How to Become a Published Author: Getting a Book Published & Making a Living

Have you always dreamed of walking past a book store and seeing your book sitting right there for all the world to see? Well, if so, you have come to visit us at the right time. Today’s career investigation is centered on how to become an author and we couldn’t be more excited to cover this career!

How to Become a Published Author

How to Become a Published AuthorThe process of becoming an author can be rather difficult and isn’t going to happen over night or without a lot of obstacles blocking your path from time to time. We are going to tell you about the process of becoming an author and we promise to let you in on the good, the bad and the ugly.

Today we are going to focus on how to become an author in the book world. There aren’t any required educational requirements here, but if you have a college degree or would like to get one, go for it! It will probably help you along the way, but if you don’t go that route, it probably won’t hurt you either.

So, let’s get into the details of how to become an author in the book world!

Get the Attention of a Publisher

First things first, when you want to get a book published, you have to get a publisher do that for you and you’ll need to get the attention of one to start the process. A lot of publishers like budding authors to send sample work in the form of short stories, novels, articles, poem or any other medium that shows your goods as an author.

You can send samples of your work out to various publishers in the hopes that one will stick and you’ll get a call back for a meeting. It is possible that a publisher may seek you out after they read your work or heard of you through the grapevine. No matter how it happens, you’ll probably be wicked excited and will likely have to read the email or listen to the voicemail multiple times for the realty of it to sink it!

Find an Idea That Works

You can’t get a publishing contract without having an idea that is worthy of it. The best advice that we’ve ever heard about becoming a published author is: write what you know. Sounds simple enough, right? It is pretty simple for the most part, but there is a caveat to this. You can write what you know, but you also have to write something that is going to be of interest to more than just you.

Write about something that you know, are interested in and that not many other people can trump you at your own game. A good example is the popularity of dystopian fiction. If you want to write a book about a crumbling society then you are going to have to know that subject better than the next guy and be able to put your own unique spin on it.

Research, Research and Research Some More

There’s no way around this step. In order to become an author and more importantly a good author, you have to have the most accurate, relevant and detail information about your subject as possible. Your readers are not going to like it if their “this author is full of fecal matter” radar is going off. You you can’t just make everything up and real facts are crucial. We should also note that there is just as much research involved in fiction as there is in non-fiction, so no short cuts are to be found in this profession. Just think of all the countless hours of research as a way to become a walking encyclopedia!

Edit, Editing and More Edits

The editing process for authors can take forever…especially if you have control issues and insist upon doing it yourself, which is most often the case.

Editing is like the ugly stepsister of writing. It’s mean, unpleasant and makes you feel like your soul is being torn out. Ok, so maybe we’re are exaggerating a bit. It is really hard to snuff out the life of words, sentences, paragraphs and in the worst cases…even pages of your hard work. It feels like a crime, but it’s something that has to be done in order to make your work the best it can be, so suck it up, Buttercup.

Finished Product

You’re pretty much in the home stretch now and are on your way to the New York Times best-sellers list (hopefully!). There isn’t a whole lot of fame and fortune to be had for the most part, but seeing your name on the dust jacket of the book that you poured your soul into has got to be pretty amazing.

Published Author Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual salary for authors as is $57,750 as of May 2013. New authors may earn an introductory salary of $28,310 to start with the potential to earn $117,050 a year once you have been around the block for a while. There is the possibility to hit it really big like some of your favorite authors have and with the big time can come big paychecks. There isn’t a guarantee that you can reach this level of success, but the potential is still there all the same.

Published Author Salary

Should I Be an Author?

Well, no one can really tell you if you should become an author. It’s pretty much up to you and what drives you in life. We can offer you a fun little quiz that will tell you if you have the “write” stuff and if you should keep on keeping on towards your dream of becoming an author. Of course, we want to remind you that this quiz isn’t Meyers-Briggs caliber, but it’s still fun and has some good thought promoting questions. Click here to take the quiz and see what your results are!

