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How to Become an Author Without a Book Deal

The process of becoming a published author has gotten easier than ever in the past five years.

People can now go through the production and publishing process completely independently.

While publishing your book is still quite the undertaking, creating a successful book without all the red tape and gatekeeping that comes with traditional publishing makes every moment worth it.

We’ll explore how to become an author without relying on a book deal, from understanding the earnings and expenses of self-publishing to the essential requirements involved.

An Overview of Authors: A Primer

Authors are creative individuals who use their words to tell a story, whether it’s fiction or not.

They can craft a compelling narrative that allows them to share knowledge and evoke emotions.

There are different genres and types of authors, but the core idea is always the same: to take your reader on a thought-provoking and engaging journey.

How Much Do Authors Make?

There’s no telling how much you stand to make as a self-published author. Book earnings vary between genres, publishing methods, book sales, and marketing efforts.

While some authors achieve life-altering financial success, most authors’ monetary compensation for their work can be modest.

Building a sustainable income as an author typically involves a combination of book sales, speaking engagements, and other related opportunities.

Self-published authors earn around 50% of their book’s retail price, as opposed to the usual 5-15% in traditional publishing.

That could mean a few dollars or a few thousand a month.

What You’ll Need to Become an Author [& Associated Costs]

While becoming an author doesn’t require a formal degree or certification, some resources and tools can greatly enhance your writing journey.

  • Writing Skills: Some individuals may have a natural talent for writing, but making a commercial success goes beyond that. That’s why new indie writers will need writing classes and often hire developmental editors to help them with the core idea of the book.
  • Writing Tools: While some authors prefer the simplicity of pen and paper, some digital tools can make a difference in your process. Writing software specifically designed for authors like Scrivener or Ulysses can streamline the writing process and help you stay organized.
  • Research Materials: Depending on your book’s genre and subject matter, conducting thorough research may be necessary and even costly. This can be through acquiring research materials, online subscriptions, or hiring a fact-checker.
  • Editing and Proofreading: Investing in editing and proofreading services is crucial to produce a polished and professional manuscript. While self-editing can be done, having a fresh set of eyes review your work can catch errors, improve clarity, and enhance the overall readability of your book.
  • Marketing and Promotion: What you may gain by self-publishing, you’ll probably make up for in promotion expenses for your book to succeed. A professional website, social media ads, and book launch covers are essential. For adventurous authors, you may even want to print hard copies and distribute them yourself.

These are some of the more tangible things needed to venture into the publishing world, but many other details go into it.

Most importantly, you’ll need a strong network of professional authors, editors, publishers, and trusted readers to give you constructive feedback and support.

How Much Does It Cost to Become an Author?

Here is a breakdown of the potential expenses you may incur on your journey based on everything we mentioned above:

  1. Writing resources and courses: $50 – $500
  2. Writing tools and software: $100 – $300
  3. Research materials: $100 – $500
  4. Editing, proofreading, and book design services: $500 – $5,000
  5. Marketing and promotion: $500 – $3,000

The budget can vary by thousands of dollars. Spending more won’t always translate to becoming a more successful author.

Like all fields of work, it all depends on making smart choices and producing good quality.

Is It Hard to Become an Author? 

While the whole process can be tedious and needs investment, it’s not exactly hard.

Anyone can come up with a great story or a concept that could change people’s lives, but not everyone manages to see it through.

That’s what sets successful writers apart.

You’ll need to work on your ideas, hone your creative writing, and create a consistent or at least effective writing routine that puts these ideas in a document rather than in your head.

Writing a book is notorious for how much it can take, and not for no reason. It’s one thing to have an idea for a book or two and a whole other can of worms to explore it in full detail.

This requires research, trial and error, lots of feedback, and, more than anything else, patience and tenacity.

How Long Does it Take to Become an Author?

To publish your book, you’ll need resources to support you during your writing journey.

This could mean having saved up money to spend or doing it on the side while earning a sustainable income elsewhere.

You can do many things as a writer to make money while writing your book; you’ll find plenty of guides under the keyword “writing” here.

With the resources to focus on your writing career full-time and a bit of luck or networking, you may be able to find a company interested in publishing your work or manage that yourself within six months to a year.

Most people, however, tend to take longer than that, especially with their first book.

Financial and creative challenges are usually at their highest when experimenting with your writing style and process.

