What is an Author?

Authors are lovers of language. Their passion is writing well-crafted pieces of work. Authors work closely with words and use the fundamentals of language to evoke images, generate ideas, create musicality, inform, and to do so in a way that readers find accessible. There are many different types of authors, including novelists, poets, journalists, screenwriters, playwrights, copywriters, and so on, that stem to many genres, including academic, creative, business, professional, and journalistic writing.

Find your next career

Sokanu matches you to one of over 500 careers by analyzing your personality, interests, and needs in life. Take the free assessment now to see your top career recommendations!

What does an Author do?

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. Very simply, an author writes. A very loose definition of a professional writer is one who is paid for his or her writing.

So what does an author's write? The answer could be just about anything, from flash fiction (300 to 1000 words) or novels (40,000 words and up). In between the two are novellas, novelettes and short stories. Freelance authors may also contribute to magazines or journals. Another form of work that authors may work in is called ghost writing. Ghost writers write books, articles, stories and other texts that are officially credited to another person. Ghost writers have to work hard to keep the voice consistent with that of the official “author.”

There are many basic modes of writing that authors work in, including creative, descriptive, expository, narrative, and persuasive. Creative writing is meant to entertain the reader. Under the umbrella of creative there is fiction, poetry, scriptwriting, and the loosely defined, creative non-fiction. Creative writing is more reader-oriented as it is meant to capture the reader and keep them interested and invested in a piece of work for the length of a piece. Descriptive writing may be categorized under creative too, as it is meant to create vivid and clear images in the readers' minds describing a person, place, or event. Expository writing is meant to inform or explain. Journalistic writing falls under this category as it is meant to inform the reader about events, places, people, or the general happenings of the world. Narrative writing follows the path of a story arch, having a beginning, middle, and end that includes a platform, a conflict, the rising action, the climax, and a closing resolution or conclusion. Persuasive writing works to persuade the reader using supporting evidence to influence the reader's way of thinking.

Authors use their voice in the form of text to express ideas, thoughts, images and information. Whether they write novels from their own research and imagination or articles for others as freelance writers, the work is up to them.

What does it take to be an Author?

Authors have one main goal, and that is to produce a well-crafted body of work. This takes a lot of time and attention to detail. Authors need to have a very clear understanding of language and the mechanics of it. While an editor can help with technical mistakes, an author needs to have an excellent understanding of grammar and punctuation, as it makes an editor's job much easier and a manuscript more accessible. Publishers look for manuscripts that have few mistakes, as they will be more inclined to publish pieces that involve the least amount of revision.

Another important element of being a writer is dealing with patience and pressure. Every professional author has deadlines to meet, which puts a lot of pressure on them. At the same time, creative flow does not always work in the same timeline. As with novels, patience is key as it sometimes takes years to write one and it very rarely comes all at once. Ideas have to be explored and developed. Plot lines can be moved and shifted around. Character motivation may change. Authors have to trust their instincts and let the ideas come as they may. Authors have to find that happy place between getting the writing onto paper and giving their best work by the time that deadline comes up.

To be an author also means one has to have thick skin. A novel may not be accepted on its first try. Or second. Or tenth. Rejection hurts, but it's important that writers keep at it. Maybe the reason a manuscript is not accepted is because it needs some revision. It may be worth having another look at it. Writers need to be persistent to get their work published.

Lastly, but most importantly, writing is a passion. A writer must love writing to do it well and for a long time.

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 place in a coffee shop to tap on their laptop. Some prefer the old-fashioned method of paper and pen to produce their work. The options are endless, as long as authors are able to find a comfortable place to be creative and productive.

It's important that authors remember that they inhabit the body of a human. Writers will sometimes be so tuned in to the creative moment, that they may forget to take care of their bodies. Writers need to take regular breaks to eat or rehydrate. Sitting in a chair for a long period of time is hard on the back so it's important that writers stretch and move around to let their bodies loosen up. If writers ever find themselves stiffening up while working, they need to remember that stimulation with the outside world is imperative for absorbing information to write about, so they should take a break! Stand outside. Breathe fresh air. Go for a walk. Writers need to let their brain and body readjust to movement so that they are refreshed for the next writing session. Most importantly, they need to enjoy what they're doing and have fun!

How much does an Author earn?

An author's salary varies on a huge level. They may make millions. They might make nothing. It all depends on the type of writing and how well it sells. Authors are all self-employed in the sense that they are not full-time or part-time employed by a publisher. Author and publisher conduct business by signing contracts for the production of one or more books. The author can work for either a flat fee or a percentage. When a contract is being negotiated, usually the author receives an advance. An advance is a lump sum of money that must be earned back with future royalties on the sales of the book(s).

Let's say that you receive an advance of ten thousand dollars for a single book. This means that you would need to earn ten thousand dollars in royalties from sales of that book, before you will receive any additional royalties.

In some cases, a book may not earn enough money to pay off the advance. Let's say that your book earns four thousand dollars in royalties. If your advance was ten thousand dollars, that means that six thousand needs to be earned to pay off that advance. Depending on the contract, publishers could request that the unearned six thousand dollars be paid back. That being said, this rarely happens in practice.

Writing is a labor of love. It's never a guarantee that a lot of money can be made. Many writers have other jobs to subsidize their cost of living. It's all about the passion in the work. If you love to write, do it!

Learn more about being an Author