What is an Author?

Are you naturally inclined to think creatively? Do you love words and language? Becoming an author may be an obvious career path for you!

Authors produce well-crafted pieces of work for us to read and enjoy. An author will work closely with words and use the fundamentals of language to evoke our imagination, educate us, and hold our interest.

There are many different types of authors; novelists, poets, journalists, screenwriters, playwrights, copywriters, and so on. There are also many genres of writing; academic, creative, business, professional, and journalistic.

For as many different types of books and published writings there are in the world, there are as many different types of authors that write them.

What does an Author do?

A woman author busy writing.

Authors use their voice in the form of text to express ideas, thoughts, images and information. There are various types of writers and many paths to choose from. Here are just a few:

Story Writer
A story writer is typically a freelancer and specializes in writing short fiction stories for a variety of magazines. Many well-known authors started out as story writers.

Author (or Novelist)
A novelist writes long stories. Depending on the genre, a fiction book can have between 80,000 to 200,000 words, so this type of writer needs to be able to plan and execute his work. This requires dedication and patience.

Non-Fiction Writer
A non-fiction writer writes in a specialized field. This may include technical writers and academic writers. They are able to take a large amount of information and break it down so it is readable text. This type of writing requires fact and research checking.

A journalist is someone whose writing is published in newspapers and magazines and read by thousands if not millions of people. This type of writer is typically a freelancer and is always working to a deadline. Quality of work is extremely important as is making a name for yourself, as this will help to earn a respectable income.

Article Writer
An article writer writes a short piece, for example a food article or travel article. He or she will write for a variety of magazines, using crisp and concise language to make the article informative and fun to read. Having specialized knowledge is excellent, as article writers are always needed for medical, technical or commercial magazines.

Online Writer
An online writer is typically a freelancer and writes articles or short stories for websites and blogs. The internet is a great way to provide amateur writers an outlet for their creative work, enabling them to learn and progress in their skill level as they climb upwards in their writing career.

A ghostwriter is an anonymous writer who writes books, articles, stories and other texts that are officially credited to another person. He or she needs to keep the voice consistent with that of the official “author.” This type of writing is challenging, as there is a lot of planning, communication, re-writing and patience needed in order to satisfy the client.

A copywriter writes good marketing text (or copy) in order to sell something. A good copywriter will get paid well, as good copy sells more products. The key to this type of writing is being able to garner the trust of the reader while evoking interest and enthusiasm in the product.

Business Writer
A business writer generally writes for cutting-edge professional magazines and newspapers. Business magazines and newspapers need writers that have relevant business knowledge, excellent language skills and who are on the same, if not a better level, than the reader.

A columnist writes for newspapers, magazines, and newsletters. Some columnists are syndicated; their articles are seen in hundreds of newspapers, and a new article needs to be written every week.

Are you suited to be an author?

Authors have distinct personalities. They tend to be artistic individuals, which means they’re creative, intuitive, sensitive, articulate, and expressive. They are unstructured, original, nonconforming, and innovative. Some of them are also investigative, meaning they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive.

Does this sound like you? Take our free career test to find out if author is one of your top career matches.

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What is the workplace of an Author like?

An author's workplace is typically any place that he/she is able to produce work.

For some, that may mean a quiet desk with a computer, surrounded by books, encyclopedias, a dictionary and thesaurus. Some may find the gentle hum of conversation an easy writing background and find a coffee shop to be their place of work.

The options are endless, as long as the author is able to find a comfortable place to be creative and productive.

Writers will sometimes be so tuned in to the creative moment, that they may forget to take care of their bodies. Sitting in a chair for a long period of time is hard on the back, therefore stretching, moving around, having something to eat, and rehydrating are all things needed in order to refresh a writer's mind.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to become an Author?

Not all authors and writers complete the same level of undergraduate education. Following their undergraduate studies, some elect to earn a master’s degree; others do not. Still others pursue a doctorate.

Here are the typical timelines associated with these options:

  • Short-term Certificate in Writing – a minimum of five to eight classes
  • Associate Degree in Writing – two years
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Writing – four years
  • Master’s Degree in Writing – one to two years
  • Doctoral Degree in Writing – four to six years

For individuals seeking to become authors or novelists, the road to success is often more challenging. Their path includes writing a full-length novel, securing an agent, and selling their work to a publisher.

Are Authors happy?

Authors rank among the happiest careers. Overall they rank in the 95th percentile of careers for satisfaction scores. Please note that this number is derived from the data we have collected from our Career Explorer members only.

