Writers and authors develop written content for advertisements, books, magazines, movie and television scripts, songs, and online publications.

Duties

Writers and authors typically do the following:

  • Choose subject matter that interests readers
  • Write fiction or nonfiction through scripts, novels, and biographies
  • Conduct research to obtain factual information and authentic detail
  • Write advertising copy for use by newspapers, magazines, broadcasts, and the Internet
  • Present drafts to editors and clients for feedback
  • Work with editors and clients to shape the material so it can be published

Writers and authors develop written material, namely, stories and advertisements, for books, magazines, and online publications.

Writers must establish their credibility with editors and readers through strong research and the use of appropriate sources and citations. Writers and authors select the material they want to use and then convey the information to readers. With help from editors, they may revise or rewrite sections, searching for the best organization and the most appropriate phrasing.

An increasing number of writers are freelance writers—that is, they are self-employed and earn their living by selling their written content to book and magazine publishers; news organizations; advertising agencies; and movie, theater, and television producers. Many freelance writers are hired to complete specific short-term or recurring assignments, such as writing a newspaper column, contributing to a series of articles in a magazine, or producing an organization’s newsletter.

An increasing number of writers are producing material that is published directly online in videos and on blogs.

The following are examples of types of writers and authors:

Copywriters prepare advertisements to promote the sale of a good or service. They often work with a client to produce advertising themes, jingles, and slogans.

Biographers write a thorough account of a person’s life. They gather information from interviews and research about the person to accurately portray important events in that person's life.

Generalists write about any topic of interest, unlike writers who usually specialize in a  given field.

Novelists write books of fiction, creating characters and plots that may be imaginary or based on real events.

Songwriters compose music and lyrics for songs. They may write and perform their own songs or sell their work to a music publisher. They sometimes work with a client to produce advertising themes, jingles, and slogans, and they may be involved in marketing the product or service.

Playwrights write scripts for theatrical productions. They produce lines for actors to say, stage direction for actors to follow, and ideas for theatrical set design.

Screenwriters create scripts for movies and television. They may produce original stories, characters, and dialogue, or turn a book into a movie or television script. Some may produce content for radio broadcasts and other types of performance.

Journalists write reports on current events. For more information, see the profile on reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts.

Work Environment: 

Writers and authors held about 129,100 jobs in 2012. About two-thirds were self-employed.

The industries that employed the most writers and authors in 2012 were as follows:

Information 12%
Professional, scientific, and technical services 7
Other services (except public administration) 5
Arts, entertainment, and recreation 3
Educational services; state, local, and private 2

Writers and authors work in an office, at home, or wherever else they have access to a computer. 

Jobs are somewhat concentrated in major media and entertainment markets—Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, DC—but improved communications and Internet capabilities allow writers and authors to work from almost anywhere. Many prefer to work outside these cities and travel regularly to meet with publishers and clients and to perform research or conduct in-person interviews.

Work Schedules

About 1 in 4 writers and authors worked part time in 2012. Some writers keep regular office hours, either to stay in contact with sources and editors or to set up a writing routine, but many writers set their own hours.

Freelance writers are paid per assignment; therefore, they work any number of hours necessary to meet a deadline. As a result, they must be willing to work evenings and weekends to produce something acceptable to an editor or client. Although many freelance writers enjoy running their own business and working flexible hours, most routinely face the pressures of juggling multiple projects or continually looking for new work.

Education and Training: 

A college degree is generally required for a salaried position as a writer or author. Proficiency with computers is necessary for staying in touch with sources, editors, and other writers while working on assignments. Excellent writing skills are essential.

Education

A bachelor’s degree is typically needed for a full-time job as a writer. Because writing skills are essential in this occupation, many employers prefer candidates with a degree in English, journalism, or communications.

Other Work Experience

Writers can obtain job experience by working for high school and college newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, advertising and publishing companies, or not-for-profit organizations. College theater and music programs offer playwrights and songwriters an opportunity to have their work performed. Many magazines and newspapers also have internships for students. Interns may write stories, conduct research and interviews, and gain general publishing experience.

