We had the good fortune of connecting with Stephanie Reisner and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Stephanie, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I suppose I had a predisposition to starting my own business. My parents were business owners, so I grew up watching them financially struggle at times, and at other times celebrate years of success. They grew their business from running it out of our home to owning a commercial building and property and employing about 40 people. Their time was always their own and they had a freedom that other people didn’t seem to have, which I always found appealing. Due to that, the entrepreneur spirit was always with me. I chose publishing because I’ve always loved books and I had always wanted to be a writer. I went to school and got a degree in English/Journalism. I worked in traditional publishing from 1995-2004 before print-on-demand and distribution services for indie authors/publishers came onto the scene and made the process a lot easier. So I dipped my toes into that river with a few of my own books, and realized I could make more from my work by running things myself than I could with a traditional publisher. After a few successful years, I decided to take on a few more authors. The rest is history.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
In both fiction and non-fiction, I focus on the taboo and topics normal publishers tend to shy away from because it’s too controversial or too niche for the mainstream. I learned early on that only about 1/4 of what I was writing was suitable for mainstream publishing after I kept getting handwritten notes from editors saying, “This may not be right for us due to [insert taboo thing here], but please send us more.” I think the final straw was when a large publisher said they loved a proposed book series, but I’d need to change a list of things in order for them to offer a contract. So I turned them down because I didn’t want to write a cookie cutter Urban Fantasy with a white witch. I wanted to write an urban fantasy with dark magicians and challenge readers’ perceptions of good and evil, not reinforce stereotypes. Probably the book series I’m most excited about right now is my Thirteen Covens series written under the pen name Audrey Brice. The first book, Thirteen Covens: Bloodlines Part One, won second place in Horror in the Colorado Independent Publisher Association’s EVVY book awards back in 2018. My audience loves the series. It wasn’t an easy road. The career of an author/publisher is a marathon, not a sprint. So it takes time to build the audience and make enough to where you can pay your mortgage. I’ve been in this industry for 25 years now, and it’s only been the last ten years where I’ve really been able to make my primary living from writing/publishing. The biggest challenge has been making enough to pay for a good health insurance plan for my family and I, which is why I still help out at my parents’ business a few times a week. Writers literally make their living a cents on the word, or dollars at a time. You have to sell a lot of books.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would definitely start with a trip on the train down to Union Station to spend a day in Downtown Denver, starting with a walk down the Sixteenth Street Mall, and ending the day with a beer at The Rock Bottom Brewery. I am a Colorado native and I love the outdoors, so I’d definitely drag them up to Genesee Park to see the buffalo herd and walk some of the trails. A trip up to the Flatirons Vista trailhead is always a treat for a nice walk with breathtaking views. The Denver Botanic Gardens would also be on the agenda, as well as a trip to Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. For unique luncheon choices or an afternoon out, I’d take my guests to Olde Town Arvada or up to downtown Lafayette for a little bit of that old town feel mixed with unique restaurants and shops. Or perhaps I’d take them on a brewery tour. We do have a large number of micro-breweries around town. I’m thinking smaller operations like Arvada’s Someplace Else Brewery, or the Kokopelli Beer Company in Westminster, or even the Left Hand Brewery up in Longmont. Another neighborhood worth a visit would be the Tennyson Street arts district in Northwest Denver. Aside from being home to my favorite bookstore – Bookbar – they also have some unique, independent restaurants and shops.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My parents, George and Cynthia Connolly, have always been my inspiration. From a young age they told me I could do anything I put my mind to and always encouraged my creativity, while also keeping me grounded with the reality of hard work and struggle. I’d also like to give a shout-out to the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and all the writing friends I’ve made there, who without, I wouldn’t have been able to hone my craft and learn the ins and outs of the publishing business. It takes a lot of time to learn this business and I still remember the first time I walked into one of their meetings as a young twenty-something not knowing anyone and feeling like a fraud. They’ve been a huge part of my progress. There are so many other people. My editors Lisa Hardin, Tanya Davidson, Connie Kline, Will Statham, and Shaelyn Grey who have been there from the beginning, and my husband, Matt Reisner, for his patience and understanding for the long hours I work to keep the business going. Plus, he recently joined the Darkerwood Publishing Group team as our media director since we’re moving into phone apps, music, and audiobooks as well. Most of all – I’d like to give a shoutout to all the readers who have made Darkerwood Publishing Group and all our imprints a success.
The book images were made using Bookbrush, the convention table and the photo of Stephanie and editor Shae were self-taken. Same with the author photo (with bookcase behind) – it was self taken.