This high happiness quotient may have its roots in the equally high degree of freedom that authors enjoy: freedom to work independently as freelancers; creative freedom to express themselves in their writing; and freedom to collaborate with diverse partners, including clients, editors, and publishers.

What are Authors like?

Based on our pool of users, authors tend to be predominately artistic people. Take our career test to see what career interest category best describes you.

The work of authors is by nature inventive and artistic. Author Sydney Sheldon said, ‘A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it is to be God.’ While it was likely not Sheldon’s intention to equate authors with God, his words articulately – and with humor – speak to the artistic challenge which writers and authors take on every day: to create something original, imaginative, compelling, and memorable.

Should I become an Author?

Writing talent alone is not enough to make it as a professional author. Authors and writers of all kinds need to have a well-rounded skill set to be successful. The decision to enter the field should be preceded by consideration of all of the skills that the occupation demands:

Language Skills
While this may go without saying, authors must possess solid language skills. Without heightened knowledge of the rules of grammar, spelling, word usage, and phraseology, writers lack the very foundation of their craft.

Authors start with a blank page. They fill it with their imagination. To do so, they need to be creative thinkers, able to generate raw material, be it for a novel, a poem, a business document, a magazine article or a blog post.

Research Skills
The capacity to effectively research topics and interpret data is a core component of the author’s toolbox. Thorough research can be the difference between content that is valid, well-founded, and compelling; and content that is inaccurate, questionable, and inconsequential.

Communication Skills
In their role, authors must often call upon their communication abilities to interact and/or collaborate with clients, sources, editors, and readers.

Digital Media Savvy
The modern marketing landscape requires that authors understand the basics of website creation and search engine optimization. With this knowledge, they are able to create in-depth content focused on web publication and online audiences.

Writing is a repetitious process that often takes numerous drafts to complete. The best writers are therefore industrious and unrelenting in their pursuit of the perfect piece of writing.

Because many authors and writers are self-employed freelancers, they must be self-motivated and determined. They have to take a strategic approach to landing new clients and producing strong material and content.

As important as what writers must have to succeed is what they must give up to flourish in the field. If you plan to write for a living, plan to give up these things:

Your Sense of Entitlement
Nobody owes you their attention. If you intend to make a living with your writing, your words are – by definition – a product. It is your responsibility, therefore, to create your best work.

Ask yourself these questions:
- Why should anyone want to read my writing, visit my website, or buy my book?
- Am I a diligent and dedicated writer?
- Am I making a steady effort to produce quality material?
- Do I make connections with people who would be interested in my writing?

Your Romanticism
Writing is artistic. It is a craft. While these statements are true, they can also get in the way of the pragmatism required of aspiring authors and writers. You may love the romanticized version of the work, the idea of being a writer. But are you practical about the writing itself?

In other words, do you pay attention to the person on the other end of the page – the reader? Does your writing meet a market need? To become someone who actually earns money from their writing will likely mean abandoning your idealism and fantasies about the work.

An extensive vocabulary and the technical ability to compose beautifully balanced sentences will not make you a great writer. Moving people will make you a great writer. Entertaining, educating, and inspiring people will make you a great writer.

Your Fear of Marketing
You may want to just write. You may think that good writing should be enough on its own. It’s not. The build it and they will come mentality is not a recipe for success as an author.

Accomplished writers find people who want to read their kind of writing and get it in front of them. They market themselves. This means finding websites with established audiences and publishing your work there. This means creating a blog. This means connecting with influential people who can help promote your work.

Art and business are not mutually exclusive. Marketing is not a dirty word. It’s a prerequisite for success.

Your Time & Your Excuses
Building a writing career takes time. It doesn’t happen right now. It happens eventually. When you write consistently, your writing skills grow exponentially.

How many blog posts have you written? Have you outlined your book? How many words do you have under your belt? Do you write every day?

Be honest with yourself and be patient. Are you putting in the work or are you complaining too early?

Your Need for Approval
Being an author or novelist is not the most traditional of careers. It is a deviation outside the normal path, one that some people around you will probably not understand or be receptive to. They will tell you that it is impractical or risky; and that they don’t want you to be disappointed.

Resist putting your identity in someone else’s hands. Trust yourself. Trust the process. And take advantage of the fact this is the best time in human history to become a writer, because you don’t need a publisher to endorse you. You can self-publish and let you audience be the judge.

Authors are also known as:
Writer Novelist Creative Writer Story Writer Non-Fiction Writer Article Writer Online Writer Ghostwriter Business Writer Book Writer Fiction Writer Novel Writer