L.A. Jacob (00:00:23): Hi, and welcome to Small Publishing in a Big Universe. I am your host, LA Jacob. Today’s interview will be a discussion with Steven D. Brewer and Kathy Sullivan.
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Steven D. Brewer (00:02:24): Welcome to Small Publishing in a Big Universe. I’m your host Steven D. Brewer, and my guest is Kathy Sullivan. Welcome.
Kathy Sullivan (00:02:31): Thank you.
Steven D. Brewer (00:02:33): I had a great time working with you at the dealer table in Arisia and there’s so many questions I’d love to ask you. There’s so many things we could talk about, but we’re here mainly to talk about your writing and small presses. So, what’s your most recent story about?
Kathy Sullivan (00:02:45): Well, I’ve got two reprints just came out: Talking to Trees. It’s about talking trees. Griffin’s a girl who’s pulled into a parallel universe on talking horses and the other reprint is Michael and the Elf. Michael finds a small elf in his backyard and tries to help it go home.
Steven D. Brewer (00:03:02): So why did you write these books originally?
Kathy Sullivan (00:03:04): Michael and the Elf. Oh, my poor nephew. He keeps hearing about this every time. When I was younger, when Brian was a baby, he had ears that looked like an elf. So I started writing a story about him and this was when I started trying to get published when I was about 18 or so. Talking to Trees, this is a sequel to The Crystal Throne. I knew I wanted to write a sequel and as a university librarian I kept coming across all these articles about tree diseases popping up. All of a sudden, it’s like it just hit me and says what is happening and what the evil villain was going to be, which was something who was trying to kill off all the trees.
Steven D. Brewer (00:03:41): I was gonna ask you what the inspiration is for your most recent book, but it sounds to me like you’ve already nailed the inspirations for those things. So, let’s move on and talk about what’s your work schedule like when you’re writing?
Kathy Sullivan (00:03:53): I mean before I retired, the work schedule was, I’d get up really early before I had to go to work and start writing and then I’d have breakfast, wake up my bird and then head off to work and then I’d come back home and work on it again after the bird has gone to sleep. She’s rather possessive. Now that I’m retired, unfortunately, she’s right on me all the time. So it depends on if I’ve got a deadline or if I’m really inspired then I’ll move upstairs ‘cause normally I’m sitting outside the bird room so I can basically play with her. Moluccan cockatoos are very loud and very, very, very, I affectionate. So occasionally I’ll be trying to write, and I’ll suddenly have a bird land on my shoulder, but then once to walk down my arm to look at the laptop, walk back up the arm, walk over. So, if I’m got a deadline I will move up to, this is the upstairs room where I basically used to do a lot of the writing, but it depends on time.
Steven D. Brewer (00:04:46): So one thing that was interesting to me when we were together at Arisia, you talked about the fact that you’ve been attending conventions for a long time, both as a fan and as an author. What’s your strategy for making them work for you?
Kathy Sullivan (00:04:57): Well, nowadays because I am used to either having the dealer’s table or working with another dealer, if it’s a convention that’s new to me, I’ll basically check off right away to find out is there dealer’s table, like Sally at Larry Smith’s bookstore or Kirb Colt[??] for Gallifrey and see if they’d be willing to carry my books.
If the panels don’t look interesting and if I’m able to get an author table, I will basically set up that way or as we did with the Arisia, find out another editor or is willing to share a table. A lot of times if Broad Universe is going to be at a table, I will basically help out there and have my books for sale there. It depends a lot on the con because IReader was new to me, so I basically went through those stages to find out okay, Broad Universe, work with another publisher. Conventions I’ve been going to for a long time like Mini Con and Mars Con. Mars Con automatically gives me an author table ‘cause I’ve been there for so long. Mini Con, I basically get a dealer’s table because a lot of times the panels are not all that interesting so I don’t usually have to worry about being on the panels so I can basically have time to be on an author table. Fan Con in Dallas, they’ve been inviting me for so many years so I automatically have an author table. It depends on the convention.
