How to Become an Author in 8 Steps (With Salary and Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 8, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Becoming an author can be a rewarding job for creative individuals who are talented writers. Aspiring authors may take different career paths to find success in the field. If you're considering a career as an author, it's beneficial to learn more about this job and the steps you can take to become one. In this article, we explain what an author does, share how to become an author, provide their average salary, describe their work environment and review skills you can develop in becoming an author.

What does an author do?

An author's primary task is typically writing books, which consumers purchase to read. Aside from writing, authors may be responsible for editing, publishing, marketing, and promoting their work. Typically, authors choose their working hours and the time they commit to their craft.

Related: 10 Outstanding Careers for Creative People

How to become an author

When learning how to become an author, you may discover that the career path of one author can differ vastly from another. While there are many ways authors can create a successful career for themselves, most take hard work and patience. Here are eight common steps that you can follow to become an author:

1. Consider higher education

There's no formal education requirement for becoming an author, but it may be in your best interest to consider pursuing higher education. As authors rely heavily on their skills to achieve success, pursuing a degree where you refine relevant skills and learn from experienced authors can be beneficial. Aspiring authors may consider seeking a degree in:

  • Linguistics. Develop your various writing skills and study the evolution of English grammar.

  • English literature. Read and analyze famous literary works through discussion and writing.

  • Creative writing. Learn how to write various creative works and publish your work in various formats.

  • History. With the popularity of historical novels, studying history can help you learn more about the potential subject for your writing.

2. Learn the fundamentals of book writing

Before writing a book, try to learn the fundamentals of book writing. To gain this knowledge, you can:

  • Take a writing development course at a local community college

  • Read educational books about writing

  • Consistently read books and analyze what makes them successful

  • Practise writing by mimicking different authors' writing styles

  • Keep a journal of ideas

  • Join a creative writing club in your community

  • Write as often as you can and share your work with others for feedback

  • Use writing prompts to practise writing

3. Focus on your mindset

As authors spend much of their working life in solitude and often rely on self-discipline to complete their work, it's important for them to focus on having a healthy mindset. You can achieve this by:

  • Reminding yourself that your skills are a work in progress and can continue to improve the more you write

  • Being proud of your dedication to your art by viewing yourself as a capable writer

  • Thinking positively

  • Learning what focusing strategies work best for you

  • Setting achievable goals and celebrating small successes

Related: How to Be Innovative and Creative at Work (12 Easy Steps)

4. Write your first book

Although writing books is a creative process, you may find resources that separate the process of book writing into smaller, more manageable steps. For example, you can develop the message of your book first and then consider what characters you can create to help deliver this message effectively. Some common aspects of book writing include:

  • Creating a timeline for your book

  • Identifying the genre of your book

  • Brainstorming all of your thoughts and then organizing them

  • Considering the book's message, plot, setting, and characters

  • Planning a writing schedule

5. Edit your book

Once you finish writing your book, make revisions. When you revise, read aloud and edit by chapter. You can take breaks between working so that you can remain focused. Many successful authors usually hire professional editors or may have friends or family members read their work to provide feedback. It can be challenging for authors to view their writing from a reader's perspective, so be perceptive to your editors' changes.

Related: Copy Editing vs. Proofreading: Definitions, Skills and Duties

6. Publish your book

Once you finished writing and editing your book, it's time to publish it. Today, authors usually choose from two options. They may either work with a publishing company or they can self-publish their book. If you choose to work with a publishing company, you can pitch your book to literary agents, who then pitch it to publishing houses. If a publishing house accepts your book, they can work with you to edit and design it. Authors that use this publishing method typically earn royalties based on book sales.

If you choose to self-publish, which is often one of the best choices for beginning authors, you're responsible for hiring editors and designers who help ensure that your book is ready for sale. Once you're ready to sell the book, you can upload it to a self-publishing platform of your choice for readers to purchase it.

7. Market your book

Once you become a published author, it's time to market your work. When you market a book, your aim is to reach potential readers and convince them to purchase it. To achieve this, you may choose to hire a marketing professional. Together, you can create a strategic book marketing plan, which may include social media marketing, pricing, building a website, and garnering reviews.

8. Write another book

Once you complete the process of sharing your first book with your readers, you can begin to write a new book. This time, you can utilize your experience from writing and publishing your first book to help you develop new stories or more effective marketing plans. Like many other professions, being an author is a career where you can consistently grow your expertise and develop your skills.

Related: How to Become a Ghostwriter (With Essential Skills)

An author's average salary and work environment

The national average salary of an author is $47,703 per year. Authors' salaries may vary depending on their experience, location, and the types of works they're writing. Authors typically spend most of their working hours in solitude, sitting at a desk, writing. Becoming an author may be a suitable career choice for people who enjoy working independently.

One benefit of this career is flexibility. Usually, authors can plan their schedules or determine when or where they want to write. Authors may find it beneficial to make time for physical activity, as they usually sit for extended periods while doing their work. Many successful authors go on book promotion tours following the release of a new book. During these tours, authors may visit bookstores, libraries, talk shows, schools and universities to discuss their work and give their readers a chance to meet them.

Helpful skills authors can develop

You may consider gaining and refining the following skills to help you become a successful author:

Communication skills

Typically, authors have strong written communication skills. Their primary task is communicating a well-crafted story to their readers. Authors can also benefit from being well spoken, as they usually promote their books on press tours where they can speak about their work and meet with readers.

Creativity

Authors are creative individuals who create stories, characters, and plots that can captivate their readers. Some activities that you can do to inspire and grow your creativity include:

  • Working with other creative individuals by sharing and discussing your work

  • Discovering what inspires you, such as listening to certain music or spending time outdoors

  • Uncovering more about your identity and how it influences your work

  • Taking breaks from your work and returning to review it with a new perspective

Discipline

Many successful authors are goal-oriented individuals who require discipline to complete their work. Setting goals can help you track and finish your book on time. For example, you can create a schedule and adhere to it by establishing guidelines, like writing until you achieve a certain word count or determining the amount of time you want to write each week. You may reward yourself for achieving small goals to help motivate you to continue working towards the next one.

Research skills

Before and during the writing process, many authors like to research the topic of their work. For example, if you're writing a novel about a family living near a famous city in the 1930s, you may research what it was like living there during that time. Effective research usually involves:

  • Recognizing quality sources

  • Verifying that information is correct

  • Not allowing your pre-conceived ideas to influence your research

  • Organizing relevant information

  • Identifying and using the various resources that are available to you

  • Beginning with a broad scope or topic and analyzing more specific details

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organization and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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