How To Become An Author In 2020

You’ve decided on an author career.

Of all the things you could do full-time (and then some) to earn an income, you’ve chosen to write books for publication.

And after hearing stories of successful writers earning more than enough with their craft, you’re ready to dive in.

Writing is much more than a hobby to you. It’s the air you breathe. Why shouldn’t it also be the thing that keeps you clothed and fed?

For that to happen, of course, you need to learn how to become an author.

And more than just seeing your books on sale at Amazon, et al, you want to earn enough in book royalties to quit your day job.

So, what are the steps to becoming a published author of bestselling books?

How To Become An Author

You want to have the best possible foundation as a writer so you can start earning five figures a month. Because it’s happened for others. Why not you?

And how great will it be when your millions of raving fans are liking and sharing everything you post on social media — and pestering you for the date of your next book’s launch?

Nothing wrong with visualizing the life you want for yourself.

But if you want to know how to become a published author, you need to learn all you can about the process — including the less fun parts of it.

No one gets to Rick Riordan’s or J.K. Rowling’s author status without years of hard work.

Steps to Getting Started As An Author

Study your craft.

Read books about writing and about writing books in particular. Learn from experienced authors and apply what has worked for them.

It’s not enough to decide you want to write the next popular YA fantasy series. If you don’t read and enjoy YA fantasy, you’re not equipped to write it. There’s more to it than just having an interesting story idea.

woman smiling while using typewriter how to become an author in 2020

If you’re writing nonfiction, read books like the one you want to write. Take note of what you like about them and what you’d rather do differently.

Some things you’ll notice as a reader that you won’t see in your own work, unless you know from experience to look out for them.

And what works for other authors might help you improve your book, too.

Practice writing shorter pieces.

The more experience you have writing shorter works — blog posts, articles, short stories, essays, etc. — the better equipped you’ll be for writing a book of 25,000 words or more.

Writing a clear, cohesive blog post that your readers enjoy and share on social media helps you build an online presence. And this can only help when it comes time to market your first book.

Practice writing blog posts and articles from an outline before you tackle something bigger.

The feeling of completion with these smaller projects will build your confidence. And the more you learn and practice, the clearer and more elegant your writing will become.

Connect with other writers.

Find a supportive community of writers and readers to encourage and to be accountable to as you work toward your goal of becoming an author.

Look for groups on the social media sites where you and your ideal readers spend most of your time — whether that’s Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or LinkedIn.

Find others who write the kind of content you enjoy reading and writing and connect with them.

The more people you find to support and encourage, the more you’re likely to find both when you need it as you grow your writing career.

Focus on building real connections, though. People catch on fast when you’re just trying to collect followers in order to sell your books.

If your feed has nothing but ads for your books and updates on their progress, they’re more likely to tune you out.

Steps to Writing Your Book

Do your research.

Before you write your book, you need to research your subject matter to ensure you won’t be giving your readers false or misleading information. You’ll also want to keep track of your sources, so you can cite them accurately in your book.

Aside from your content research, though, you’ll want to research the prospects for the kind of book you’re writing — not only its genre but the overall message or story behind it.

For example, it might be fun to write a zombie space opera, but is there a big enough market for it?

If your book would only appeal to a small demographic — or one that’s difficult (or expensive) to reach — you won’t sell many copies. You’ll want to keep that in mind when budgeting for cover design, etc.

On the other hand, if your book has a broad and hungry audience, you’ll want to make the most of this with a beautiful and genre-appropriate cover, professional formatting, and thorough editing — as well as smart marketing.

And researching your options ahead of time can save you both time and money.

Outline your book.

Even if you consider yourself a pantser, it never hurts to write down the gist of what you want your book to do for your reader.

Even pantsers can benefit from a bulleted list of all the points they want to make with their book.

Then you can turn that bulleted list into a rough outline to flesh out as you go.

If you love outlines, you can make yours as detailed as you like before you start writing your book, starting with your Introduction.

man reading his book for his fans how to become an author in 2020

Another beautiful thing about outlines? They give you an idea of what your book’s table of contents will look like (though you’ll probably fine-tune it a bit).

Use it to entice your target audience with something you know they’ve been looking for.

Outlining the promises you’ll keep to your reader can also help you stay focused while writing your book.

Create a writing schedule.

You’ll get farther faster if you cultivate a daily writing habit and schedule your writing time for a specific time of day. When you consistently show up for your daily writing time, you train your mind to be ready.

