The Author’s Reality
Are you an aspiring writer wondering about how to become an author? Are you wondering how to get a book published? If so, you’ve come to the right place. This is a website for writers of all types, particularly those aspiring to be published authors. I’ve covered 16 elements of writing a novel, as well as provide you with information on submitting your work to editors and literary agents. That said, let’s look at what it takes to become an author.
I’m always astounded at the number of people in the world that want to learn how to be an author. The numbers are truly staggering if we go by what we find on the social media sites: the number of aspiring writers on Linkedin, the number of people on Twitter peddling their books – both self-published and traditionally published (i.e., through a major publishing house).
Additionally, doesn’t everyone know a handful of people who say they want to write a book someday? I’m sure everyone has heard it said by friends and family. It seems that everyone has some story inside of them. And that’s fine, but those who aspire to be authors must have several stories inside of them, in their active imagination, perhaps even voices in their head (and we’re not talking schizophrenia here) that want a place in the world.
Can anyone be an author? Well, before we answer that, we need to break down the question and rewrite it to ask, “What does it take to be a writer?” Once we’ve identified what it takes to be a writer, we just might find that we have the answer on how to be an author – that is, if you’re still interested.
How to Become a Writer
What does it take to be a writer? Can anyone do it? The short answer is that it takes a desire to write, a willingness to develop your craft, and knowledge of grammar and punctuation. A longer answer covers the debate of whether one can learn to write. Some people believe that good writers are born, not made—that they have an innate gift for writing. They vehemently oppose the view that someone can learn to write well, write a novel, a nonfiction book, or poetry if they were not born with this creativity.
I’ve had discussions with some that have that view. Honestly, I thought their view was a little gratuitous (they assumed that they had the gift, but of course, most other people did not), and should I say it…narrow-minded.
Since I’m the one writing here, I’ll tell you my stance on this. I think there are writers who have a God-given gift for writing. Yes, they came with that gift, were born with it. But, I also believe there are writers who have a desire to write and, while they may not be particularly gifted in this area, they can become good writers by learning and developing the craft of writing.
So now that we have the question of “can anyone do it” out of the way, let’s look at what it’s going to take.
What it Takes to be a Writer – 10 Aspects of a Writer
It’s not as glamorous as it might seem. Take a look. A writer:
- Has an active imagination or inspired idea they need to bring to life
- Spends hours with BOC – Butt on Chair – bringing it to life
- Spends a lot of time alone
- Sometimes feels lonely while pursuing their dream of writing
- Devotes years to learning about writing
- Spends many more years figuring out how to apply what they’ve learned to their writing
- Realizes there is no guarantee of success and writes anyway
- Learns to accept tons of rejection
- May write several novels before having anything published, if ever.
- Realizes that only about 1% of writers become published authors with traditional publishing houses, and writes anyway.
So, if that doesn’t discourage you, you just might be a writer at heart. You just might be someone who has to write because they have something they want to say, or they have to write for the sheer pleasure of turning words into impressions, ideas, and images, or they have to write because they cannot bear not to.
How to Become an Author
First, the ten items above apply to being an author as well as a writer. If I haven’t lost you yet, and you still aspire to have a book published, here’s what you do:
- Read the 16 elements of writing a novel.
- Get your BOC, and write the story you have in your mind and heart.
- Revise, revise, revise your story (one of the 16 elements).
- Have your story professionally edited.
- Decide how to get your book published…read on…
Getting Your Book Published
These are your options:
Large Publishing Houses
Some writers think the only way to become an author is by having their work published (and, I suppose, validated) by a publishing house; this is typically called “Traditional Publishing”. Writers usually start at the top, hoping their work will be published by one of the top 5 publishing houses, which include:
- Simon and Schuster
- Penguin Random House
- Hatchette Book Group
To go this route, you will need:
- A completed, professionally edited manuscript
- A query letter
- A book synopsis or outline (not always required)
- A Literary Agent
Most large publishing houses will not look at your work unless it comes to them through a literary agent. So, if we can back up for a second—once your manuscript is ready for publishing, you should do some research on literary agents, looking for those who represent your type of writing, or the genre of your novel.
Come up with a list of 10 literary agents who are interested in your type of writing and read their submission guidelines. The typical first step is to send the agent a one-page query letter—not a group letter, but a letter that you’ve individually addressed to each agent. Don’t send anything else in this first step, not your manuscript or any chapters of it, unless the agent’s submission guidelines specifically request it. Every agent is different. Some allow you to send the first 5 to 10 pages of your novel.
Small Publishing Houses
The smaller companies may look at your book without first going through a literary agent. In researching small publishers, look for those companies that publish your type of work and follow their submission guidelines. Some accept submissions only during specific months, like January, April, July, and October.
An alternative to traditional publishing is self-publishing. Several options are available for this method and most require the author to pay for the book to be published and for subsequent marketing and distribution services of the book. It can be very expensive. Many guides are available for learning the details of how to self-publish a book.
Just a few options for self-publishing include:
- Online publishing—this service could be offered in the form of an e-book only, with options for hard or soft cover books. They often offer social media marketing expertise for publicizing and distributing your book.
- Independent Publishers—these companies turn your manuscript into a hard or softcover book, and an eBook, if you wish. They often have cover artists, editors, marketing staff, publicists, and distribution channels for getting your book into bookstores. They also offer social media marketing expertise. This method of self-publishing can be a very expensive way to publish a book and unless you are willing to turn some marketing somersaults, the return on investment is low. They typically offer Print on Demand (POD) services, which keep the cost of printing down.
- DIY E-book Publishing—another alternative is simply publishing your book as an e-Book on web venues like:
- Amazon Kindle
- Kobi, and
- The Nook.
This is a relatively inexpensive and easy way to publish your book and is becoming a very popular choice among writers. The publisher typically takes a cut of your profits, which varies by site.
It’s a great way to publish if you just want to get your book on the web and available to readers. A problem with this is that, more often than not, authors forego the expense of a professional edit. However, if your novel isn’t up to professional standards, readers may not be interested in reading your writing. You know as well as I do, there are some pretty badly-written books out there. Don’t skip the professional edit. Editing is not just running spellcheck or getting your grammar right. For more on what professional editing does for a novel, watch for my upcoming article on this topic.
Whichever publishing method you choose, the main thing is that if you are looking into how to get your book published, you have written a book. You have become an author. Congratulations!