The Business of Becoming a Writer

Becoming a published author can be a very romanticized career but, in reality, it takes serious time and dedication, from beginning to end, in order to navigate the business of writing. Once a work is written, the job is still far from done. There are several things that need to happen, including finding and working with an editor and, perhaps, a literary agent. Then there is the work that goes into getting a work published. Authors have the option to publish using a traditional publisher or self-publishing, with both options offering various benefits.

Education and Skills

The ability to write coherently and vividly is one of the most important skills that successful authors need. A firm understanding of proper grammar and spelling is important, and the ability to write in an engaging manner is also crucial. Authors need to be able to perform research, maintain focus, and meet deadlines. Self-editing is helpful as well. Some authors have English degrees, which provide a background in a wide variety of literature. Other college majors that can be helpful include creative writing, journalism, communications, business, and linguistics. In addition to writing books, authors may also write as journalists, bloggers, and technical writers.

Using an Editor

After writing a book, it’s time for the editing phase. Although it can be tempting to self-edit only, this is not recommended. Authors tend to get very close to their manuscripts, and it becomes almost impossible to see errors. The editing phase begins with a self-edit to make sure you feel finished with the book.

The next step involves asking a couple of friends or family members to read the manuscript. This is known as a “soft edit,” because you can’t necessarily count on the total objectivity of friends and family, but they will often be helpful with some issues. From there, consider hiring a couple of beta readers to read your book. Beta readers are professional readers who will often help with tone, flow, and plot holes. After beta readers finish, you may have some revisions to complete. Then, you’re likely ready to hire a professional editor who will assist with grammar, spelling, punctuation, verb tenses, flow, content, character development, dialogue, and more. Editing may consist of multiple rounds, depending on how much revising you do after a single round.

Self-Publishing

The way in which one can become a published author has changed dramatically in the last decade with the ability to self-publish instead of only being published by traditional publishing houses becoming a popular option. Instead of approaching publishers and agents with a manuscript and receiving many rejections, it’s now possible to proceed with publishing using a self-publishing company, or to start your own self-publishing company.

Self-publishing has a number of advantages, including autonomy as far as writing decisions and the elimination of harsh rejections. A self-publishing business doesn’t control what’s being published in the same way that traditional publishers do, but many companies offer publishing packages that can include editing and cover design. Before choosing a self-publishing company, read the fine print of the contract carefully to ensure that you understand your rights. It’s also important to research self-publishing companies to choose a reputable one that doesn’t have a history of mishandling authors. Companies that guarantee sales or make other wild promises are usually not reputable and honest.

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Finding a Traditional Publisher

Authors often need an agent to approach a traditional publisher, and it can be very challenging to find an agent that is willing to take on a new author. One way to find an agent is to research agents used by authors who write in a similar genre, because these agents may be an option for you as well. Make a list of potential agents to keep track of submissions. A book proposal is the pitch you send to agents, and this includes a synopsis, book outline, author biography, and query letter. The goal of the book proposal package is to convince an agent to take a chance on an author and a manuscript, and your proposal needs to highlight anything special and unique about your book.

Best Tips to Become a Better Writer

  • Write everyday – Hone your skills by writing something creative every day.
  • Don’t worry about perfection – Writing doesn’t need to be perfect to improve your skills.
  • Work on storytelling – Develop the ability to tell stories that are engaging and detailed.
  • Focus on openings – The way you introduce your stories is crucial to keep people reading.
  • Read everything – Become an avid reader of many different genres. Browse libraries and book stores often, and step outside of your favorite genres to expand your literary awareness.
  • Master English rules – Strive to improve your structural command of the English language so you can write with better grammar.
  • Plan and plot – Once you have an idea for a story, plot it out to give yourself direction. Develop characters and a story arc.
  • Stick to it – Keep at your story, even when it gets hard. It’s fine to take a break for a few days but get back to it once you feel refreshed.
  • Ask for advice – If you get stuck, ask for advice from friends and family.

Writing Resources

Written by Ryan Hammill

Ryan Hammill

Ryan Hammill is the Business Pundit Editor for Entrepreneurship and for Policy. He is also COO of Syndicate Media Group, LLC, a digital media agency and start-up accelerator in Eugene, OR. He writes on topics including public policy, SEO, education, and religion. His writing has appeared in a variety of places, including Aleteia, The Federalist, and Sojourners. You can follow him on Twitter via @HammillRyan.