Steven D. Brewer (00:06:12): I noticed that you’re also a fan of a number of different things so you’re not there just as an author but also to enjoy the fandoms in general.
Kathy Sullivan (00:06:20): Gallifrey for example, I’m a major Dr. Who fan but uh, my fandom roots was basically working at registration or helping badging. So, for Gallifrey, because I’ve only got a couple short stories and a couple Dr. Who Anthologies, so I’m not a big person there. Car Col will carry my books, especially the Dr. Who related books I have. But I still work out at reg for Gallifrey. That’s a great way of meeting people and you contribute to the fandom, make sure the convention’s working.
Steven D. Brewer (00:06:49): You mentioned Broad Universe, I noticed that Strong Women’s Strange Worlds is about to have a birthday and I think that you mentioned that you were involved with them as well. Can you tell me a little about your involvement in the groups like Strong Women’s Strange Worlds in Broad Universe?
Kathy Sullivan (00:07:02): Broad Universe started around 2001 and I was one of the major contributors of getting it started. I was one of the web mavens for a while, making sure the web webpage was working and back in 2001 we were noticing a lot of women were basically being ignored. A lot of the male authors were always getting promotion and being asked to be on panels and getting nominated for awards, but the women weren’t. So as Broad Universe, we were basically trying to promote female authors.
During Covid, Broad Universe, we were trying to get more Zoom readings out and as part of that we had not Arisia Rapid Fire reading that Broad Universe already does. We tried that as a Zoom meeting and then we kind of spun off from Broad first. A number of us basically tried to continue doing rapid fire readings so we just decided to try doing it twice a month. So, we would be inviting authors, female or non-binary authors to sign up for readings and we nowadays basically have two readings per month. Usually, the first Friday and the third Thursday and we have a webpage where people, where authors can sign up and readers can basically, oh yes, let me register for this reading ‘cause it’s all free. We’re basically trying to promote female/non-binary authors and that’s what we’ve been doing for two years now. This is our two-year birthday.
Steven D. Brewer (00:08:23): I think it’s great that you’re finding these strategies for trying to help promote women and get women the parody that they certainly deserve.
Kathy Sullivan (00:08:30): Both Broad Universe and Strong Women. We are not just focusing on the tread published authors, we’re basically doing a lot of independent authors, small press authors. That’s why we’re letting the authors sign up on their own instead of going, oh yes, major press. No, no, there’s a lot of other authors here who are being ignored.
Steven D. Brewer (00:08:48): Right, yeah, I understand that you’re working with a small press now. Um, can you tell me a little about how you came to do that and why?
Kathy Sullivan (00:08:55): I’ve always been with small press. Back when I first tried to get published, I would try all the major trad, traditional publishers and for a while you basically submit to them, I’ve been submitting for a long time. And then it got to the point where, oh, only agents could submit, okay, try to get an agent, forget that. When e-publishing started to be popular, not just in 2007 when Amazon started coming out, but pre that around 1999, 2000, we had a lot of small electronic published authors.
I was a member of an organization called Epic, which was electronically published authors and publishers. So, there were a number of publishers out there and a number of my short stories were being published in Easings and around that time one of the e-publishers that was for Easing decided they were gonna branch out and do, oh my gosh, we’re gonna do bigger, longer novels. Do you have anything longer? Well gee, I had a novel I’ve been submitting for years and thought it was really good and basically submitted that and won and not only did they publish it, but the book won an award. So yeah, I’ve been with small press ever since.
Steven D. Brewer (00:10:04): What is the press you’re working with?
Kathy Sullivan (00:10:05): Well nowadays I’ve gone through several because a number of die over the years and yeah, we’re closed down. So right now I’m with Zumaya and they’re the ones publishing Talking to Trees. So they not only published Kindle, Nook, Smashwords and all the other ones out there. And again, when eBooks first started coming out, a lot of the trad publishers are going, oh no, no, no, we can’t do electronic publishing. And they kept charging the same royalty rates, not even as the mass market print. Whereas the smaller press who were doing electronic publishing were. instead of 35% there doing more 50% for royalty rates. You didn’t need to have an agent, had more input as to what your book cover looked like. You had, you got a lot more from a small press than you would from traditional publisher. Yes, you do have the disadvantage of distribution because trad publishers have huge distribution. They get into the major bookstores, they basically will get in reviews in the major magazines. Whereas small press, you gotta do that promotion yourself.
