Publisher Interview: Andy Lee

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 ( 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 ( ), 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.

Book Spotlight: The Shady Side: Shortcut to Uneasy Street

In an attempt to broaden my reading horizons, as well as connect with other authors, I reached out to people in writing Facebook groups I belong to, asking if anyone wanted to guest blog on my website. That was how I was introduced to this book and I have to say, I was not disappointed.

Noble does a fantastic job of weaving the supernatural and macabre into a suburban-esque setting. Her characters are compelling, and each story (this is a collection of six short stories) is as interesting as the last.

I want to spotlight my two favorite stories here. The first is "Defensive Driving." It follows the story of a man who cannot, for the life of him, stay calm behind the wheel of a car. It certainly doesn't help that his truck is named The Beast, either. When he's gifted a hula dancer to put on his dash, things seem to look up. But, of course, the peace doesn't last for long. Noble manages to create an interesting story in just a few short pages, keeping the readers guessing as to what the insidious factor of the story will be.

My second favorite is "Wrath," simply because it's told from the point of view of a crow, and there's a hippie woman who reminds me a lot of Cosima from Orphan Black. It's seriously one of the more interesting stories to unpack, but I won't give any of it away.

Noble has 160 published works ranging from poetry to nonfiction. And I bet each story is as artfully crafted as the last. I thoroughly enjoyed reading these stories; they reminded me of the ghost stories I used to read in summer camp as a kid, the ones where you'd put a flashlight under your chin and try to frighten all your friends.

Do yourself a favor, if you're into horror and suspense, grab yourself a copy of this book. The nostalgia, alone, should be enough to compel you. And if not, Noble's artful writing surely will be.

You can get a copy of the book on Amazon, grab the eBook, or visit her online at

Writer’s Block

Writer’s block. That sneaky, depraved demon that wraps its claws around your brain and turns you into an unimaginative robot. You know what I’m talking about. When you sit there staring a blank screen, trying (and ultimately deleting) anything to progress on your latest work. It impacts all writers, but I’ve discovered some things to cure, or at least treat the symptoms of, writer’s block.

  • Start outlining your work. A lot of writer’s block can stem from a lack of direction. It helps to look up plot summaries of movies or books that are similar to your manuscript, and then follow their flow and structure.
  • Already have an outline? Work on one for another book. Or work on fine-tuning the one you have. If that fails, character development is always fun. Look up some in-depth character-building sites and go nuts!
  • Reread what you already have. There’s a quote from Once Upon A Time that says, “You know, when I get struck by a block, I usually reread what I’ve done, rather than plow ahead blindly. Sometimes, I find there’ll be a little nugget of inspiration left behind.” You’re in a different head space when you first start writing. Sometimes, a flash of that previous intention can help spur you on.
  • Read other things you’re working on, read a book, or watch TV/a movie. Sometimes, we see things and wish we could’ve written them differently. Often, that’s all it takes.
  • Take time off! Yes, we all have deadlines. However, writer’s block could just be your mind’s way of saying you need a break. So, step away from your writing for a week. Usually, I only last a couple of days before my manuscript’s sweet siren song calls me back.

Do you have another way you work around or treat writer’s block?

Traditional Publishing vs Self-Publishing

I’ve been asked numerous times about the self-publishing vs. traditional publishing debate. Here’s what I’ve learned from my own work, as well as from my mentors.

Traditional Publishing:

So, you’ve finished your novel. Now, you have two options: 1) find an agent, or 2) try to go directly to a publisher. You’ll find a lot of lingo you might not be familiar with. The first to consider yourself with is unsolicited vs solicited manuscripts.

Many publishers won’t take unsolicited manuscripts, which really means a manuscript that isn’t attached to an agent. Smaller presses accept unsolicited manuscripts, but larger publishers will only accept solicited, meaning you’ll need an agent to get your foot in the door.

The way you’ll find an agent or publisher will be through the Literary Marketplace. Yes, Google is a viable source, but the Literary Marketplace houses everything you’ll need. It’ll tell you whether you need an agent, what genres these agents or publishers are looking for, and it’ll give you a correct way to contact them. The Marketplace is a rather large book. I got mine back in 2013 for about $13. I’m not sure what they go for nowadays, but I found it an irreplaceable source.

Once you comb through the Marketplace and make your list of agents and/or publishers, you’ll need to craft a query letter or cover letter. These are basic letters that will haunt you—I mean, be a part of your life as an author. (You can find great templates to follow on Google. Pick the one that feels right for you!)

The other thing to consider is that when you reach out to an agent or publisher, there’s something called simultaneous submissions. Most, if not all, agents and publishers say they don’t accept simultaneous submissions, which really means you can only send your query to one agent or publisher at a time. Then, you’ll have to wait three months before you can send your info to the next person on your list. This can seem tedious, but it’s because the agent/editor/publisher wants the exclusive right to offer you a contract if they like your work.

A thing to remember is that your manuscript MUST be complete before you query anyone. Otherwise, you’ll get shut down. You’ll need a complete wordcount, which shouldn’t be 10,000 words above or below the average wordcount for your specific genre. Even if you’ve got the next Harry Potter, agents and publishers won’t want to take that kind of risk with a baby writer.

The best thing about traditional publishing—outside of not spending your own money to bring it to life—is their marketing team. However, my old English professor explained to me that just because you’ve got a crackpot marketing team doesn’t equate success.

For example, if your novel comes out the same time as a Stephen King novel, you could have the best marketing team in the world, and you book would still be put on the back shelves and forgotten.

Another thing to consider is the content itself. You may have heard horror stories about the editing department deciding at the last minute that they want to change the name of your main character. And they have every right to do so. A basic publishing contract gives the company the right to make changes that will make the book better for marketing. You could end up with a story similar to, but not exactly the same as, when you entered.


You have to worry about none of the above with self-publishing. That being said, this is not the easier option. Yes, you have complete creative control. But, you have complete creative control.

You’re the cover designer, the editor, the formatter, the marketer, the distributer, etc. Sure, you can hire most of these people, but that means you’re paying out-of-pocket for services that are readily available for free with a traditional publisher.

That being said, there is nothing that compares to seeing the cover you’ve envisioned come to life. To putting your blood, sweat, and tears into your manuscript and seeing it become a physical book you hold in your hands. The only changes you make are the ones you want, and, in the end, you get the book you wanted.

However, you’re responsible for marketing. You have to be extroverted enough to sell yourself to friends and strangers. You need to believe in your product enough to put yourself out there. You have to be ready to work hard at earning sales. Just because you put it up on Amazon doesn’t mean you’ll immediately make money. You have to beg people for reviews, climb your way to success. But that doesn’t mean self-publishing is the harder path to choose.

I spoke with an author at Florida SuperCon who had been self-published and traditionally published. She said that she preferred self-publishing because of the creative control, the control over marketing, and the higher royalty percentage. Turns out, she made more money through self-publishing.

There are also a number of self-publishing options out there. Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (formerly CreateSpace) is the most popular, given its user-friendly formatting and Amazon platform. There’s sure to be one to fit your budget and computer skills. However, it isn’t always cheap. If you want to self-publish right, things will add up.

On average, it costs $350 (for a cover) + $125 (for an ISBN—unless you use one KDP provides, which is free) + $875 (for editing, depending on your editor’s rates and work needed) + your time and sanity = $1,350. Which isn’t counting formatting (if you need to pay for help), marketing, and little things that could pop up along the way.

Self-publishing is a lot of work. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. But I feel that it’s worth it in the long run, when you get to look the people you love in the eye and share your dream with them. Because, as Capital One used to say, that’s priceless.