What Is the Best Genre to Write?

georgerrmartinThere are a lot of different genres out there you can make your mark on. There are also a lot of genres out there that aren’t known to generate any buzz or book sales, which in the long run means that you won;t be generating any extra money either. Now we know that book sales and monetary gain isn’t everything, but wouldn’t it be nice to earn some money and sell some books? Here are the tops grossing book genres as of late:

  • Horror: If you want loyal fans that are chomping at the bit to snatch up your next book – become an author in the horror genre. There must be something to scaring the pants off of people that makes them keep coming back for more.
  • Science Fiction and Fantasy: We can completely understand how the science fiction and fantasy genre rakes in the fans and the dough. Authors in this genre are known for writing books in series that are impossible to resist when the next installment comes out. We’ve fallen into the trap time and time again, only to find ourselves obsessively checking to see if George R.R. Martin is going to write another Game of Thrones book and stalking J.K. Rowling on Twitter for any subtle hints that she is going to let us escape back to Hogwarts.
  • Religious / Inspirational: It’s no secret that the bible is the best-selling book ever and has topped lists all over the world. Many reader use religious and inspirational books as self-help tools allowing authors to reach a whole other level with a wider audience base and better book sales.
  • Crime / Mystery: Crime and Mystery authors often write their books built around a saga, which brings readers back over and over. This is the second highest grossing genre right now and continues to grow with the release of series from authors like James Patterson , Dan Brown and Tess Gerritssen. So, if mystery and crime are of interest to you, give and tap into some of the reader base that’s out there waiting.
  • Romance / Erotica: Nicholas Sparks, Danielle Steel and E.L. James have pretty much owned the romance and erotica genre over the last few years. In 2013, this genre raked in $1.438 billion. If that’s not indicative of success, then we don’t know what is. It doesn’t look like the popularity of romance and erotica is going anywhere soon, so if you can stomach writing about whips, chains and hopeless love stories then it’s time to get in on the action.

Now you know what the hot genres are of the moment and hopefully you will be able to decide which one fits your writing style!

Tips On The Rocks…

Being an author is not an easy profession and no matter how talented you are, there are going to be times when you’re told you are anything but. Most of the greatest authors in history were subject to rejection and lots of times the very book they were rejected for became a classic or best seller. To make it as an author you will have to develop a teflon skin, while you take your likes and keep on kicking.

We were able to dig up some straight shooting tips from some of the great authors that you know and love. There is no sugar coating or mincing words here, but at least you’ll have a heads up and get a good laugh out of it.

  • “The first draft of everything is (insert choice expletive for fecal matter here)” – Ernest Hemingway
  • “Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgementally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious @$$” – David Ogilvy
  • “I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide” – Harper Lee
  • “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club” – Jack London
  • “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” – W. Somerset Maugham
  • “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time – or the tools – to write. Simple as that.” – Stephen King
  • “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost alawys right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” – Neil Gaiman
  • “If writing seem hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things people do.” – William Zinsser
  • “Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.” – Kurt Vonnegut
  • “Get through a draft as quickly as possible. Hard to know the shape of the thing until you have a draft, Literally, when I wrote the last page of my first draft of Lincoln’s Melancholy I thought, Oh, sh**, now I get the shape of this. But I had wasted year, literally years, writing and re-writing the first third to first half. The old writer’s rule applies: Have the courage to write badly.” – Joshua Wolf Shenk
  • “Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that – but you are the only you.” – Neil Gaiman
  • “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” – Oscar Wilde
  • “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” – Ray Bradbury
  • “Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously.” – Lev Grossman

Writing Schools & Degree Options

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Must Read Books for Aspiring Authors

In order to be a good author, it is important to be a good reader and to do lots of it. Reading gives authors inspiration, expands their vocabulary, increases their knowledge bases and opens up the mind to new and different possibilities. So, with all of this in mind, we have a short list of books that aspiring authors should read!