Steven D. Brewer (00:11:09): Certainly part of it is your convention attendance as a way of promoting. Um, but you also have a strategy for doing promotions in other ways as well. Can you tell me a little bit about how you’re promoting your work?
Kathy Sullivan (00:11:18): Several different ways. For a while, Broad Universe and a lot of the e-publishers were doing cooperative advertising. That didn’t pan out too well. For myself, I basically will do readings, go to young writers’ conferences where it’s actually the school districts so you can basically present a topic on how to write for those kids. And they also have book fairs for conventions because a lot of times you get more in person. People basically are quite willing to look at your book when you actually right there in front of them. And I also have the book cards I used to send out to conventions. Nowadays it’s just basically I bring around promotional material for other officers to conventions that I go to. I have out pens that I hand out. I’ve tried so many different promotional things. There’s a number of things that don’t work and pens seem to last.
Steven D. Brewer (00:12:12): Yeah, people keep them. Would you like to talk about some current projects you’re working on?
Kathy Sullivan (00:12:17): I’ve got a couple of anthologies I, I’m supposed to be working on a story for right now and I’ve been working on for a couple years where it’s a colony planet where the girl wants to be an explorer like her grandmother is on the colony. It’s just basically working on that one for a while.
Steven D. Brewer (00:12:32): One question I have to ask you is why MacGyver?
Kathy Sullivan (00:12:35): Oh well back in the day I was a major MacGyver fan. Richard Dean Anderson was the greatest at the university library where I was working, I was the one who could fix the photocopy of the paperclip. So I figured MacGyver. Yeah.
Steven D. Brewer (00:12:48): So where can people contact you?
Kathy Sullivan (00:12:51): My website is kathrynsullivan.com. And that has links to my author page on Facebook. My email is McGyver6@hotmail.com, but it’s not the traditional spelling of MacGyver. Again, you go to my webpage, it’s got the links and that’s a major one because I’ve got the author page on Facebook, I’ve got my own page on Facebook, I’m not on Twitter and if anybody’s starting to get things on Instagram, that’s not me.
Steven D. Brewer (00:13:19): So are there any other things that you’d like to talk about?
Kathy Sullivan (00:13:22): One of the questions you want us to tell writers starting off and the main ones I’d normally would say is just be persistent. ‘Cause it took me a long time to finally get my short stories published, but because I kept sending things out and trying new markets, that’s all I can do is just keep trying.
Steven D. Brewer (00:13:38): I’d like to thank you very much for coming on Small Publishing in a Big Universe. I wish you success in your writing endeavors and I look forward to seeing you again at a convention at some point.
Kathy Sullivan (00:13:47): Thank you so much and thank you for inviting me.
L.A. Jacob (00:13:57): Lonely misfits face foes and their own inner demons, in search of a mythical land of music and end up finding themselves instead. A woman in the chorus of a musical finds herself caught up in a love triangle with a ghost and helpless to stop the star’s obsession. The wife of a famous rockstar realizes that the manager intends to kill the entire band and that she can only save herself and maybe one small boy. A musician finds himself involved in a puzzling stunt as a pirated radio station plays an obscure song he recorded years ago with his old bandmates. A competitive diver turned musicologist writes a book on genetically engineered twin musicians and finds himself under their spell and threatened by their powerful mother. Motus Perfectus is available at Paper Angel Press. Please go to the website, paperangelpress.com for more information.
Stay tuned for next month when we’re live from BayCon 2023.
Thanks again to our guests.
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This podcast was recorded and edited by yours truly, L.A. Jacob. Executive producer is Steven Radecki. Transcription services provided by Sleepy Fox Studio.
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