After reaching out for author interviews and guest blogs in a women's writing group on Facebook, I met Andy Lee, one of the founding members of Pub518, an all-female tiny press in New York. We decided to exchange interviews, and got to know a lot about each other along the way!
You started Pub518 back in 2016. What was the turning point for your group that finally made you decide to go into publishing?
The four of us met during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2014. I’d done it seven or eight times before, finished it three times. Shannon Kauderer, one of our co-founders, is the Area Leader for Albany NY, she does an amazing job setting up neighborhood write-ins and other events. We kept up our friendship, and our write-ins! At one point, we were moaning about how hard it is to get published. One of the prizes for completing NaNoWriMo is the opportunity to send in work to publishers and editors, but even those folks rarely get published. We decided we wanted to open up opportunities for local writers, many of them are really good! It really has taken off, in terms of submissions, the hard work now is selling enough books to pay for the next one.
What hardships did you face when building Pub518 versus the difficulties or issues you may face now?
Our first year was full of potholes! None of us had ever started up an LLC before, so it was a sharp learning curve getting our business and tax status squared away with New York State and the Federal Government. We also spent a lot of time figuring out what we wanted to do, or start doing, with Pub 518. Obviously we wanted to give local and other writers a chance to get in print, but we also wanted to create a quality product, and we didn’t want to go ‘boutique’, charging writers to publish their work. We decided to initiate a Kickstarter campaign to get the money for our first anthology, Dark and Bitter (https://smile.amazon.com/Dark-Bitter-518-Publishing-ebook/dp/B077QNV838/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1548269800&sr=8-2&keywords=Dark+and+Bitter). That was a pretty intense time. There was a lot of excitement generated around the anthology, and people were amazingly supportive. Even Neil Gaman tweeted a link for us!
Now things seem a little calmer, we know what we’re doing a little better, but there are always ripples we are dealing with. We switched to a new web server recently, and have to make more time for conferences, workshops, readings, and other events. Trying to sell books to make enough for the next publication is a challenge. We’re thinking about taking on individual novels, which is a lot to add, since none of us are able to dedicate ourselves full time to this. So far, all our profits have gone right back into more publishing, paying for advertising and recouping expenditures for conference and other expenses. Our second book is Exploits in the Adirondacks ( https://www.amazon.com/Exploits-Adirondacks-Shannon-Yseult/dp/1720619905/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1548272830&sr=8-1&keywords=exploits+in+the+adirondacks ), it came out last year. Our third is already in production, we’ve been reading submissions and will be out later this year.
As publishing is a full-time endeavor, how do you manage to balance work and writing creatively?
None of us work full time at this, none of us could, yet! We divide up the work, and most weeks all we have to take care of are our marketing commitments. Obviously we get busy when it’s time to decide which submissions get into the next anthology, sending emails, marketing, and so on, We can only give the time we have. We make time to attend conferences and fairs, as well, to sell our books and to network. There are a lot of little details that we divide and conquer. Finding writing time for all of us is a challenge. We still meet weekly, not just the four of us, all the NaNoWriMo folks! It’s a super supportive community of people. I go when I can, and it’s always very satisfying when I can make progress on my own work.
You have a degree in Creative Writing and Anthropology, as well as an MFS in Forrest Science. How did having knowledge in such different fields help with your career and/or personal works?
I’m not sure it’s helped much with my career, but having a diverse background has been a real blessing in many ways. Mostly, it’s fed my curiosity about things, from human culture to ecosystems. How things work, especially interactions, interdependencies. I love when I write about something, delve in and mine a gem, bringing up a little nugget of understanding that I can share with others. It’s so satisfying!
All the women that are on the executive board for Pub518 have such different collegiate and career backgrounds. How does that influence the jobs you do at Pub518?
Not sure how we decided who does what, it’s more about what we were good at, how much time we each have, and what we want to learn how to do (because we all had to learn a LOT). We all have a lot of respect for each other, we’re different in a lot of ways but it’s brought a vastness to our interests and skills. I think Pub518 has seen some terrific success so far because we each bring a fresh and deep perspective, and commitment, to our work.
How does your work differ from that of a larger press? What are the pros and cons?
Pub518 is a Tiny Press. Our intention is to give unpublished writers a chance to build their resume. We don’t charge (we try to compensate at least a little), and we provide final editing (we do an initial read and recommend edits that the author has to do) and a cover as part of our service. It’s really satisfying to get to know these wonderful writers who haven’t yet been ‘discovered’. Authors may not get much money from us, not right now anyway, but we do try to get out in public, market the books, and give folks a chance to start writing more professionally.