In addition, Internet blogs can provide writing experience to anyone with online access. Some of this writing may lead to paid assignments regardless of education, because the quality of writing, the unique perspective, and the size of the potential audience are the greatest determinants of success for a piece of writing. Online publications require knowledge of computer software and editing tools that are used to combine text with graphics, audio, video, and animation.

Those with other backgrounds who demonstrate strong writing skills also may find jobs as writers.

Training

Writers and authors often need years of writing experience through on-the-job training before their work is ready for publication.

Writers who want to write about a particular topic may need formal training or experience related to that topic.

Because many writers today prepare material directly for the Internet, knowing graphic design, page layout, and multimedia software can be advantageous.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some associations offer certifications for writers and authors. Certification can demonstrate competence and professionalism, making candidates more attractive to employers. For example, the American Grant Writers’ Association (AGWA) offers the Certified Grant Writer® credential.

Certification can also increase opportunities for advancement.

Advancement

Writers and authors generally advance by building a reputation, taking on more complex writing assignments, and getting published in more prestigious markets and publications. Having published work that has been well received and maintaining a track record of meeting deadlines are important for advancement. Writing for smaller businesses, local newspapers, advertising agencies, and not-for-profit organizations allows beginning writers and authors to start taking credit for their work immediately.

However, opportunities for advancement within these organizations may be limited because they usually do not have enough regular work.

Many editors begin work as writers. Those who are particularly skilled at identifying stories, correcting writing style, and interacting with writers may be interested in editing jobs.

Important Qualities

Adaptability. Writers and authors need to be able to adapt to newer software platforms and programs, including various Content Management Systems (CMS).

Creativity. Writers and authors must be able to develop new and interesting plots, characters, or ideas so they can come up with new stories.

Critical-thinking skills. Writers and authors must have dual expertise in thinking through or understanding new concepts, and conveying it through written word.

Determination. Writers and authors sometimes work on projects that take years to complete. Freelance writers who are paid per assignment must demonstrate perseverance and personal drive.

Persuasion. Writers, especially those in advertising, must be able to persuade others to feel a certain way about a good or service.

Social perceptiveness. Writers and authors must understand how readers react to certain ideas in order to connect with their audience.

Writing skills. Writers and authors must be able to write effectively in order to convey feeling and emotion and communicate with readers.

Pay: 

The median annual wage for writers and authors was $55,940 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,770, and the top 10 percent earned more than $117,860.

In May 2012, the median annual wages in the top five industries in which writers and authors worked were as follows:

Professional, scientific, and technical services $61,630
Arts, entertainment, and recreation 59,290
Other services (except public administration) 54,410
Educational services; state, local, and private 52,340
Information 51,940

Freelance writers earn income from their articles, books, and, less commonly, television and movie scripts. Although most freelance writers work on an individual project basis for multiple publishers, many support themselves with income derived from other sources. Freelancers generally have to provide for their own health insurance and pension, unless they receive coverage from another job.

About two-thirds of writers and authors are self-employed.

About 1 in 4 worked part time in 2012. Some writers keep regular office hours, either to stay in contact with sources and editors or to set up a writing routine, but many writers set their own hours. Freelance writers are paid per assignment; therefore, they work any number of hours necessary to meet a deadline. As a result, writers must be willing to work evenings and weekends to produce something that is acceptable to an editor or client. Although many freelance writers enjoy running their own business and working flexible hours, most routinely face the pressures of juggling multiple projects or continually looking for new work.

Job Outlook: 

Employment of writers and authors is projected to grow 3 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations.

Despite slower-than-average employment growth, online publications and services are growing in number and sophistication, spurring demand for writers and authors with Web and multimedia experience.

Some experienced writers should find work in the public relations departments of corporations and not-for-profit organizations. Others will likely find freelance work for newspaper, magazine, or journal publishers, and some will write books.

