Preparing for a Career as an Author of Fiction Novels or Non-Fiction Books

This is the second handout that I recently prepared for a high school career fair. See Tuesday’s post for an overview of jobs in writing, publishing and marketing.

Here are some tips for individuals interested in becoming an author.
1. Accept that you will need a job, possibly for several years, until your book career is well-established. Train for a “day job” that you enjoy, whether it’s in the writing field or in a totally different field, and make time to write on the side. Write, write, write!

2. Take creative writing classes, (you can find them on-line as well as in-person) find critique partners, and read books on craft and editing.

3. Join a professional organization, depending on what genre you write, such as Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Science Fiction Writers of America, or Romance Writers of America. This will help you to network with other writers and find learning opportunities, as well as provide leads on publishing opportunities, contests, and scams. Check out the Writers Market for book publishers and agents. Read magazines such as Writers’ Digest and The Writer.

4. Whatever your college major is, make room for some marketing classes. Knowing how to promote yourself is an important part of being an author. Read books on marketing. Learn how to update and maintain a web site, such as a WordPress site. Learn how to professionally use social networking (Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, etc.).

5. Be willing to rewrite and fine-tune your manuscript and be open to suggestions from editors, agents, and other authors. It’s a rare writer who gets it right the first time.

6. It’s ideal if you can land a publishing contract from a reputable publisher first, to help give you credibility, but be aware that many authors, both established and newcomers, are now independently publishing through such avenues as Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program, Barnes & Noble’s Nook Pub-It program, and Smashwords. There are more opportunities for authors than ever before thanks to the rise of e-book devices such as Kindle and Nook, but your book has to be polished and ready, you have to be prepared to market yourself, and you need to stay informed about the rapid changes in the publishing industry.

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