‘Sometimes you read a book, and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that this shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.’ – John Green, The Fault in Our Stars. Do you wish to write such a book? Do you love reading, and it’s been your fostered dream ever to have a book published under your name? Every book lover yearns for that! And we’re here to help you make your dream come true. So, in this article, we are going to discuss what is a published author and how to become one.
To be able to publish a book, you first need to write one. And for that, though you don’t need a special degree or reach a certain age, you do need to develop creative writing skills and let your imagination flow. Once you’re done writing, then comes the stage of editing. No matter how big or small a piece you write, be it any kind-fiction or nonfiction, you must always edit your work. And finally comes the final stage of publishing, where the publishers edit, proofread, market, and distribute your work. But how is this all done? Continue reading to know more.
What is a Published Author and How to Become One?
A published author is anyone who has written a book, and their book is out there for people to read. There are several stages that a person needs to follow to become a published author. The first and foremost stage is writing. Writing something for it to be published. Then comes the editing and finally the publishing stage. Let’s dive in to understand these stages one by one:
- Write, write and write!
It is a common assumption that to become a writer, you must possess a degree in the language you want to write in or some highly intellectual degree. But this is not the truth. Here’s the truth. To become a writer, all you need are good writing skills, consistent effort, and determination. Your field of expertise or your level of education doesn’t really matter. You can write fiction, which involves imaginary ideas like a short story, a novel, or a novelette, or nonfiction based on real incidents like news reports, features, biographies, etc. Whether it is fiction that you want to write or nonfiction, here are some fantastic five tips that can set you on your journey of great writing!
To become a good writer, you need first to be a good reader. Every reader may not be a writer, but every writer is definitely a reader. Reading has a lot of benefits attributed to it. It improves your vocabulary, expands your imagination, and gives you great ideas, to begin with. No matter your niche, there are books available in various genres and categories that you can choose from based on your area of interest.
How to Avoid Writer’s Block?
Have you ever found yourself staring continuously at your notebook or laptop screen for hours, not being able to figure out what to write? If yes, you have suffered from the condition called writer’s block where your thoughts seem to get blocked, and even though you want to write, you just can’t put them into words.
Some ways to avoid it are:
- Begin with jotting down your objective, the kind of audience you are writing for, and who you are representing in the article.
- Give a structure. Think of the beginning, middle, and end.
- Take some time off for a coffee break or a stroll and return afresh.
- Just write! No matter how stupid the words may seem, write just for the sake of a beginning and then develop.
Follow the Aristotelian principle-Logos, Pathos, and Ethos
- Logos – It refers to the logical argument and is very important. Grab some facts and figures and demonstrate with the reason that something is so.
- Pathos – It refers to the emotion of the argument. Show some passion in your writing, use literary devices to make the writing more effective, and use stories to connect with people.
- Ethos – It refers to the credibility of the author. Give your reader a reason why to read you and not someone else.
The ‘5 W’s and 1 H’ Rule
While writing a piece, always make sure to answer the 5 W’s- What, When, Why, Where, and Who, and 1 H- How. The answer to these questions will organize your piece and give it a proper layout and make it clear and concise for the reader to understand.
The ‘Mum’ Test
When writing, think of writing for a person rather than a huge readership. Try to connect individually with one person and not with everyone. Think of your reader as someone like your mum or any of your friends who’s intelligent but at the same time knows nothing about your subject, so you must simplify the jargon and explain them well.
Editing and Rewriting
It is a general habit of writers to be so overwhelmed with their writings that they think it is the best work ever and needs no improvement. That is the biggest mistake in the process of becoming a published author. Therefore, you must always edit your work several times before you finalize it. Preparation of written material for publication by correcting, condensing, or modifying it is called editing. It follows the 3 C’s principle, i.e., it ensures that the writing is Correct, Complete, and Consistent.
Some basic tools for good editing are:
- Vocabulary: A good vocabulary is not the knowledge of difficult words but the skill to use different words that convey the exact same meaning.
- Grammar: A good knowledge of the correct use of grammar is required for perfect editing.
- Punctuation Marks: A thorough knowledge in the correct use of punctuation marks is very important to convey to the reader exactly what the author wants to convey.
There are two stages of editing:
- Author Editing – Every author must edit his or her work before submitting it for publication. Every author must ensure that there are no grammatical mistakes throughout and that the flow is consistent. You, as an author, must always leave your work for some time, maybe overnight, or if you don’t have that time then a few hours and then revisit it again with a fresh mind. This approach will always help you spot more errors and make you better and better.
