Here is Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Renee Frey's story
They say the best stories are ones you know and have lived. Here’s what I know:
I went to a performing arts school right after graduating high school. I’d been dancing, singing, and acting all my life, and wanted to be the next big Broadway star!
But auditioning is hard—like the hardest thing I’ve ever done. As writers, a lot of us psych ourselves out with imposter syndrome, or the feeling that we’re fake and don’t belong, and only got lucky. Imagine that feeling in a room with a hundred other people who look like you.
She’s prettier than you are. She’s thinner. I bet she’s a better singer.
You line up, go in, sing for maybe a minute, thank everyone, and leave. It breaks you into pieces, slowly: a chip here, a crack there, and before long you’re a pile of shards on the floor wondering what happened.
Combine that with a pretty toxic long distance relationship, and that part of my life was done. I didn’t realize it yet, but it was. I moved back in with my parents, who now lived in Pennsylvania, continued to audition, and taught dance classes on the side.
It didn’t take me long to realize that wasn’t a sustainable life.
So I decided to go back to school—to a real college. I loved teaching, and I would be a high school English teacher. That was the plan. I got into West Chester University, and even got awarded a scholarship for my first year (the one and only time I would ever read Twilight and the only appreciation I have for it, as the essay I wrote for the scholarship consisted of bashing said book).
My English Literature classes were fantastic. I studied Shakespeare, Dickens, Douglass, Morrison, Hurston (I ended up with a minor in African American Literature—some of the best stuff you will ever read!!!). But my education classes? I loved them—when I could get into them. I hit my head against the school’s bureaucracy one too many times, and when it came to rushing and student teaching the semester before/of my December wedding (yes, I met someone and got engaged during all this! I had my heart broken too, but I’ll leave that in my fiction), I noped out of that situation as fast as I could.
I changed my major to English Literature and never looked back.
My first job after college was working as a medical biller/collector. This is the most tedious and unimaginative job you can think of, but hey, it started paying the bills, including my student loans. The husband and I used money we got from our wedding as a down payment on a house, and now we live there in a Philadelphia suburb with our two dogs, and my mother and her dog (more on that later).
Anyways, that tedious job? It made me want to write, to express my creative side—more than ANYTHING. I started going back to ideas I’d had in high school, fleshing them out, trying out different things, like the Snowflake Method, and drafting a story. The tedium got to me first, as well as the archaic and terrible management of the company. I got another job, this time technical writing and documentation at a software startup that made programs to accelerate clinical trials.
The plus of the job was that it would have periods of downtime. It was there that I found the Scrib community, and the wonderful writing group I’m still a part of: the Just-Us League (or JL for short). I finished and posted my very first completed novel, and became part of a community that spans the globe.
In November of 2016, tragedy struck. My father, only 54 years old, collapsed on an office team-building hike. We’re not sure exactly what happened, but based on the conditions (cold, physical exertion) and the onset (sudden, unexpected) we suspect an arrhythmia. He passed away, the first reader of that first novel, and with the exception of my husband, my first and biggest supporter. (Remember my mom? That’s why she moved in with us).
I somehow managed to win NaNoWriMo that November—I knew my dad would want me to pursue my writing. I also wrote a short story inspired by him for the second JL Anthology: Between Heroes and Villains. It was during that process that I looked more at the publishing industry as a whole.
At this point, I had a finished novel, admittedly in need of edits, and another almost finished one. I had published in a short story, and was planning to publish another. Deciding when and how to publish was the next step. Our anthology coordinator, Heather, mentioned the costs associated with publishing the anthologies, and a thought came to me.
Most companies leverage bulk purchases to get lower prices. What if a bunch of authors who want to publish joined forces and published collaboratively, and took advantage of working together to get lower prices as well?
That’s how Authors 4 Authors Publishing was born. What started as a way to make publishing easier and more affordable has grown into an actual company, planning on publishing as a small press, working with authors instead of treating them as a consumable. I have two of the best partners in the world: strong, determined, and driven women who are just as dedicated to seeing this venture succeed as I am.
After nearly six months of planning and prep, we launched February of 2018.
I really hope sharing my story inspired you in some way. Feel free to share your story with me as well—I would love to get to know other readers and writers!
