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Conversations with Catherine Lundoff

Today we’d like to introduce you to Catherine Lundoff.

Hi Catherine, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
I didn’t set out to be a publisher. Or even a writer. I moved from Brooklyn, NYC to St. Louis for college, spent several years after college traveling around the country working on archeological digs on construction sites and wound up in Iowa City, Iowa for graduate school. A lot of things happened in the intervening time, including running my own tiny independent bookstore for a couple of years with the help of a lot of friends. I didn’t start writing fiction until I was in law school, about a year and a half after I had to close the bookstore in 1994. I rapidly discovered that I loved writing, but did not…love law school.

I quit law school right after I saw my first short story accepted for publication in 1996. After that, I had a lot of short fiction published by various publishers and wrote for a few small newspapers. Eventually, I wrote a novel, saw several short story collections published and edited a couple of anthologies. My first five books were published traditionally by a small publisher on the East Coast, but we had some issues and came to a parting of the ways. I had few other irons in the publishing fire, but I had been thinking about launching my own small press to publish my work, as well as that of other authors.

Launching that dream took about two years of prep. I took classes, picked out a name, got my web domain, talked to a small business attorney, got an accountant and then, finally, in January of 2017, published my first book from Queen of Swords Press. We just celebrated our fifth birthday and thirteenth title! This year will see the first of our books translated and sold in Germany, our books are starting to win awards and are showing up on award finalist lists and our author line-up is amazing! I’m working on the next couple of books and am very much looking forward to getting them in the hands of readers.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I’m not sure anyone starting a small business has it go perfectly smoothly all the time. I think one of the things that I have in common with many other small business folks is lack of time and money. Queen of Swords Press was almost entirely self-financed for the first couple of years. It took a while to build up our book sales and our Patreon to get to the point where we were covering our bills and paying me a bit. This just happened last year, as a matter of fact. I committed to paying everyone else first (my part-time assistant, the various contractors who do our art and website, our authors) because I’ve been working a series of day jobs and teaching writing and publishing classes so I could afford to subsidize the press for a while and because I don’t want to be asking anyone to work for me for free.

So, all in all, I’m putting in about 50-70 hours a week, which is kind of intense, so I have to be somewhat careful about self-care to keep things afloat. I schedule time off for myself and take recharge nights and so forth to make sure I don’t get too burned out. And juggling all of it often gets pretty intense. While I have an assistant and I’ve started bringing in publishing interns, I’m still very, very hands on for all the publishing-related tasks so if I’m dealing with other issues, everything bogs down and gets thrown off-kilter. I’m getting a bit better at planning, but it’s still a steep learning curve.

Add to that, we’re a small press book publisher in a niche where it can be hard to get the word out about our books. The profit margin for book publishing is pretty low, so getting loans is either not feasible or not a great idea. It keeps things kind of precarious. That said, 2021 was our best year to date in terms of book sales and visibility. I’m cautiously optimistic about this year. I think we’ve got some good momentum: now let’s hope that I’m right!

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
My experiences as a writer really influence how I run Queen of Swords Press. I want to treat my authors well and support and encourage them because when they do well, we do well. And they’re lovely, talented people and I want to see them succeed. My own work helps keep the press afloat too in that I put most of my book royalties back into the operating budget. Because I had a fan base of readers and a history of appearing at conventions, bookstores and book festival, I was able to leverage that into a base for the press. I already knew how to do a lot of things by the time I got it launched, and one of those things was the ability to write under pressure. I’m always working on new stories and at least one novel. Currently, I’m serializing a novel as I write it, chapter by chapter, on my Patreon. It’s easy to lose sight of my own creative goals between running the press and working so having a bit of writing that’s done every month helps a lot.

In terms of my own creative growth, I just saw my third novel published last year, wrote my first in-game fiction for a game I’m really proud of and was awarded my first writer’s grant. I’m really looking forward to digging into some of my backburner projects this year, as well as getting more of my own work done.

What were you like growing up?
My family situation was pretty complicated so I dealt with it by reading a lot. I always had a book in my hands, reading stories that helped me visit other worlds and explore new possibilities. I read voraciously, everything from fantasy and fairy tales to historical novels to Victorian-era thrillers and histories. I checked so many books out of the library that my mother set up a rule that for every three novels I checked out, I had to check out one nonfiction book.

Apart from that, I was very interested in horses and riding for a long time and once considered becoming a veterinarian. That was my goal until junior year of high school, when I got concerned about my science grades and switched my interests over to other things. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and had the opportunity to go to a lot of museums (the Metropolitan was always my favorite), the Botanical Gardens, theater and shows.

One of my cousins was from Peru and was involved in a theater company so we’d go see her plays and go see the flamenco dancer from Spain that they hosted regularly. I was interested in a ton of other things and was involved in my high school yearbook staff, theater and a flute ensemble, amongst other things.

Pricing:

  • Ebooks – $1.99-5.99
  • Print – $8-15.99

Contact Info:


Image Credits
Ben Zvan Photo
Greg Ketter
S.L. Johnson Images

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