotion, I would say pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I have really had to have the courage to try new things. While this can occasionally cause stress, ultimately, I feel like I’m growing and becoming more refined and able to relate to and help beginners learn to entertain much more effectively.
If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?
I’m pretty content right where I am. I loved being a stay-at-home mom for the years I raised my three boys. I always enjoyed being creative and catering and coordinating special events was a way to express that. I take pleasure in teaching beginners in my “Easy Entertaining for Beginners” cooking classes. In between promoting my book, teaching classes and writing, I love spending time with my husband, Augie and spending time with my 6 young grandchildren. Wow, I’m tired, just thinking about all of this. What can I say? I am blessed.
Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?
Balancing all these things is a challenge. I ask the Lord every day to bless my work and I do my best to be wise with my time and fruitful in my life. There are so many good things to enjoy.
How do you see yourself in ten years?
Good question. Older and wiser for sure. Lord willing, helping a new generation of beginners find satisfaction and enjoyment in showing their love and care to those near and dear to them.
Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
Throw out your pre-conceived notions of what it is like to be a published author because most folks have an unrealistic, romantic notion of what it is like. If you think you have something to contribute and you aren’t afraid of hard work, then try your hand at it. Lean on authors and publishers who have gone on before. They have a wealth of helpful information. And last but not least, pray about it. We can muster up furious energy and generate all kinds of activity; we can make all the plans we want, but ultimately it is God who determines our steps.