Here is Secretary-Secretary Brandi Spencer's story
How did I become a publisher?
In some ways, working with books has always a natural fit for me, but I’ve taken the scenic route to get here. Today, I’m a wife, mother, hairstylist, and romantic fantasy author as well, and I didn’t start juggling all of this roles at once. They just keep sneaking in!
So where did it all start?
My inner-editor developed long before I could write. By age two, my favorite word was “actually” (which my family will never let me live down), and before I could read, I would play listen-along cassette tapes of my favorite picture books and memorize the stories. When my parents read the same books to me at bedtime, if they tried to skip so much as one word, I would know—and I would call them on it. (I was such a brat. I am so sorry.)
By the time I finally learned to read, I would read anything and everything within my grasp that had words, even the back of cereal boxes at breakfast...and occasionally the dictionary. (I’m a nerd, and I’ve made peace with it.) The thing I got into trouble for the most as a child? Staying up past my bedtime to read. I used to shove towels and blankets in the crack under my door so nobody would see my light on.
My first reading love was the mystery genre. I started with Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys novels and subscribed to the Nancy Drew Book Club for a while. The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder were also favorites.
Then, I discovered Narnia. It was my gateway to fantasy (or I should say, my wardrobe to fantasy). Forget who-dun-it or the prairie, I had dragons and pegasi! Given such rich fodder for my imagination, found myself dreaming of worlds of my own, and when I grew old enough to appreciate it, romance became a favorite element as well.
Despite my daydreaming, I did well in school, especially in English. My mother noticed the obvious and told me to become a writer.
I didn’t listen.
I reasoned that writers didn’t make any money. I needed to find a real career. Remember how I said I liked mystery? I majored in Sociology with the goal of eventually going into law enforcement and working my way up to the FBI. Things went according to plan for a while: I graduated early and got married a few months after. But a little over a year out of school, I hit a wall.
Despite a happy marriage and a lack of major problems, I fell into a deep depression. After getting help, I had to change my career goals. Not only was I no longer likely to pass a psych exam to get into a police academy, but I needed to find a less grim and more creative path. So I went back to school to learn…writing—just kidding—I still didn’t believe that was a viable option—I studied cosmetology.
I enjoy doing hair and still do work for myself, family, and friends (though I’ve stepped away from a regular salon to raise my children). However, the stories in my dreams and the world in my head were not satisfied. If anything, the better life went for me, the faster the wheels in my head turned.
So I tried several times over a few years to sit down and write out the stories inside, but my internal editor proved to be too strong, and got stuck in the dreaded “editing loop”: constantly writing, editing, and rewriting the same passage over and over, and never making real progress. Looking online for help, I found NaNoWriMo, a worldwide event in November where writers write 50,000 words in 30 days. The daily word count tracking pushed me to get my first draft out without backtracking, and I did it! I got my first novel written. It was a mess and needed serious work, but progress was made!
With my NaNoWriMo win, I received a discount to Scribophile, a serious critique and networking site for writers. There, I met friends in a mysterious group called the Just-Us League (or JL). Not long after I joined them, the group talked about putting together a fairy tale anthology to get our names and work out as authors. I’ve always loved fairy tales, and I had plenty of material to work with in the world I’d created for my mess of a novel, so I participated in the first of what turned out to be a series of anthologies by the JL.
Not long after, my future business partners Renee and Becky joined the JL as well. I hadn’t fully decided between submitting my novel to a large publisher or self-publishing when Renee proposed the idea of banding together as authors to create the kind of publisher we wanted to work with. And now, here I am, working with two wonderful women in a job I never expected to have, and I am so glad I am.
Here is Editor-in-Chief Rebecca Mikkelson's story
Who am I?
Well, first and foremost, the answer to that question will always be 24601.
In a more serious answer, I am Rebecca Mikkelson—wife, author, and publisher. Two out of the three of those I never imagined myself becoming in a million years.
