Dream job as a writer: What you need to bring with you
If you want to realize your dream of writing your own book, you need discipline and, above all, passion. Whether you're sending a detective to find a murderer or dreaming up fantastical and magical worlds, whatever you want to write, do it. Not to become rich or famous, but to be able to hold your own book in your hands.
How do I become a writer?
A man in a tweed jacket, typing his thoughts on a typewriter with a cigar in his hand and a glass of whiskey beside him - that certainly doesn't correspond to the image of a modern author and certainly not to reality. This romantic notion of an author has nothing to do with writers who write in their spare time in addition to their regular jobs. Whether it's the neighbour, the dentist or the student, any one of them can be an author.
The author is the creator, respectively the originator of a linguistic work. So anyone who writes novels, plays, poems or textbooks can call themselves an author. You don't need to sell thousands of copies to be an author - you need talent and a good dose of luck in addition to the writing itself. You are an author as soon as you have written a literary work.
As distinguished from an author, a writer writes literary narratives, that is, fiction. An author writes literary works in general. Here are, in addition to fiction, also technical and non-fiction as well as comics and articles in newspapers and magazines.
Writer as a profession or by vocation
As different as authors' stories are, so is their motivation for writing in the first place. While some intend to continue with the writing To make money - which should never be the main motivation - others want to get their thoughts off their chest or give their ideas a place. Still others can't wait to see their story between two book covers, and there are authors who want to prove to the book market that they can do better than what they've read before. Whatever the reason an author starts writing, the main thing is that they do it.
It doesn't have to be about publishing at all. For many authors, it's enough to have their own book printed and put on their bookshelf. Or maybe distribute it to family and close friends. If you have your book printed through a self-publishing provider , it only takes one click to publish.
The same "coffee cup wisdom" applies to writing as it does to most things in life: In the end, you don't regret what you did, you regret the things you didn't do. So don't wait any longer, get your ideas down on paper.
What do I need to become a writer?Simply put, all it takes to become an author is paper and pen. An author is, after all, one who writes a literary work. But to write a high-quality book and find readers, something more is needed. In addition to a spark of talent and a good dose of passion, curiosity, perseverance and, above all, the craft of writing should not be underestimated.
As in other artistic fields, you need talent to reach readers with your book. That doesn't mean you have to create the perfect book as soon as you start typing on your laptop. You don't have to master everything right away. While one writer has a talent for coming up with the most creative ideas, another can narrate imaginatively, and yet another has a particularly beautiful form of expression. Writing talents can be many and varied, and of course you don't have to have them all and produce a publishable text on your first try - that's where editors will help you in the end.
Not to be underestimated is that you can learn to write. Because writing is more than just putting words in order. You want to create characters with whom a reader can sympathize and implement your ideas in an exciting way. Which stylistic devices do you use to achieve which effect, and how is a story actually structured? These are all things you can learn in different ways. First and foremost: reading. Then you'll get a feel for it all by yourself. Also writing schools can be helpful here.
Writing books requires a lot of discipline. Just finishing a complete book takes a lot of time and stamina. But also the search for a publishing house can be draining. It's the same with self-publishing: it's no longer enough to publish your book to generate attention. You also need a carefully planned marketing, which also requires a lot of discipline.
What drives most writers in their first attempts at writing is passion. It's not yet about achieving anything or anyone with what you write. You just write because that's what you want to do. If you want to become an author and publish novels regularly, this passion is something you should not lose. If your hobby becomes your profession, your mood can quickly change. Remind yourself why you started writing in the first place.
Questioning things can be especially useful for you as a writer to keep finding new ideas for novels and stories. Draw from your environment, the stories of your friends and colleagues and current events and spin your own courses and stories together. For example, what if the missing garden gnome from the neighbor's garden has gone wandering on its own? Or is someone trying to cover up a worse crime by stealing it? Or perhaps it is a gift to win over the man of your dreams. From one simple thing, numerous possibilities can be devised. So stay curious and find your stories.
Do I have to study to become a writer?
Whether through self-study, seminars or even courses at universities or colleges - there are numerous ways to become an author. You don't need a university degree to publish a book. However, it doesn't hurt to learn the craft first. And that works best through practice.
