Ten Things You Need to Know About: Writing as a Career

Ten Things You Need to Know About: Writing as a Career

1. Find the balance between writing what you love and what will sell.

Sometimes you have to face the reality that the kind of writing you love doing may not be the kind of reading people are looking for. If you want to write a Western with a time travelling pig as the main character, it won’t sell. You also don’t want to spend your time writing a book about sexy vampires because you think people will buy it. Maybe they will and maybe you’ll become a best seller but it’s hard to shake a wrong image and don’t think that publishers will take any book from you just because you made it big. They’ll take any vampire book you want to write but if that’s not what you want to write then don’t do it.

Find the balance so that you’re writing something which is marketable but which you’re happy to put your name to and make a career from.

2. Learn to deal with rejection

Writers don’t make it to full time author status without first going through the nasty mangle of rejection. You are going to be told that your novel is too dramatic or that you have too many characters or it just plain sucks. You need to be able to deal with this. You need to listen to the criticism and decide whether it’s justified and whether there’s something you can do to improve. Having a thick skin isn’t enough in this industry, you need a skin that can absorb the criticism and turn it into something positive.

3. You’re going to spend a lot of time alone

Writers need isolation time to work on their projects and sometimes this gets lonely so you need to be prepared to spend a lot of time working solo. You can, however, work solo while surrounded by people in a coffee shop or a library environment – it’s all about working out what will allow you to get the work done without driving you insane.

4. Build relationships and network

Working solo is the first half but then you need to market your book and to get it in front of people who know what they’re talking about. Going to book signings and writing conventions will put you on the inside track for the industry and if you start talking to the right person at the right time, that person might become your editor or even your publisher.

5. You may need a second job

The Authors’ Licensing & Collection Society said the average annual income for a professional author in 2013 was £11,000 and only 11.5% of authors earned their income solely from writing. Being able to live off of royalty checks and book advances doesn’t happen overnight and for most it doesn’t happen at all.

6. The book you sell will not be the book you wrote

Even when you’ve signed the contract with the publisher and they’ve told you that the book is great, there will still be changes to be made. The contract is an agreement to create the book which will be sold. Think of your version as the vision and the foundation, but don’t expect it to be the final copy. As a career writer, you need to be prepared to work with your editor and publisher to make the book sell better. You won’t always agree with the changes they want but they know the market and they know what readers will buy.

7. You are not just a writer

After writing your book and making all the changes that need to be done and finally handing it over to the marketing folks, your job as a writer is done. However, your job as a marketer/ promoter has only just started. If you want to be successful and to get your name out there, you’ll need to do book signings, interviews, appear on panels and that’s just the exciting stuff and comes after you’ve done the work to book those gigs. You’ll also need to go out there and to tell people about your book, whether through social media or in person. You are the number one promoter of your writing.

8. You still need to find time to read

An author who doesn’t read is like a cook who doesn’t taste their own food – how else are you going to know how good it tastes? Reading is the best way for an author to stay on top of the market and to move with the times.

9. You should act like you’re already published

People always say things like ‘When I’m published, I will…

start a blog

write letters to other authors

tell my favourite writer what their book meant to me

These aren’t things you have to wait until you’re published to do and in fact, doing them now might make the transition come sooner. Writing a blog about your novels and experience of writing them could help build an audience and writing to established authors might pave the way for opportunities to meet editors or publishers. You shouldn’t put off doing things until you’re published – start living that life now.

10. If you still want to write as a career, don’t let anybody stop you

If none of this puts you off and even if some of it does make you hesitant, if writing is what you love and what you want to do then do it. Maybe look for that second job first and get yourself some security, but the only thing you need to pursue a career in writing is your own dedication.


Heather, who goes by Rydia on YWS, has long been an aspiring author. In the early days of her life she attached herself to poetry and would curl up on the playground bench to scrawl down lines of forgotten virtue. Or, more likely, little virtue at all. At the very old age of 11, she joined The Young Writers Club and progressed into the realms of roleplay. Here she constructed characters to fight off dragons or rally to their allies' aid with healing spells; a joint love of gaming heavily influenced this fondness of adventure storybooks. A few more years went by before Heather became a serious novelist and she still considers poetry to be her favourite media for getting those thoughts down on paper. Outside of writing her loves include puzzle books, strategy/ fantasy games, movies, swimming, skiing (when she actually has money), crafty things, baking, food in general, fun pranks and anything involving snow.

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1 Response

  1. May 25, 2015

    […] novel, and I thought, Why not make a writing blog? This decision was partially influenced by This blog […]

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