Professional Writing (PW) alum Anna Stevenson has crafted a distinctive professional life for herself since graduating in 2009. Her story shows how PW grads can be successful when they combine their professional skills with their unique passions.
During her time at Michigan State, Anna was in the editing and publishing track of the PW major and also worked at the MSU Press. After graduation she was promoted to a full-time production editor position at the Press. She worked there until 2010, when she became a freelance editor. "I have been working for myself ever since," she says.
In 2016 Anna added another title to her resume: romance novelist. "I chose to write romance because romance is a huge, huge market and the readers are absolutely ravenous." She has self-published seventeen novels through Amazon.com and is currently working on her eighteenth. She publishes under different pen names because she "writes for a couple different markets."
Anna admits that her first attempts at writing and publishing fiction were difficult. "It was a total failure, but I really enjoyed doing it." She stuck with it, and after finishing her first full-length novel and "networking with other self-published romance authors," she began a second novel. Both were eventually completed and published. Just recently, Anna has signed with a literary agent to pursue a hybrid of a self-published and traditionally published career.
Anna is very happy to have found her footing as a novelist and gained an audience. "My first love as a kid was writing ... but it was made clear to me that a career in writing novels wasn't going to be available, except as a side job." She says she "get[s] inspiration from following trends in the market ... and things my readers suggest."
Anna takes her work very seriously and is always looking for insights about writing books that people will want to buy and read. She's also learned a lot about marketing. "Because of the nature of the self-publishing game, particularly in romance and particularly on Amazon right now, staying visible means publishing basically one novel per month," she reports. In addition to the demands of writing, she also notes that "at any given time, I'm ordering covers for books months ahead of time, workshopping plots with my novelist friends," and completing lots of other tasks on her novelist to-do list.
Anna works solely as a romance novelist these days, and it's more than a full-time job. The rest of her time she spends with her daughters, husband, family, and friends. She admits she doesn't have much spare time because "running a business where I'm the content producer and publisher takes most of my waking hours. But it's really, really fun."
She says that her time in the PW program gave her a learning mindset. "PW is one of those majors that will teach you to do anything that you want to do. It's about 'writing,' but it's really about shaping content for relevant audiences, no matter the media format. You will graduate knowing how to research and understand an audience. This is probably the secret factor to become a successful romance novelist. If you don't understand what your audience is looking for, you will probably not write books that make money."
Written by Veronica Finniss
November 20, 2017