- Publisher Editing – In a publishing house, professional editors are trained to look for mistakes. Apart from spotting mistakes in the text, they check for consistency and ensure a proper flow in the book. If the manuscript is accepted by a publishing house, it first goes to the developmental editor, followed by the copy editor or line editor, then to the proofreader, and is finally printed. We will look deeper into publisher editing in the next section.
The dissemination of information or literature is called publishing. Publishing is the final stage for becoming a published author. Once your book is approved, edited, and proofread by the publishers, they print and distribute it and thus complete the task of publishing. There are two mediums for publishing:
- Physical Publishing: Physical Publishing includes books, newspapers, magazines, etc.
- Internet Publishing: Internet Publishing includes portals, blogs, and social media platforms.
There are five stages of book production:
- Writing three sample chapters or just a book idea for successful authors
- Acquisition or sending to publishers
- Printing of books
- Distribution of books
Types of Publishing
There are two types of publishing process an author can follow to publish their book:
- Traditional Publishing
When an author publishes his book through well-established publishing houses, it is called traditional publishing. The author doesn’t have to pay for the cost of the book’s production and is also paid a royalty on the sale of their book. However, the author has to write the book and the rest is the publisher’s job. Already successful authors find it easy to approach the publishers for publishing their book. The possible routes for an aspiring author to become a published author are:
- Slush Pile. A slush pile is a repository where a large number of unsolicited manuscripts invariably land. Some websites have the option of submitting your manuscript on their website, some do not. The chances of your manuscript being accepted from a slush pile are lesser.
- Literary Agent. Literary agents are the author’s representatives. They submit an author’s work to the publishers directly. You hire a literary agent and they submit your work on their behalf. They have got their own submission guidelines. If they like your work, they accept it and represent you to the publishers.
How do they operate?
Because of their reputation, commissioning editors willingly consider their submitted works, thereby taking the slush pile out of the question. As a result, the chances of getting published via a literary agent are higher.
How to approach them?
All agents have websites with detailed information about the genres they are interested in. They also have specific guidelines.
What is their role?
- They don’t charge money from the authors upfront.
- If they like the proposal, they ask for the full book and take it to publishers.
- They help the author sign a contract with the publisher.
- They act as an advisor for the author and ensure that the final contract between the author and the publisher protects the rights of the author.
- They get paid 10-20% of the author’s royalty.
- They sell the books to the publishers in national and international languages. the commission is pre-decided.
- Many agents also represent the authors for film and adaptation rights, though authors always have the option of hiring a film agent.
- Self Publishing
Also known as vanity publishing, self-publishing makes the author bear the entire cost of publication from writing, editing, and distributing books. The publishers only publish the book. This kind of publishing is taken by the authors who are not accepted by publishing houses but believe in the quality of their books.
To self publish your book, you may do any of the following:
- Get it simply printed by a general printer.
- Approach a self-publishing company. They have packages that include editing, cover designing, promotions, and printing.
- Publish it online as an ebook. It is free of cost and authors get more royalties than traditional publishing. You just need to decide the appearance of your book and the book cover. Make an account on kindle, upload the file, and finalize the price and other terms. Some e-publishing platforms are Amazon’s Kindle, Apple’s Books, Barnes and Noble’s Nook, Kobo’s eReader, etc.
Self Publishing Marketing
When self-publishing a book, you must market it well to reach a large number of people. An author who also engages in the marketing of their book is called an authorpreneur. Some ways to market your book while self-publishing it and become an authorpreneur are:
- Connect with the media: reach out to the media through a well-drafted press release.
- Hire a PR company
- Engage with your audience: organize book launches, visit schools and colleges to promote your book
- Use social media marketing
- Connect with influencers
- Attend literary events
- Create audiovisual impacts while marketing your book digitally
- Distribute merchandise and goodies
- Provide free sample chapters, for an instance the first three chapters in a booklet
- Connect with bloggers to write about your books online
- Arrange book signing events or sign your book whenever you get the chance
How to Send your Manuscript to a Publisher?
Ways to send your manuscript to a publisher are:
- Visit the website: Click on the button called ‘submissions’ or ‘publish with us’.
- Not the requirements: Usually the publishing houses ask for a synopsis, three sample chapters, and authors’ biography. along with other important instructions.
- Send the cover letter: The main body of the mail that will carry these attachments is to be sent to the mentioned email address.