Writing books: a real craft
No one is surprised if an actor has previously attended drama school, and it is also completely normal for musicians or singers to have undergone training in order to learn their instrument. When it comes to writing, however, there is a persistent reputation that says: "Anyone can do that. True, all of us learned to write in elementary school - but how to develop vivid characters and how to build suspense in a story goes beyond just writing letters and words. Talent is important, but writing itself is a craft. As with painting, for example, there are different techniques that can be learned.
Inevitably, this involves reading. If you read a lot, you develop a sense for good - or bad - stories and your own writing. It also takes practice. The first draft doesn't have to be perfect, and maybe the second and third aren't yet either. If you're learning guitar, you don't expect to be able to play the most elaborate pieces after your first lesson either. Set aside that expectation for your writing, too. Maybe your writing isn't good enough at first - but it will be if you keep at it.
What training opportunities are there for writers?
A humanities degree such as German studies or philosophy can help you to develop and train a feeling for language. There are also a few universities in Germany that offer creative writing courses. These include Berlin, Leipzig and Hildesheim, as well as some private universities such as the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne. However, the places on the course are in great demand and they are still no guarantee of bestsellers. Many authors do not have the opportunity to enrol at a university for several years due to their professional and family commitments. But in order to still get professional help for the craft of writing , distance learning courses and tutorials can help.
In addition, the trend towards writing schools has been spilling over from the USA to us for some time now. Thus the school of writing, which Hamburg Academy for Distance Learning or the Distance learning academy of the Klett publishing house offers various distance learning courses as well as training courses. Here, aspiring or already experienced authors can professionalise their writing. (Popular) universities and creative workshops also offer courses time and again, where authors can also exchange ideas and support each other on site. These include the writing workshop in Berlin or the author dock in Hamburg. In the same way, many authors or editors offer individual seminars that deal with specific topics and only last for a weekend or an afternoon.
There are also numerous writing guides on the market. Whether it's about writing craft, building suspense, or theoretical plot structures, research a guide that fits you and your writing. Maybe a book on world-building will help you, or maybe you'd like to delve deeper into character development?
In any case, it doesn't hurt to invest in your writing. Through an individual writing style, well thought-out stories and professional design, you will in turn attract more readers, which means that such courses and seminars quickly pay off. Do not be afraid to attend such courses. Even if you're a career changer, you'll never be alone, because very few authors have ever studied in this field beforehand.
Take a read through the author vitae from the books in your closet. Many come from completely different backgrounds and have used those very experiences in their writing.
Writing your first book
Authentic characters and a gripping plot are just as important for a book as a grandiose book idea. But writing doesn't always go smoothly. Whether it's difficulty finding inspiration, wooden characters, or even writer's block - when you're writing your first book, many unplanned problems can come your way. So it's best to be well prepared to avoid them.
From the idea to the manuscript
You want to write a book? Then you should first find a suitable topic. From now on, it's best to always have a notebook with you in which you can directly jot down your spontaneous ideas. Because you can find inspiration everywhere - in the newspaper, on a walk or in a conversation. Maybe you already have a book idea, that has been floating around in your head for a long time and that you would now like to put down on paper. Then you need to structure your notes. The snowflake method can help you. To do this, start with a sentence that succinctly summarizes your book.
Even as you're structuring the plot and developing your idea, ask yourself who you're writing your book for. Do you want to reach readers who are interested in a love story with a happy ending, or are you thinking more about fans of space battles? Writing and marketing your book will be much easier if you know who you're writing for. Even if you submit your manuscript to a publisher you need to know who your target audience is.
But don't lose sight of the writing while planning, researching, and adapting to your target audience. While it doesn't hurt to have planned carefully in advance, you can also write first and see where your story goes. But then expect a longer revision period, during which you'll make appropriate adjustments. And don't forget to work with an editor at the end. This will help you avoid logic gaps that you, as the author, won't recognize because you've become "business-blind" in the meantime. You know the plot and characters by heart and therefore rarely find such gaps. Also rely on test readers and listen to their constructive feedback.
The biggest writing mistakes and how to avoid them
Debut authors in particular are not yet familiar with the day-to-day writing process and may have a different expectation of writing a book than someone who has already been through the process. With practice, you'll keep improving, but especially on the first project, it's often the same mistakes that writers tend to overlook.
