Career as an author

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Emma Sanderson has just seen her first novel published. Now she is taking part in a publicity campaign, organised by her publisher, to make sure as many people as possible know about the book.

How did you get into writing?

I've always written. I kept a diary from being very young and wrote my first book when I was seven. Then, I started writing features for newspapers and music magazines. Until I became established to write full time I did an assortment of other jobs to pay the bills.

What is the difference between an author and a journalist or feature writer?

Generally, an author is someone who writes books or paperbacks, although they may also write features or articles to supplement their income before they get their books published on a regular basis. A journalist writes news or longer articles for magazines or newspapers.

Do you have a daily routine?

I try to do around five solid hours of writing a day. I usually start work around 8am, break for lunch and a bike ride around mid day, then start work again around 3pm. During the evening I reply to e-mails. It took about a year to complete my novel.

How long did it take to find a publisher for your first novel?

Around two months, but I had to find a literary agent first. Without an agent it would have been very difficult to get a publishing deal. Publishers receive so many manuscripts from potential authors that they return many of them without even reading them. A literary agent know the right people to approach and the best way to interest publishers in your book.

How did you find an agent?

I went to my local library and found a film and theatre agents' directory. I found out which agents represented my favourite authors and sent them my manuscript.

How much are you involved in publicising the novel?

I have done lots of interviews for magazines, newspapers and the radio. I have also done a few interviews for TV. It involves quite a lot of travelling, but I enjoy that. My book will soon be published in Italy and Holland, so I'm looking forward to visiting those countries. Publicity takes a lot of my time, but it's very important. It people don't know about the novel they won't buy it.

What qualities do you need to be a writer?

There are no rules about how to become a writer. It helps to be good at English and to have a good imagination. Writing can be quite lonely; you will spend most of your time working alone, and you must be able to motivate yourself. Perseverance is also important because finishing a long piece of work like a novel takes a lot of stamina. You should also be able to deal with rejection and react well to criticism.

Do you have any future work ambitions?

I would like to see my novels turned into screenplays.

Emma's route to her career as an author

  • Access course in Politics and Journalism Law.
  • Degree in Sociology and Politics.
  • Various telesales work at call centres to provide a financial support while establishing a reputation as an author.
  • Began writing full time once first novel was published.

Emma's tips

  • Don't give up the day jobs until you feel confident you can make a living from writing.
  • If you plan to write a book show the potential publisher the whole manuscript, rather than a few chapter's, as it shows self-belief and determination.

Author related jobs

  • Agent/manager
  • Journalist
  • Public relations officer
  • Publishing commissioning editor
  • Publishing editor
  • Technical author

Salary of an author

  • Most authors have other jobs to supplement their income while writing a book and before they get publishing contracts to write books on a regular basis.
  • Payment for a single book for an inexperienced author depends on the popularity of the work and can vary between £1,000 and £5,000.
  • A recent survey reveals that 75% of all authors earn less than £20,000.

Becoming an author

  • You do not need qualifications to become an author, but you must be able to use English fluently and clearly.
  • A wide range of creative writing courses, from leisure-based courses to degrees, is available.
  • With experience or qualifications in a particular field, you could write specialist non-fiction publications.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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