For the purposes of this blogpost, I am drawing a distinction between these two terms.
Let’s look at the dictionary definitions:
noun: writer; plural noun: writers
a person who has written something
noun: author; plural noun: authors
someone who writes books as a profession
There you have it. The crucial difference between the two.
Now, not every writer wants to become a professional, and this is fine. Some writers are publishing academic papers, or a family history only intended for a select group of people.
But if you’re a writer who dreams of calling it your career in a few years, there are certain steps you need to take. You need to build a bridge to get from being someone who writes, to being someone who writes as a profession.
Here are nine suggestions to help you make that leap.
Make your title catchy and impactful
You don’t need me to tell you how important your book’s title is.
You might have had your title set in stone from day one. Or maybe you’re still contemplating the best title to chose.
There are a couple of things to consider:
Whether it’s long or short, the title should make sense (sounds obvious, but this is crucial).
And check if any other already-published books share the same title. It’s best to go with a unique title if you can, as it makes it easier for people to find your book.
Write a superb blurb
Your blurb is your shop window. It’s there to attract and entice readers to buy your book. If you are looking to sell copies and earn money from your book, you need a blurb that does it’s job.
We recently published a blogpost detailing 5 changes that make a small impact to your blurb.
Follow these tips to get the most impact from your blurb, and hook as many new readers as possible.
Learn what makes a good book cover
Hand in hand with your blurb, your cover is your main selling tool. It’s the first thing that attracts potential readers to pick up your book.
Research your genre and identify the attributes successful covers in your genre display. Think about how you could create a similar effect using elements from your own story.
Go to a book store and look at the covers ‘in the flesh’. You’ll notice much more from picking up and inspecting an actual book cover than you will just from looking online.
Online, take note of how the designs look at a small thumbnail size, as this is how they’re often viewed. Your design needs to be clear at this small size.
Read our blogpost here for more tips on creating a book cover that will sell your book.
Find an excellent cover designer
If you’re looking to become a professional writer, you really need to employ a professional book cover designer.
They’ll be able to put your book cover on a level playing field with all the other books out there, both self-published and traditionally-published.
A professional designer will have all the skills to take your story, and your own ideas, and create a striking, polished and commercial cover design. This is virtually impossible to do yourself, even if you do know your way round Photoshop.
If you have other author friends or acquaintances, ask them for a recommendation. Or don’t be afraid to contact the author of a book whose cover you love, to ask for a referral.
Work with an amazing editor
Likewise, having your book professionally edited can make all the difference to how well your book will be received by your readers.
A professional editor will sanity-check the plot, character development and pace of your story. They’ll make sure the grammar and punctuation is in order, and that everything makes sense.
The extra ‘polish’ to your manuscript will reinforce your professional status to your readers. There’s nothing that gives you away as an amateur writer more than messy prose and spelling mistakes.
Learn how to accept criticism and feedback
This is key if you see yourself writing professionally. You’ll never please everyone. And everyone is entitled to their opinion.
So if writing is to be your career, you must accept you’re likely to receive some negative feedback.
The best way to look at this is to treat it as constructive criticism. Don’t take it personally. Instead, review the criticism and see if you can use it to improve elements of your writing.
And if you really disagree? Just thank the person for their feedback, and politely ignore it.
Also remember, you’re more likely to get honest feedback from strangers, than from family and friends, so if there is a common observation from paying readers, it’s probably worth taking notice.
Research your publishing options
Be open minded about self-publishing. It no longer means you’re an amateur who can’t get a book deal. Plenty of full-time professional authors self-publish their books these days.
If you use a publisher like Lightning Source/Ingram Spark, you can print hardback books in addition to paperback, connect with global retailers and have your books distributed all over the world.
There are no limitations nowadays when you self-publish.
If you’re looking to use a traditional publishing house, this is still an option to explore, but often all it does is delay your eventual self-publishing. The fact is that traditional publishers are unwilling to take a chance on an unknown author.
Ironically you’re more likely to get picked up by a traditional publisher if you’ve already self-published and had positive feedback and reviews!
Don’t be afraid to market your book
To become a professional author means you have to be making money from your books. Which means you have to make efforts to sell them! This is where marketing comes in.
If you simply publish your book on Amazon you’re unlikely to have huge sales, as no one will know your book is available to buy.
You don’t need to become a marketing expert, but you do need to invest in some marketing activities to find and captivate your readers and fans.
Check out these blogposts for practical ideas on how to approach your marketing:
This is what defines you as a professional, as opposed to someone who just ‘writes things down’. It’s about mindset. You must consider yourself a professional writer, and as a professional, you need to do your job, come what may.
What tips do you have for becoming a professional rather than just writing as a hobby? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
We’re Peter and Caroline O’Connor. Creating beautiful book cover designs for authors all over the world is our passion. Every author should be able to benefit from a beautiful book cover design (not just the lucky few who get signed by a big publisher). We design, podcast, and coach authors full-time so we understand your struggles. Currently accepting new clients.