How to Become an Author in 4 Simple Steps

Here are the four steps you need to follow to become an author without a book deal:

Step 1: Define Your Writing Goals

Before you begin writing, it is crucial to identify your writing goals, whether for this work or your career as an author.

Ask yourself what you hope to achieve as an author and what type of books you want to write.

If you have a specific idea for a book, figure out the why behind it. Why do you want to write it? Why should people buy your book?

This is the stage where you might want to have a few consultation sessions with a developmental editor to solidify your core idea.

Many writers neglect this stage and spend months agonizing over creative and executive decisions. Clarifying your goals will provide direction and motivation throughout the writing stage.

Step 2: Develop Your Writing Habit and Skills

Creative writing isn’t just for novelists and poets; even technical writers need to be creative in how they deliver their ideas.

Establishing a consistent writing routine will help you shed any mental limitations and understand your style. These are essential to your development as a professional writer.

Set aside dedicated time each day or week to focus on writing. It can be about writing short stories or churning out pages using writing prompts.

Use prompts and a writing schedule that works for you. But these loose pages won’t be what makes your books a success. Creative big-picture thinking and editing will.

Once you’re comfortable in your writing routine, focus on developing your creative skills over time.

Read widely in your genre, study successful authors, and consider taking writing courses or joining a writing group to improve your craft.

Practice writing regularly to refine your style and voice.

Step 3: Polish Your Work

It doesn’t matter if you have a rough draft or a finished book; presentation is everything. That means that editing, fact-checking, and formatting are essential.

Connect with a professional editor and beta readers and discuss your work. Hire a professional book cover designer for finished projects.

Get a researcher or fact-checker to look at your work, especially if you write sci-fi, non-fiction, or historical fiction.

The goal is to make your work look as professional as possible without stressing out too much about its contents. This has more potential to start your writing career than any half-baked book!

Step 4: Promote, Promote, Promote!

Once you’ve got some high-quality work under your belt, it’s time to be your agent, marketing agency, and cheerleader!

Make a solid website where you publish your best short stories, articles, or snippets of your books.

Submit your writing to publishers and literary magazines. Write blogs about writing and reading.

Use social media to establish yourself as an author and connect with readers. Buy ads on book promo sites.

If you plan to self-publish, do all of that before you release your first book.

The $680 million book-to-movie, The Martian, started as a blog that gained enough popularity and momentum to make the book a surefire success.

Reasons to Consider Becoming an Author

If you’re not sure the quintessential dream of being an author is worth the trouble, here are some more compelling reasons to consider:

  • Flexibility and Freedom: As an author, you have the freedom to set your schedule and work from anywhere.
  • Creative Expression: Writing provides a unique opportunity to express your creativity and share your ideas with the world through stories that resonate with readers on an inebriating level.
  • Potential for Impact: Through your writing, you have the potential to inspire, educate, and entertain readers. Your words can make a difference and leave a lasting impact on people’s lives.
  • Personal Fulfillment: For many authors, the act of writing itself is incredibly fulfilling. The process of bringing ideas to life and seeing your work in print can be immensely rewarding.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Become an Author If I Don’t Have a Writing Degree in Writing or Literature?

Absolutely! A degree in literature is far from a prerequisite to becoming an author. You probably won’t even need to have finished high school as much as you’ll need great ideas and an even better way of expressing them.

Should I Self-Publish or Pursue Traditional Publishing?

This may indeed be the ultimate question for any author. Both options have their pros and cons. Self-publishing offers creative control and faster time to market, while working with publishing companies provides access to established distribution channels and professional support.

Similar Gigs to Check Out

If becoming an author isn’t for you, here are other similar career choices you can look at:

  • How to Become a Freelance Writer: Whether writing books isn’t your thing or you need a supplementary income, freelance writing is a great career.
  • How to Become a Book Editor: Editing is the perfect job for bookworms who find more joy in editing and polishing literature than creating it. It can take a lot of work, but it’s an incredibly satisfying job.
  • How to Become a Blogger: Blogging is, most of the time, pure fun with a side of making money, especially if every blog post you make touches on your passions.

Wrapping Up

Becoming an author without a traditional book deal is an exciting and achievable goal.

To succeed, you’ll need solid planning, openness to other professionals’ support, and faith in your writing abilities.

Build a supportive community that helps you, not just with how to become an author but with self-exploration and awareness that’ll ultimately make you a better writer.

Are you ready to start writing? Tell us what you think in the comments, and join the Gigworker conversation now.

And if you liked this piece, don’t forget to share it with other would-be authors.

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