Your characters behave unnaturally, their dialogue sounds wooden, and you don't really know what their goal is in your novel. As an author, you should know your characters well, only then will they come alive for your readers. And that doesn't only apply to their appearance and age, but also to their social environment, their life so far and their strengths and weaknesses. How does the protagonist change over the course of the story? A character sheet can help you get to know your characters better.
Depending on what kind of story you're writing, you should also adjust the narrative perspective accordingly. Do you want to deal with feelings? Then you should choose a person or first-person perspective. Do you want the narrator to comment on and analyse the action and characters? Then an authorial narrative perspective would make sense. Try different approaches and choose the one that best suits you and your book before you end up rewriting everything.
Arc of suspense
If the reader can't put your book down and wants to know what happens next, you've done everything right. But maintaining suspense from the first line to the last isn't always easy. Different structures, such as the classic drama or the hero's journey, can give you a basic framework to shimmy along. At the latest when your manuscript is presented to an editor, he will rigorously cut lengths. It's best to check your manuscript beforehand to see which scenes it really needs and which ones slow down the plot unnecessarily. This starts with dialogues, for example: Avoid greetings or polite phrases in novels, but only let your characters speak when they really have something to say.
I'm sure every writer has been through the blank page fear at some point. Sometimes the words just won't flow. This has nothing to do with your skills as a writer. Maybe you just need a little break or a walk to gather new inspiration for your manuscript. Interacting with other writers can also help you get a Writer's block to overcome. There are also numerous creativity exercises that can help you get back into writing.
Things don't work out the way you expected. Again and again you maneuver your characters into dead ends from which you don't know the way out, and somehow you don't really want to reach the goal you've come up with. And you can't expect a big book success with your work, so why continue? Because it's an indescribable feeling when you can put the word "end" under your first book. Don't think too much about whether all the logic gaps have been closed and the wording has fallen out after the first draft. When you're writing your first book, it's not about delivering a perfect, ready-to-publish novel yet. Instead, remind yourself why you started writing in the first place. And rekindle that passion.
Publish as a book author
Holding your own text in your hands between two book covers - but how? Would you like to publish through a traditional publisher or take the step as a self-publisher yourself?
How do I find a publisher as a book author?
Before you submit your manuscript to a publisher, you should check whether it fits into the publisher's program. When submitting your manuscript, you should also pay attention to specifications such as a certain font, the number of pages of a reading sample, or additional information such as an author's CV or previous publications. Once you have sent your documents, be prepared for several months to pass before you receive a response. Unsolicited manuscripts pile up on editors' desks.
Source: Own surveys
If you receive a rejection - or in the worst case no answer at all - don't be discouraged. This has nothing to do with the quality of your text. Maybe your manuscript doesn't fit into the programme or your synopsis needs some fine-tuning? Keep trying and maybe go for smaller publishers. But beware: stay away from print subsidy publishers. If a publisher charges you money for the printing of your manuscript and does not provide any support in editing, layout or marketing, you should definitely not publish there.
If you manage to find a publisher, they will support you in marketing, cover design, editing and proofreading. Nevertheless, you should also take care of your own marketing and increase the awareness of your book.
How do I self-publish my book?
If you want to design your publication according to your own wishes, you can publish your book in self-publishing. You decide on the cover design and marketing measures yourself and only need to implement the changes that you yourself support after proofreading. But here, too, you must not forget that it is not enough to simply write a text and publish it. It should still be able to keep up with a publisher's work in order to be interesting for your readers.
Unlike in a publishing house you can publish your book quickly and easily through self-publishing, but don't underestimate the costs for layout and editing that you will incur. Especially when it comes to marketing, there are several service providers who can support you. So you are not completely on your own in self-publishing, you have to cope with more tasks, but you also have more freedom.
From manuscript to finished book
There are many steps between writing and publishing your book. If you are published by a publisher, you don't need to worry about this, but as a self-publisher you should plan enough time for the next steps.
Editing and proofreading
Once your manuscript is ready, the next step is to work with an editor. The plot may be clear to you, after all, you see it playing out in your mind's eye, and you know your characters, too. But a reader only has what's actually in the text. Is all the backstory clear, are there logic gaps, or does the protagonist first have blue eyes and then two chapters later suddenly have green eyes? What you don't even notice anymore, because you become "operationally blind" to your story over time, is what your editor will find. Your readers will thank you with good reviews. This "operational blindness" also exists in editors, by the way. They work intensively on your story and, because they work through the text several times, they can miss one or two spelling mistakes. That's why it doesn't hurt to hire an additional proofreader.
