Ann Warner — a clinical chemist, toxicologist and university professor — directed clinical laboratories in a 30-year career that ended when the toxicology lab she was in charge of closed, making her face a question she wasn’t expecting at all to be dealing with: What was she going to do with the rest of her life?
Her answer came in a dream. She remembers waking up one morning “with a dream image of a woman walking along a shore.” She wanted to know who that woman was, so she began writing. Which was something new. “I’ve always been an avid reader,” she explains, “this was the first time I’d attempted to write a story of my own.” The story was 125,000 words long, and Ann really felt she had produced a truly wonderful novel.
She did, however, discover that writing fiction is what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. For her, this meant she “had to readjust the habits of a lifetime.” Throughout her scientific career, after all, her left brain (logical) was predominantly in use. This time around, she was very much in right brain (creative) territory.
Did that deter her? Not a chance. “Over a ten-year period, I attended workshops and conferences and sought out the company and advice of other writers in order to develop my writing skills and nurture my creative side.”
How Ann Got Started Self-Publishing
Ann managed to sell two novels to Samhain Publishing, but it rejected a third, explaining it strayed too far from what it published. She tried other publishers and agents, but all passed on her work, spouting the usual excuse many writers got time and time again: The books would be a hard sell since they didn’t follow strict genre conventions.
Convinced, however, that readers just want a good read regardless of what formulaic genre a publisher assigns, Ann decided to self-publish.
The good news was that it was 2012, with Amazon’s programs and services for independent publishers vastly changing the self-publishing landscape. “[T]his decision no longer meant I had to store hundreds of books in my basement in hopes of eventually selling them…”
Now, Ann has published three successful contemporary love stories and recently released Doubtful, her fourth. She even does her own cover designs! And it doesn’t look like she’ll be slowing down anytime soon. “I love having the control over the entire process that self-publishing gives me and I love the fact it challenges me to think both logically and creatively.”
Self-Publishing Observations and Tips
- “My experience with a traditional publisher taught me that a great cover design, excellent editing, and error-free formatting are essential.”
- “While I think it’s possible for authors to format and to create wonderful cover designs, it is my firm belief that seeking input from a professional editor is one step that should never be skipped. After working on a story through multiple revisions, the author’s ability to see holes in the plot and errors on the page is limited. Fresh eyes are essential.”
- “I also benefit greatly from critiques provided by other writers whose judgment I respect. However, those critiques cannot replace a good editor.”
- “I recently heard an author say she had an okay story that she was thinking of putting up on Amazon just to see how it went. My advice to her or to anyone thinking this way: Resist the temptation!! That not-so-good story may end up losing you repeat readers when you’re finally ready with something ‘better.'”
- “Although over 100 million people now own devices on which they can read electronic books, the number of available books is also rising exponentially. That means book visibility is a huge issue for the self-published author.”
- “The good news is that while traditional publishing is often a sprint, self-publishing is a long-distance marathon. During this marathon, being able to offer a book for free or for a reduced price is a major advantage enjoyed by the self-published author over the traditionally published…”
- “Another important strategy to enhance visibility is the inclusion of links at the end of the book that invite readers to write a review and to sign up for the author’s mailing list.”
- “With so many books being self-published, the issue of quality is moving more and more to the forefront. Although Amazon reviews do help… [they] are not necessarily a guarantor of quality…
Two sites I’m aware of that are attempting to address this issue are Awesome Indies and Compulsion Reads. Awesome Indies relies on selected reviewers and reviewers with appropriate credentials to evaluate books. It is free. Compulsion Reads evaluates books for a fee and verifies that it meets quality standards. Both sites provide details of what qualities they are looking for in books they recommend.”
- “I would also like to recommend two books I’ve found particularly useful. They are David Gaughran’s Let’s Get Visible: How to Get Noticed and Sell More Books and Wired for Story by Lisa Cron. David gives practical marketing tips and Lisa explains in clear terms what readers are looking for in a story. She’s even convinced me, a dedicated seat-of-the-pants writer, to reconsider my process to include more pre-planning.”
- “You may want to consider using the tools provided by a site like Pro Writing Aid to polish your writing. This free site is a wonderful resource for self-editing, but it still doesn’t replace having a professional editor go over the book prior to publication.”