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How to Become an Author

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If you were the kid who spent hours in her room scribing poetry, or you're the type who prefers to spend his time lost in a juicy novel, you may have dreamed a time or two about becoming an author yourself. It might sound like a dreamy prospect, but an author's work is serious business that can take serious commitment. Though not all authors follow the same path, there is a somewhat traditional route to getting published and becoming a "real" author.

Get Some Training

You might already be a solid writer, but even the best writers get outside help to hone their skills. A traditional way to train as a writer is to earn a bachelor's degree, and sometimes even a master's degree in English, literature, creative writing, journalism or a related communication field. Budding writers also attend writing workshops and collaborate with other writers through writing groups to get feedback on their work.

Write, Read, Write

Good writers have had lots of practice, both in and out of school. Throughout your career as a writer, write often, whether it's in a journal, on a blog or elsewhere, to help hone your skills. It also helps to put your finished work away for a while and then to return to it later, so you can look at it with a more objective set of eyes. Also, read the work of other quality writers, especially those in your own genre. As you continue to write, you may eventually come up with a solid idea that you can begin to develop into a novel or manuscript.

Find an Agent

When you think you've come up with an idea that will sell, the traditional next step is to find an agent. In the big wide world of publishing, an agent will be the representative to guide you and be your book's champion. Start by researching the agents who work with the genre you're working in, and then sending "query" letters to introduce yourself. Your letter should grab the attention of the agent, first and foremost. Then tell some interesting details about the book and share a bit about yourself. In general, unpublished writers should have a full manuscript ready so agents can see what you can do. If you're lucky, an agent will pick up your story right away. If you're less fortunate, it could take dozens of query letters to get any sort of response at all. If you do find an interested agent, she'll want to see your book in its "finished" form, and then will likely send it back for several edits before shopping it around.

Get Published

Technically speaking, you're not really an "author" until your work is actually published. An agent will help you shop your manuscript around to various publishers in hopes of getting the book sold. Like the query process, this could be hit-or-miss. Your agent could help you publish the book very quickly, it could take numerous tries, or it might not sell at all. If you're familiar with graphic design and marketing, the other option is to self-publish the book as an e-book, or to find and pay a printer to print your book. With that route, you're far less likely to make money or get a large distribution, but you'll be in total control of the process.

2016 Salary Information for Writers and Authors

Writers and authors earned a median annual salary of $61,240 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, writers and authors earned a 25th percentile salary of $43,130, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $83,500, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 131,200 people were employed in the U.S. as writers and authors.

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Resources

About the Author

Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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