Maybe you won’t always feel inspired when you sit down to write. But once you get going — even by writing about what’s on your mind or by voice journaling for one of your characters — you’ll be out of the fog sooner than you might expect.

Once you get a sense of how much writing you can commit to for your writing days, you can mark a deadline on your calendar for the day you’ll finish your first draft.

Deadlines work. Somedays, that might be the only thing that gets your butt in the chair. Hold yourself to a deadline, and you’re far more likely to finish what you started.

Write your book.

On certain days, it will feel like the hardest thing you have to do that day. You’ll think of a million other things you’d rather be doing. Or you’ll feel “too tired” or “too sad” or “too caught up in other things.”


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But if you make yourself sit down to write for at least five minutes, you’ll probably end up writing more than you expected.

Maybe you’ll write your book in a month. Maybe it’ll take three or more.

From one book to the next, you’ll be fine-tuning your process — learning what works for you and what helps you get the job done more efficiently.

Learn how to self-edit.

Inside every passionate writer is a savage self-editor just waiting to pounce on your work and suss out its weaknesses. You do your best to keep it confined while you’re writing, because once you let it out, it doesn’t want to go back to its cage.

You don’t need the constant criticism while you’re writing your first draft. But once you’ve finished that and given yourself a few days to get some distance from your work (a week or more, if you can spare it), it’s time to let your inner critic loose on your book.

Self-editing is an important skill for any author.

The more you do now to correct major problems with your book’s content and structure, the easier it will be for a professional editor to know how best to help you improve your book.

Should You Self-Publish or Find an Agent?

There are advantages to both the traditional publishing path and the path of indie publishing.

One may still enjoy more prestige than the other, but the days when the only “real books” were traditionally published are long past.

woman shaking hands with man how to become an author in 2020

If you’re still on the fence, considering the pros and cons of both can help you decide which path to try first. If you give them both a try, you wouldn’t be the first.

Pros and Cons of Traditional Publishing

Pros:
The advance payment is more than many self-published authors make with their books.
No need to pay for cover design or formatting — or whatever editing they do to make your book conform to their preferences
An agent and publisher are essentially validating your belief that your book is worth publishing.

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Cons:
The advance may be all the money you ever see for that particular book.
You’ll probably still need to pay for professional editing to make the best impression on an agent and/or publisher.
Most of the book’s marketing will be up to you — and at your expense.

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The lure of that advance payment is powerful. And who can blame you if you go that route in the hopes that your advance payment will be more than adequate to compensate you for the weeks or months you spent writing your book and pitching it to agents and publishers?

On the other hand, you’ll likely be using some of that advance to market your book, since most publishers won’t allocate much time or money to making your book more visible to your target audience.

Unless they’ve fronted you a five-figure+ advance, the marketing will be mostly on you.

Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing

Pros:
Better royalty rate (30% or 70% vs. 10%)
More control over cover design, formatting, and editing
More control over pricing and marketing (methods, targeting, etc.)

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Cons:
No advance. You earn nothing until your book sells.
You pay for your own book’s cover design (and good ones don’t come cheap).
You pay for your book’s formatting / interior design (if you don’t DIY).
Most bookstores and libraries won’t take your self-published book as seriously as a traditionally published one.

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In a nutshell, you have more control over the process and over pricing and marketing for your book. But you don’t get a book advance or validation from an agent or publisher.

And everything your book needs in order to be marketable is entirely at your expense.

But if you don’t need someone else’s validation, and you want the freedom that comes with self-publishing — and you don’t mind paying for cover design, formatting, editing, and marketing — this path could be well worth your time and energy (and money).

Just be prepared for the likelihood that, for the first few books you write, you may be spending more on your books than you’ll be earning.

Are you ready to become a published author?

You want to know how to become a successful writer. And of all the things you could write for money, writing books appeals to you the most.

Not only do you look forward to identifying as a published author, you want your books to continue selling years and even decades after you publish them. And you can make that happen.

You’re not averse to spending your time and other resources to make each of your books as helpful or as entertaining as possible.

You love connecting with your readers, supporting your fellow writers, and learning from both.

Writing is in your blood. You’re in this for the long game. And you’re not afraid of working hard.

We’re lucky to have you in the Authority Pub community! And I’ll do everything I can to help you become a highly-paid author of bestselling books.

Do you want to pursue a career in writing and publishing a book? It couldn't be a better time to write your book. Learn how to become an author with our step-by-step guide.

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