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How to Become an Author: Writing Books

Becoming an author lets you write book-length works, often requiring extensive creative planning or research, share in the profits from sales of the book, and gain the prestige of being published. Authors usually are defined as writers of lengthier original materials, such as books or story collections, which can be fictional novels, mid-length novellas, short stories, etc., or non-fiction such as personal memoirs, biographies of notable people, academic textbooks, histories, self-help advice, etc. Non-fiction projects often involve extensive research, either online, or on-site through paper files or interviews. Most authors can work from home and enjoy a fairly flexible schedule, but may need to travel for research, and must meet publishers’ deadlines. If you enjoy writing, especially longer works often involving complex story lines or in-depth research or interviews, then a career as an author may be for you.

Author Education Degree Requirements

Author education degree requirements vary by book type. Some people with no educational credentials, but writing talent, prestige, or practical knowledge of a subject, may persuade a publisher to promote their books, especially if they can send a strong writing sample, or impressive list of publications.

However, it may help an author’s credibility to have a four-year bachelor’s degree, especially with a major or coursework in communications, journalism, or English, or the book’s subject. Correct grammatical usage is necessary, or at least very helpful, to avoid needing extensive editing. Additionally, it may help to have courses or experience in word processing computer applications, and research methods for non-fiction pieces.

Voluntary creative writing programs may develop writing talent and teach you how to become an author, and some provide formal accreditation. It may help to join an association such as the Authors Guild, which usually requires already having published a book or multiple articles. Some non-fiction book types practically demand advanced education, such as academic textbooks usually written by scholars with a two-year graduate master’s degree or likely a four- to eight-year doctoral degree.

Becoming an Author: Career Outlook

Authors are self-employed, meaning that they run their own writing business, but must get a publisher’s acceptance for new books, negotiate payment and ownership, handle finances, and provide any health insurance and pension. Traditionally, aspiring authors send either a manuscript (full draft), or fully written first chapter plus outline for the remainder, to a publishing house. If the publisher accepts publishing that book, it will negotiate a contract with the author, where the author usually receives an “advance” (down payment to start writing the book), copyright (legal ownership), and “royalties” (right to part of any profits from book sales – usually only 7% for the author!). The publisher arranges and pays for the book’s editing, printing, and advertising.

Today, it is also possible to self-publish as an electronic e-book emailed to buyers, or “print on demand” book where you have books printed on paper individually as they are bought; self-publishers have full control and keep 100% of their profits, but marketing a book to buyers effectively may require skill, reputation, and often expensive print advertising.

An author career can be artistically fulfilling, and reasonably compensated. Demand for authors and writers is projected to increase at an above-average growth rate of 15% through 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2010, the median average salary for authors was $65,960 annually (equaling $31.71 hourly), with the bottom 10% earning under $28,610, while the top 10% earned over $109,440, though compensation varies widely, depending on the author’s fame, prior sales volume, and the current book’s sales.

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