Book typesetting and cover design
Great content is only convincing if the book is also beautifully packaged. The cover of your work is crucial for whether your readers even take a closer look at it. If it looks unprofessional, in the worst case your target group won't even get as far as the reading sample. Once you've made it this far, the book's typesetting is another issue that should not be underestimated. Here, too, the appearance can be decisive for whether your book is bought or not. If it is difficult to read because the font size is too small, the font is uneven or the type is flat, the reading pleasure will be limited. Many self-publishing service providers offer assistance with cover design and book typesetting, such as a cover designer or style sheets. At tredition, the cover designer is even available free of charge. Start your book project now.
Printing and distribution
If you publish your book with a self-publishing provider, they will take care of the printing and distribution. The aim is to ensure that your work finds its way to the reader. Usually, self-publishing service providers work with the print-on-demand process. Your book will not be printed until it has been ordered. The way in which your novel is distributed depends on the service provider. Compare them in advance to make sure your book is available in bookstores.
This is the life of an author
Sitting at a desk, in a café or on a park bench all day and nothing but writing. That's what many authors dream of. But what bureaucratic challenges do you face if you want to earn money as an author?
Legal issues as an author
If you publish a book, you earn income from freelance work. You do not need a trade licence for this - unless you offer your books in your own store. However, you should inform the tax office in an informal letter that you are earning money with your writing activity - even if only as a sideline. You should also not forget this income in your tax return. In the same way, you can also deduct all the expenses you incur for writing from your taxes. This also applies to creative writing courses, for example.
If you even work as a full-time author, you must also pay for your own social insurance. This means that you have to pay both the employee and the employer's contribution. After all, you no longer have an employer who pays half of it. However, you can insure yourself through the artists' social insurance fund (KSK) , so you don't have to pay the social insurance completely on your own. In order to be accepted there, you have to generate a certain percentage of your turnover from artistic activities.
In addition to tax obligations, as an author you also have rights, that you should know about when you publish your book. For example, your text is protected by copyright and your book title is subject to title protection upon publication. Copyright applies from the moment you outline your idea. However, these rights also apply to all other authors, so be sure to cite properly, when you use someone else's text.
How much do I make as a writer?
You may have written the book as the author, but there are still many other trades involved in the production process. For example, editing, printing and distribution must also be paid for. So don't expect huge fees, whether you publish your book through a publisher or self-publish. Also, many factors depend on whether your work sells. That's why carefully planned marketing is essential. Whether it's through readings, bloggers, or press releases, generate awareness for your book to draw readers to it.
According to the Self-Publisher Bible survey, in which a total of 1,895 authors participated in 2020, the average monthly earnings of self-publishers are around 952 euros. However, about half earn less than 50 euros per month. To be successful in self-publishing, regular publications and target group-oriented marketing are crucial factors.
With the following sample calculation you can see what costs and earning potential you can expect.
The everyday life of a writer
One writes during his lunch break, the other on a Thai beach, the next from the sofa. The advantage of working as a writer is that you can write from anywhere. All you need is a pen and paper or your laptop. That's why it's no problem to start as a part-time writer for now. According to a survey of 3,000 authors by the news magazine Spiegel, only 150 writers said they could live off the sales of their books. That corresponds to a share of about five percent. The remaining 95 percent finance themselves through their regular main job or work freelance as journalists and editors for other books.
If you want to work as a writer, there is now more to it than just writing. Marketing is also a crucial point for your book sales. It doesn't matter whether you work for a publisher or take care of your own publication. Plan targeted marketing and generate attention and book sales. You shouldn't underestimate self-marketing either. Readers like to know who is behind their favourite books, and how you present yourself and your book can also be crucial when applying to a publisher.
You have an idea for a book and maybe even already structured and outlined it? Good, then you're an author. Equipped with a good portion of patience and discipline, you can use your passion for writing and not only finish your work, but also publish it and maybe even earn money with it. But don't forget to inform the tax office about your freelance work. Take writing classes and read writing guides to learn the craft and professionalize your writing and avoid rookie mistakes, and come up with a targeted marketing plan to attract readers to your work. And if you ever get stuck in writer's block, take a breather and remind yourself why you started writing - and keep going.