Pride and Prejudice

This book is about way more than a fancy pants aristocrat and a sassy young lass from the wrong side of the tracks. Don’t get us wrong, it is totally about those two things, but it is also about so much more. It is a story about love, societal standards, pride, vanity and family. You may have already read Pride and Prejudice at some point or another, but do yourself a favor and read it again! You will catch something different each time you read it and feel something new each time you turn the pages.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Go ahead and laugh, but we are serious Potterheads and for good reason! This is the very first book in the seven part series and once you pick it up you won’t put it down until you are finished and reaching for the next. Before you know if you’ve read them all and find yourself missing the characters as if they were beloved family and friends. This is exactly what J.K. Rowling hoped to achieve when she first put paper to pen in the early days of writing the series. The essential threads of meaning weave effortlessly throughout the book. Threads of friendship in the face of adversity, family coming in all shapes, sizes and shades of red hair and freckles and of course about wanting to do the right thing while saving the wizarding world.

The Stranger

When you need your world rocked, the way to do it is by reading The Stranger. It’s very likely that a book this powerful will completely change the way you see things, the way you explore life and the way you write as an author. For many, the first line of the book is etched forever in memory and serves as a page mark of life.

The Great Gatsby

You probably had to read this in high school at some point, but we urge you to read it again as an adult and with fresh eyes. You will feel yourself get sucked into the vortex of a world filled with extravagance, dames, gin on the rocks and greed. F. Scott Fitzgerald was a storyteller among legends and knew exactly how to make you feel what his characters were feeling. You forget that you are not right there with Jay and Daisy deep in the lavish settings of the Roaring Twenties.

The Rum Diary

Despite the eccentric nature of some of his books, Hunter S. Thompson is an author with the ability to tell a story from a pure and honest place with the ability to weave interesting and vivid imagery in a seemingly simple package. HST is definitely a modern author that has just the right hint of old school flair that is comparable to Hemingway and Fitzgerald. The Rum Diary is HST at his very best and is a definite must read.

Great Expectations

You’ve probably already read Great Expectations, but we want you to read it again. Feel the power of the story as it weaves through London and tells a story of love, loss, deception and how damaging we can be as individuals. This is one of those classic books that will open up the author part of your brain into new corridors with yet untapped potential.

Lord of the Flies

Or as we lovingly refer to it as: The Hunger Games before it was even a thing. There is something about the story in Lord of the Flies that takes its characters through the paces of everything that is in conflict with what we know. It will get your gears turning in new ways and even have you examining your own beliefs and motivation.

Final Grade

The time has come for us to take the kid gloves off. We are going to give you the lowdown on some important areas to think about when you want to jump into the world of being an author.

Degree vs. Debt: A

Well, when we consider the fact that a degree is not a requirement to become an author, we’re definitely think an A is worthy of this category. You can earn a degree if you’d like or skip it, it’s really up to you. The amount of schooling you could possibly earn is up to you and could result in a very small amount of debt if you shoot for a bachelor’s degree.

Difficulty of Degree: A

Again, there aren’t mandatory degree requirements in place when you try to become an author, so we are going to stand behind our grade of an A. This grade also applies to the degrees that can be earned in the process of becoming an author if that is the path that you choose. There’s a lot of writing and reading in your future whether you go to school or skip it, so we are going to consider it a wash and stick with an A!

Happiness Quotient: B+

We almost graded the this section with an A, but then we remembered how much rejection authors are prone to receiving and how hard it can be to get something published without having to see your soul to the Devil. We figured a B+ was a nice compromise instead. Being an author is a dream job for some people and even the bumps along the way are worth the sweet reward of seeing your book in the window of a bookstore.

Job Outlook: D

The job outlook for authors is such a let down. We were pretty bummed when we checked the Bureau of Labor Statistics website to see what the reported job growth was for the career of an author. We are super sad to report that the profession is only expected to grow roughly 3% from 2012 to 2022. This sucks for lack of a better word. It’s likely that authors will have to parlay their skills into writing work in other mediums to make ends meet until the next book sells big.

Other Career Choices

Technical Writer Career Info

English Teach Job Description

Sources and Recommended Reading

You’re probably already know all about the importance of research and sources since you are interested in becoming an author. Well, we know a bit about the importance of those two things as well and are happy to share some of the information that we gathered with you today.

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