As an Author, you will write fiction and non-fiction books. There are many styles of writing. For example, in adult fiction, you can specialise in types such as romance, crime or science fiction.
Also known as
- Travel Writer
Video: - M J Simpson: Author
Video: - Katharine Holabird: Children's Author
As an Author, you will write fiction and non-fiction books to entertain and inform people. However, very few Authors earn a living entirely from writing, even if their work is published or performed. Therefore,writing is most likely to be a part-time activity for you, and you'll normally need to supplement your income by doing other work.
It's often difficult to gain acceptance by Editors in publishing firms, or by a Literary Agents who will help you to sell your work to a Publisher. Editors or Agents are always looking for new, talented Authors, but receive so many manuscripts from unknown Writers that they rarely comment on unsuitable work.
Even in situations where your work shows promise, you might have to adapt it to meet the commercial demands of the Publisher. Publishers might ask you to rewrite your work before they accept it; this could mean having to change the length of the work or the writing style to suit the Publisher's requirements.
Once your work is published, you might be commissioned to write a new piece of work on a particular theme. Or you might adapt your work into another literary form such as a play, screenplay or television script. Most published books are commissioned from established Authors rather than from manuscripts of unknown Writers.
Once you become an established Author, you might employ a Literary Agent. You will pay them to act on your behalf in any negotiations regarding copyright, future work, translation or film rights. Without an Agent, you may have to become involved in business transactions, which are often time-consuming.
All Authors, whether of fiction or non-fiction, have to bear in mind that the creative process in writing must be supported by attention to detail to ensure that references, quotations, geographical locations and historical settings are accurate. As an Author, you will often have to do a lot of research, therefore, before you begin to write.
You might promote your work by going to book launches and publicity events.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To become an Author, you'll need:
- excellent writing skills, with the ability to interest the reader and explain ideas clearly
- good organisational skills and the ability to meet deadlines
- negotiation, marketing and promotion skills
- thorough research skills and attention to detail
- the ability to handle criticism; you might have to alter your work to meet a Publisher's demands
- self-discipline, motivation, patience and determination
- ICT and typing skills
Pay and Opportunities
Earnings for Authors vary widely. You might receive an agreed price for a piece of work, or more often, be paid an advance and royalties - usually a percentage of the net price of a book. Authors of non-fiction books, such as gardening and cookery books, often earn more than most authors of fiction.
A handful of very successful (and often famous) Authors earn millions of pounds. However, even established Authors might spend periods with little or no income. Many Authors write part-time while doing another job to make some money.
The pay rates given below are approximate.
- Starting: £23,000 - £24,500
- With experience: £26,000 - £31,000
- Senior Authors earn £33,000
Hours of work
You decide your own daily work schedule but you'll often work longer hours as deadlines approach.
Where could I work?
Some Authors are commissioned to write by publishing editors. Others send manuscripts to agents, publishing companies and magazines.
Authors can base themselves in towns, cities and rural areas anywhere in the UK. Some Authors base themselves in other countries.
Authors are self-employed and generate earnings from the sale of their books.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Some Authors are represented by literary agents. This usually offers a better chance of work being published.
Entry Routes and Training
There are no clearly developed entry routes for working as an Author.
It's often useful to join writers' clubs, go to evening classes in creative writing, take part in literary workshops and enter writing/short story competitions. You could ask fellow Writers to examine your unpublished work because they might be able to provide support and ideas to help you.
A portfolio showing your writing skills is likely to be just as valuable as formal qualifications for entry to some courses.
Many Authors employ an Agent to help them get their work published. Often, book publishers only accept an Author's submissions via a Literary Agent.
There is no clearly developed pattern of formal training for a career as an Author, although you can study creative writing at degree and postgraduate level.
Short courses in writing are also widely available, such as the residential courses run by the Arvon Foundation. Other courses include:
- narrative non-fiction writing
- life writing
- political and social non-fiction
- starting to write non-fiction
- non-fiction: work-in-progress
- flash fiction
- short story: tutored retreat
- starting to write
- starting to write children’s and young adults’ fiction
Check the websites for dates and availability.
Other courses could be available in your area.
Training as a Journalist can help you develop relevant skills, such as the ability to research facts, write concisely, work to deadlines and meet an editor's requirements. For most Authors, however, the process of writing is largely trial and error.
Authors need to keep promoting their work to get published, often with the help of an Agent.
Writing skills are more important than specific qualifications.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
Some authors have a relevant background in, for example, publishing, advertising or media production. Experience in areas such as student journalism, drama groups and theatre companies can be useful. You can gain other useful experience by joining writers' groups and entering literary competitions.
A variety of full- and part-time courses are available in creative writing at local colleges and adult education centres.
The Open University offers short courses in Advanced Creative Writing, Creative Writing and Children's Literature.
Degrees and MAs in creative writing are available part-time.
You can take creative writing courses by distance learning through the Writers Bureau, the Open College of the Arts and the London School of Journalism.
There are no special sources of funding for adults. However, regional arts boards will consider financial support for individuals. The Arvon Foundation offers grants and bursaries for its residential writing courses.
Skills for the creative industries
Publisher: Creative & Cultural Skills
Open University (OU)
Tel: 0845 3006090
Creative & Cultural Skills
Skills for craft, cultural heritage, design, literature, music, performing arts and visual arts
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ)
Tel: 020 78433700
Women In Publishing (WiP)
Publishers Association (PA)
Tel: 020 7452 3400
London School of Journalism (LSJ)
Tel: 020 7432 8140
Writers' Guild of Great Britain
Tel: 020 7833 0777
Writers & Artists
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
Open College of the Arts
Tel: 0800 7312116
Association for Scottish Literary Studies (ASLS)
Address: Department of Scottish Literature, University of Glasgow, 7 University Gardens, Glasgow G12 8QH
Tel: 0141 3305309
Scottish Book Trust
Address: Sandeman House, Trunk's Close, 55 High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1SR
Tel: 0131 5240160
Welsh Books Council (Welsh Enquiries)
Address: Castell Brychan, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 2JB
Tel: 01970 624151
Arts Council of Wales
Address: Bute Place, Cardiff, UK, CF10 5AL
Tel: 029 2044 1400