Asheville author and creator breaks statistic of self-publishing


Hayden Bailey

Author and writer Amy Sullivan talks about how her career lines up with her passions.

Hayden Bailey, [email protected], Contributor

Amy Sullivan began writing before she could spell, charging kids in her neighborhood a nickel to enter her backyard clubhouse and making them listen to the stories she wrote in the scribbled handwriting of a child. 

Years later, Sullivan pitched a book idea at her first writing conference, sparking the interest of publishers and taking her on an unexpected ride. 

“It’s not really ‘Yes’ until it’s signed on the line and even then you can lose control over what you write. They can do things they want, change things they want and pick what covers they want. That stung a little bit,” Sullivan said. 

She pitched her idea for a children’s book series, “Gutsy Girls” in 2018 but was met with publishers wanting to take away from her vision. 

“I remembered what happened with that first publisher and I was like, that’s not going to happen again, I’m going to have more control. I decided to self-publish and lots of people said don’t,” Sullivan said.

She shared the statistics surrounding self-publishing, which indicated you may only sell around 125 copies. Her “Gutsy Girls” series shattered those with more than 25,000 copies sold. In Haarlem, Netherlands, the book on Corrie Ten Boom became the only children’s book sold in the Ten Boom Museum.

“It’s had a lot of success. It’s in the Corrie Ten Boom Museum and the Smithsonian in Washington,” Sullivan said. 

She went from pitching articles to magazines and making around 3 cents a word to writing an acknowledged book series that broke the norms of the writing world. 

“Amy is a creator. She doesn’t settle. In a good way, she continues to set the bar high,” said Shane Sullivan, the author’s husband. 

Amy Sullivan doesn’t just stick to books and backyard writing clubs. Her passion lies with people. 

“I’m passionate about helping people see the gifts they have in themselves and growing them. In my life, that looks like building community and specifically seeking out people in my life. Getting to know them in an informal way and seeing things in them before they kind of see it in themselves and helping them grow. I love that,” Amy Sullivan said.

Due to being self-published, Sullivan doesn’t have just one job title.

“If I could write my own job title, it would be ‘people connector’. It’s not one word, more of a phrase. If I had to go get an actual nine to five job, I’m not sure what I would be doing because I am such a sampler,” she said.

Sarai Gilbert, her friend of five years, said Sullivan will never be caught in just one job. 

“As time has gone on, she has tried not to be stuck in any one kind of career path. I think she is always looking for a way to better use the skills that she has been given. She’s always looking for a better way to reach the community, whether that is through an actual job or through volunteer work. She is not willing to just settle for the same job for the rest of her life,” Gilbert said.

Amy Sullivan said she plans on tackling a new challenge with her husband in the next couple of weeks. They have their sights set on Apartment Life ministry and they will be moving to The District in Asheville to pour into the community there. 

“We’re ready for a new adventure, to meet new people. Amy specifically has a heart for people in transition. She lived in apartments for many years, where good and bad came out of that,” Shane Sullivan said. 

Shane Sullivan said he and his wife’s job at the ministry involves coming in to create a sense of community and home. They will be running three events a month and the end goal is for people to say they love living there. 

“People have huddled for a long time, especially after the pandemic, and I think people are ready to engage, as are we. We want to be a part of that in our city,” Amy Sullivan said. 

Her husband said when it boils down to it, she develops leaders and he has had the opportunity to watch her grow in her career as well as in her passions. 

“She has grown in her patience and understanding of other people. Career wise she is great at what she does, but it doesn’t define her. Her career stays where it needs to be, part of her but not all of her. That gives her freedom to go in and out of her career. Because of that, she is really good at what she does. She has become a kind of top-notch leadership guru,” Shane Sullivan said. 

He said even in their marriage, she constantly pulls him up when he has the tendency to settle into things. 

“If the status quo was here,” her husband said, motioning his hand to the floor, “Amy lives up here,” he said, moving his hand up toward the ceiling. “She sees what could be and what can we do to get there.”

Gilbert named her long-time friend as her chief encourager and one of the most authentic people she knows.

“She is always willing to seek out the best in people and really highlight and encourage them in that, whatever their gift is. She is also good at rallying. She’s really good at saying ‘OK, here’s what needs to be done, and I am going to get all the people together to make it happen,’” Gilbert said. 

Gilbert said Sullivan proves to be the perfect candidate for Apartment Life, reiterating many of her qualities. 

“She can meet you one time and make you feel like you are the most important person in the world and immediately develop a connection. She’s going to find the thing that she can relate to you with, latch on to that and use that to help form a connection with you,” Gilbert said. 

Amy Sullivan continues to use her skill set in every way she knows how.

“Let me have a vision and dream it,” Sullivan said.