I grew up an Air Force brat, moving all over the southern half of the United States until my father joined the reserves and we were able to settle in northern Virginia. During this time I was diagnosed with ADD and severe dyslexia, two things that would certainly work against any thought of being a writer. Writing for homework was a struggle, reading was a struggle—everything was a struggle. It made me not like any of it. I didn’t even learn to enjoy reading until I was in the fifth grade when I’d finally found a book that even my ADD couldn’t distract me, or my dyslexia didn’t frustrate me enough to keep me from finishing.
After that, a whole new world opened up to me. I couldn’t stop reading, I didn’t want to stop reading. It got to the point where if I needed to be punished, my parents had to take away my books.
Not long after I graduated high school, I met my husband, whom I married a year later and immediately moved to South Korea. This went completely against how I thought my life would go. I was in college, going to school to be a high school history teacher with a minor in either music or psychology. I hadn’t decided, I was still young enough and new enough to college that I hadn’t needed to decide yet. I had originally planned on being a classically trained opera singer like my mother, but, you know, crippling stage fright will stop that dream in its tracks. But, that was okay. I’d found a new passion: History, and I was going to make it my life’s work to bore kids to death on the founding of countries and political deliberations that made those countries successes or failures.
When we moved to Korea, I wanted to work. Staying in an apartment by yourself in a foreign country is boring. So. Incredibly. Boring. I was too scared to go out in the city by myself because I was directionally challenged. I could get lost in a brown paper bag even if it was left open, and going out in a city where every alleyway you thought you were going down was a new street to take you somewhere else seemed a Herculean task. So, in order to get out of the house, I was going to work on Yongsan, the army post in Seoul.
Sadly, those dreams of working died because nowhere would hire me.
After three months of sitting in my apartment at the heart of the city, I had to do something. I was going nuts! I was stir crazy, irritable, and bored. It was hell on my marriage, and I had to find anything I could to make sure I wasn’t going to take it out on my husband for taking me away from my family.
So, I wrote. I’d had a niggling thought for a story while watching a historical drama and put it to paper until I began to form a story. This was the first time I’d taken my writing journey seriously. Sure, I’d written little stories for fun as a young teen, but it was nothing that would ever see the light of day. This was something different, this was something I was proud of and wanted to share with others.
I wanted to write a historical fiction, but living in Korea, I didn’t have access to a research library that one, I could get to, and two, that I could actually ask what I was looking for and understand the answer. With this in mind, I decided to write a historical fantasy. I could be inspired by the history I loved so much, and have the license to exaggerate or change whatever I wanted about it.
I told my husband I was writing a book when I was halfway through my first novel, and my parents when I was almost done with it. I planned on writing a trilogy—it seemed a reasonable number for the story I wanted to tell. And then…I started to edit. Three books became five books, and then five books became six books. During my edits, my husband suggested that I join a writing and critiquing website called Scribophile.com, and it was one of the smartest decisions I’d ever made.
I was scared when I first signed up. What if I wasn’t good enough? What if my story sucked? It turns out everyone has those fears, and I was quickly brought into the fold of a private group called the Just-Us League, or as we call it the JL. I almost regret that I waited years after my husband first suggested I join Scribophile, but had I joined earlier, I’m not sure I would have met the wonderful people who have become my friends and family in the two years I’ve been on the website.
Not only has the JL provided me sanity while my husband travels for work for months on end, but they’ve also helped me develop my craft into something viable. I’m being published in an anthology this year, and intend on participating in two to three other anthologies put out by Rowanwood Publishing, run by another member of the JL.
In this group, I met my future business partners, Renee and Brandi. We all got along well, and one day Renee presented to the group an idea for anyone who was interested: starting our own publishing company. It really started with the idea that a whole two ISBNs cost two hundred dollars or more when one thousand ISBNs cost broke down to a dollar-fifty each.
I was hesitant at first—I knew nothing about business; the only job I’d ever had was working at Chick-Fil-A in high school, and since I moved to Korea during college, I never went back and finished my degree (because I’m horrible at online classes). I didn’t think I’d be any good at being a publisher, but I wanted to learn. So, I said yes, I’ll go on this journey with you.
A year later, we’ve gone from an idea to a company, and I couldn’t be more thrilled that I said yes to this. My business partners have become some of my best friends, and I cannot wait to see how far Authors 4 Authors Publishing can go.
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