MSI Press LLC, known internationally for its ability to turn first-time writers into award-winning authors, is a multi-award-winning veteran-owned publishing house based in California. Locally, in its hometown of San Juan Bautista, MSI Press is widely recognized for raising funding for the preservation of the historic Old Mission San Juan Bautista in a special way. The publishing house does so by launching books that are about the Franciscan Mission and Catholic beliefs and customs written by the Mission’s somewhat famous cat, Sula. Sula lived and worked at the Mission, being taken care of by the Mission Gift Shop staff until covid struck and closed the Gift Shop for several months. She now lives with one of the parishioners and shows up on weekends to do her job as parish cat by interacting with worshippers; she is listed in the church bulletin as a member of he staff. Sula’s books are actually written by Dr.Betty Lou Leaver, managing editor of MSI Press, LLC, assisted by the deacon and priest, who have had an integral role in making sure the content is accurate and informative. To date, Sula has written 6 books, one of them, Dia de Muertos, in Spanish, reflecting the interests of the bilingual community in San Juan Bautista.
MSI Press LLC was founded 19 years ago as a specialized publisher to satisfy the Coalition of Distinguished Language Centers’ (CDLC) demands for foreign language publications and an annual journal. MSI Press LLC continued to produce foreign language books after the CDLC closed in 2010, with a gap from 2006 to 2017, and expanded to include other theme areas such as spirituality and religion, self-help, psychology, history, and memoir. Since then the company has been widely recognized for developing young writers into award-winning authors and for publishing critically praised works in a variety of genres that are disseminated worldwide.
Dr. Betty Lou Leaver, an experienced editor, and her late husband, graphic artist Carl Leaver, used their skills to publish high-quality, award-winning books. Leaver teaches and nurtures emerging writers who have writing talent and wonderful tales but lack the practical know-how to produce a publishable book or the connections to get it published. She is an accomplished and respected author of foreign-language education books in her own right, as well as a long-time academic leader. MSI Press publishes on average 10 books per year, focusing on quality writing and visuals because each book requires a great deal of time and effort from fresh authors.
The publishing house just received 37 honors, including gold for Book of the Year, numerous gold, silver, and bronze medals, and other finalist picks. Such success in working with authors made helping the parish cat (a stray that wandered into the church 15 years and is beloved by parishioners, even having her own pew) write a series of books that have gained wide attention so much so that many visitors to the Mission often come into the gift shop and ask to meet “the cat” and she has gained more than 800 followers on her FaceBook page.
Up until now, Sula has survived six bouts of cancer, much of that story is related to the first book in the cat’s series, Surviving Cancer, Healing People: One Cat’s Story. Sula is set to release at least two more books: Sula and the Franciscan Sisters (a picture book with captions) in February and a bilingual prayer book, Praying with Sula, in 2023. Both of these works are currently being written. In addition, MSI Press is also attempting to expand its e-book market share. Despite the fact that practically every paperback has an e-book counterpart, the company’s published paperbacks outsell its e-books 7 to 1, which is the opposite of the publishing industry’s overall experience.
In the upcoming future, MSI Press is exploring ways to convert more of Sula’s works, which are now distributed in paper format primarily at the Mission and the local Franciscan Retreat Center, into e-book variants that will reach a wider worldwide audience.