- You may also write a query letter if you have any doubts regarding the publishing process. It should be short and to the point with proper greetings.
The author and the publisher sign an agreement known as the author-publisher contract, which includes clauses to protect the author’s rights. The clauses of the contract are mentioned below to help you understand better:
- Rights – Rights are given to the author by the publisher for these three points:
- The region where the book will be published.
- The languages into which the book will be translated.
- Various platforms where the book will be published like physical publishing, ebooks, audiobooks, etc.
- Adaptations – Mentions the adaptation right:
- Audio-visual adaptations rights for film, television, web, etc.
- Publishers only get 20-40% of the total share.
- Dates – Mentions the date by which:
- The author is supposed to submit the boom to the publisher.
- The publisher is supposed to publish the book.
- Royalty and Advance – Royalties are paid on the Maximum Retail Price(MRP)
- Authors get 5-10% of the royalty for paper and 20-30% of the royalty for ebooks.
- The periodicity of the payment is decided beforehand.
- Advance given is ⅓ of the amount an author hopes that the book will make.
- Period – The duration of the contract is mentioned. Some publishers also add the perpetuity clause which renews the clause automatically until one of the parties seeks to terminate it.
- Author Copies – 5-10 copies are given free to the author.
- Violations – The publishers clearly mention that if any law is violated by the content of the book, the publishers will not be responsible. The entire legal proceedings will be borne by the author. The publishers are in no way responsible for the content of the book and should not be held accountable for it.
- Disagreements – It mentions the different procedures to settle arguments, if any, between the author and the publisher. It includes arbitration, which is the out-of-court settlement of the argument by a person appointed by the court who is acceptable by both parties.
The salary of authors is not a fixed and steady income. It all totally depends on how well your book does in the market. The authors are paid royalties on the Maximum Retail Price or the MRP. 5-10% of the MRP is received for paper books and 20-30% for ebooks. According to Payscale, an author in The United States earns an average salary of $51,235 per year.
- You get to live the dream, create your own story.
- The job is self-paced in the beginning.
- You get to gain a lot of fame and recognition once your book starts doing well.
- The job can pull you from rags to riches if your book does well in the market.
- Your book can also be made into an adaptation in a television series, movies or web series.
- There are highly prestigious awards like the Pulitzer Prize or the Nobel Prize waiting for you if you have it in you to deliver a marvel of a book.
- It is a solitary job done in the silent company of your own self away from the chaos of the corporate world.
Although the job as an author seems all glittery and glamorous, there are also some drawbacks.
- The income is not steady. You may be paid a million dollars one day and not a single penny the other. It all depends on how much your book is loved and shared.
- The job may seem grueling sometimes, given the deadlines to submit the manuscript for publishing.
- The rejection slips from publishing houses can be very disheartening.
- There is a lot of competition.
- You should take up this job only if you’re willing to take a risk.
We hope you’re now acquainted with every stage of turning from just an author to a published author. You don’t need to be the smartest one on the earth to publish a book. However, you need to have some basic skills like imaginative and creative writing and good marketing skills.
Even if your manuscript gets rejected by publishers, do not lose hope. Work on your mistakes, keep improving your texts, and believe in yourselves. You can always go for self-publishing like The 50 Shades of Grey. So grab a pen and a notebook, a laptop and a cup of coffee to do just what Toni Morrison says, ‘If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it!
Frequently Asked Questions
- How do authors make money?
Authors make money out of the royalties that are placed on the maximum retail price of their books. A percentage of the MRP goes to the author, and a percentage goes to the publisher. An advance is also paid to the authors, which is part of what an author thinks the book will make.
- Can only someone who has great educational qualifications and degrees can become an author?
Not really. You don’t need to attain special degrees to become an author. Anyone can become an author or a writer. For being a good writer, it is not the degrees but the skills that count. So read as much as you can. Write whatever you can. And keep practicing.
- To publish my book, do I have to have a publisher?
You don’t need to have a traditional publisher to publish your book. You can self-publish your book, but you will have to bear the entire cost from publishing to marketing. One way to self-publish your book for free is by publishing it as an ebook.
- How can I publish my book if it is not accepted by publishers and I can’t afford self-publishing?
You can always publish your books for free as ebooks on Amazon’s Kindle and various other platforms that help you publish your book with no money spent on it and provide you with a large audience. In addition, it lets you get to the market fast. The publishing process takes just 5 minutes, and your book is published worldwide within 1-2 days.