How do I become an author – and make a living with writing?

How do I become a professional author?

Image: There are certain rules that can help you to make the dream of being a published author come true.

Is writing actually a proper job? And can you learn to be a proper author? Many authors who already have their own manuscript lying around in a drawer somewhere, often have the same question at the beginning of their career as a writer: How to I become an author? And where and how do I learn to become a professional writer? Yes, author is a job. You can’t really “learn” to be a writer as such but there are certain rules that can help you to make the dream of being a published author come true.

Our blog article will reveal those rules to you. They might sound simple, but only the ones who are truly dedicated to their book will be able to follow them right through to the end.


1 The first step to becoming an author: Put your book project in action

You have finally finished you book manuscript after many hours of writing? It seems like the biggest chunk of work is behind you. But for most authors, this is the point at which most authors start to feel a little nervous. After all, this is the point at which you need to make your book work. Don’t underestimate all the work that comes after finishing your book.

Only the right approach, including the creation of a targeted exposé, addressing the book industry in the right manner, and much more, determines whether your book will eventually make it to the book shops or whether you will fail and your book will continue to lie in a drawer without ever being read by a large audience.

What do you need to do? First of all, you need to get to know the book industry and its conventions, think about your ideal reader and the regulations surrounding book publishing. Then you need to create a detailed to-do plan for your book and its future.


Kann ich vom Schreiben leben

Image: Be self-critical and judge your skills objectively!

2 Can I make a living with writing? – Be self-critical!

First, you should take your book and have another good look at it from the perspective of a reader. Be critical. Do you think your book is good enough to convince other people of your writing talent? Only very few writers can live from writing alone.  You should keep that fact in mind when you think about becoming an author and only rely on the income from your book sales.

Be realistic and judge your own book from a different perspective. Check whether you have the potential to compete with tens of thousands of other books that are released every year. Your book has to be of a very high quality to have a chance on the market.

If you are convinced that your book is good enough, you have to put all your energy into your publishing and marketing plan. Maybe your book has the certain something readers have been waiting for all these days. Look for some beta-readers who will have a good look at your book and provide you with honest and critical feedback.


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Image: Develop your own literary voice.

3 How do I become an author? – With your own literary voice

Work on your own writing voice. You should not copy another author’s style and voice. You need to develop your own voice which will make your work stand out from the crowd. That is the only way to convince readers. You also shouldn’t just have one book. Create your own routine, so that you will write regularly, avoid writer’s block, and provide successive books – don’t turn into a one-book-wonder. Many successful authors publish books regularly to keep their fans happy. Over time, they create a big pool of readers that is looking forward to more reading material.

4 Searching for a publisher – don’t send your exposé out randomly

You want to find your book a home with a publisher? Then you need to know your book and its target group very well. Write it all down: What is the genre of your book? What are its stylistic features? What is the theme? Who will be interested in reading it? Etc.

After you have all of that information, you can start looking for a suitable publisher. You need to do some proper research because it would be a huge mistake to send your book to all possible publishers.

Think about which publisher would be a good home for your book, i.e. where would your book have chances for success? You shouldn’t just choose publishers that cross your mind or that you personally like.

Looking for a publishing house

Image: Don’t send your exposé out randomly

Each publisher has certain specialities, i.e. focuses on a certain genre or a certain type of writer. A crime novel won’t make it with a cook book publisher even if the main character likes cooking. A language course won’t make it with a fantasy book publisher unless it’s a book about Dothraki. A book for children should go to a publisher that focuses on publishing books for children, etc.

Also be aware of the conventions in certain publishing houses. A conservative publisher won’t appreciate an exposé that is too creative, while a more modern and open minded publisher might take the bait.

Instead of looking for a publisher yourself, you could also hire a literary agent who will target the right publishers for you. Literary agents are popular with publishers because they help them to filter the good manuscripts from the avalanche of new manuscripts they receive every day. Literary agents are kind of like matchmakers for authors and publishers, and you can profit from their expertise and knowledge.


5 Discover all opportunities: Should you use a traditional publisher or become a self-publisher?

advantages self-publishing

Image: Consider all opportunities of Self-Publishing.

You don’t always have to go down the traditional path. Advancements in technology created a variety of possible publishing methods to make your dream of being a published author come true. You can either be a traditionally published author or become a so-called indie author who self-publishes his or her books.

Self-Publishing has the big advantage that your books can be on the market within a relatively short time frame. You won’t have to send your manuscript to various publishing houses, waiting weeks if not months for a reply. You will also have more power over what is happening with your book. Authors also appreciate that the rights will remain with them when they choose the self-publishing path. There won’t be any complicated contracts requiring you to sign away the rights to your own story.

You will also have full control over your book’s marketing and sales – but of course this also means that you will have to take over all the responsibility for the success of your book.


6 Learn to live with rejections

live with rejections

Image: Be self-critical

You have to be persistent if you want to be successful as an author. Even books like “Harry Potter” have been rejected more than once before they made it. Now Harry Potter is a multi-billion business and books by J.K. Rowling sell without needing much advertisement.

You need to be self-critical but you also have to learn to deal with other people’s opinions. And they might not always be nice. It is unlikely that your book will be accepted with open arms by the first publisher you send it to. But you need to keep going and not let other people stop you. Don’t ignore critics though and improve your text, your appearance or other weaknesses that might make it harder for you at the beginning of your career.


7 Author = Do I need to register my own business?

Once your book is published and you start making money with it, you need to think about making it official and organize things like your taxes. After all, you don’t want to make the news as a tax-evading author. If you want to make a living as an author, you will most likely register as self-employed. You need to do this within the financial year in which you first started to earn money with your book. So you don’t need to rush unless the financial year is almost over, but also do not be too relaxed about it. It is always better to get all the paper work out of the way as soon as possible so you are able to focus on what really matters.

If you do not feel confident about doing it all on your own, you can hire a financial advisor or even an accountant.


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