Job Prospects

Strong competition is expected for most job openings, given that many people are attracted to this occupation. Competition for jobs with established newspapers and magazines will be particularly strong because employment in the publishing industry is projected to decline.

Writers and authors who have adapted to online media and are comfortable writing for and working with a variety of electronic and digital tools should have an advantage in finding work. The declining costs of self-publishing, the growing popularity of electronic books, and the increasing number of readers of electronic books will allow many freelance writers to have their work published.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2014–2015 Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh.

Comments

Sabrina Evans says...

I would really love to do this it is one thing that I love to do.

Stilesismyfavorite (not verified) says...

I am right there with you; I've loved being a writer since my first sloppy story in second grade, and my passion has only grown. Don't give up, TeenWolf4Life! We can do it!

Guest (not verified) says...

ok no one likes a show off, O: trolololo

I3urnt (not verified) says...

I would like to possibly write music, but my true passion is to help animals, I find it cruel how there so rudely treated, what I really want to be is a Veterinary Technician.

Guest (not verified) says...

That's the dumbest thing i have ever heard. I can vouch that animal cruelty is bad,But we should not treat them like they are better than us. It is agreed on soo many cultures, that we were given power over the beasts of the land,sky,and sea. And why you talking about animals on a page that is about being a writer or author?

popbumper1 says...

Interesting as I have two degrees in Medical technology, and Electronics Engineering, but I can recall "way back when" wanting to go into Journalism. Funny, because in both private and professional life I have engaged in writing /speaking a great deal:

Have given public seminars on hobby subjects with supportive documentation
Have been published on hobby technical articles in three different magazines, ten times
Have written a number of technical documents in my career as a manufacturing engineer
Have written (lyrics) for over one hundred songs
Am a prolific writer of poetry (have written probably 30-50 over the last few months)
Wrote several short stories when I was younger

....I think I missed my calling....perhaps it's not too late.....

ChristineNono (not verified) says...

I want to become a writer. I feel it through my veins that it's my calling. Whenever I'm sad I write about how I feel and that helps me to heal. There's only one problem I do not have a mentor and my family thinks being a writer it's a waste of time... :-( :'(

writergirl0088 (not verified) says...

I know how you feel. Many times I've seen people's disappointed looks when I tell them that I want to be a Writer when I grow up. Some people just nod and say "Hmm..." others actually tell me right in my face what a bad idea it is and that most of the homeless sitting on the street are unsuccessful writers. I know that that's not true and I still am sticking to my dream no matter what people say. But it can can feel a little discouraging to hear people say stuff like that. :(

Carrie (not verified) says...

I know how that feels as well. My parents told me to get another job so when I fail that I have money that is coming. When I told my boyfriend's aunts and cousins what I wanted to be they ripped me a new one telling me not to go into what I want to be. I was so hurt that I ended up crying the whole way home after we left. I felt like everyone is against me. Now I say screw everyone who doubts me and I will become successful and I will show up everyone who has doubted me in the past.

purpleperson says...

Hey! Thats a bit like me! I would like to be a writer, but I've heared alot that it is bacicly a little-to-no-pay job... Well... You can't beet the truth. Not everyone is a best-seller author. So I thought I would treat writing as a hobby. However, I recently realized... some people really do want to hire writers! I am looking into journalim. I have always looked up to the Journalists and photographers that work for my comunity's newspaper. It may be a hobyish carrier, but I still want to persue it. I would rather be happy with my job than do something I'm not good at / can't do. Good luck to you and your writing carrier! It's always great to know there are others out there.

Mary Merritt (not verified) says...

Hello Purpleperson,

It is wonderful to have a goal and work toward it. If you really want to become a writer, the first step is to study grammar and spelling. In your message above, there are nearly a dozen misspelled words and grammar errors. However, the good news is that you could study hard and overcome those roadblocks. In the meantime, figure out what type of writing you would like to do and read award winning writers' articles, essays, books, etc. Look up any words you don't know the meaning of and expand your vocabulary. 

Being able to write well will serve you well in any career you end up in! It is a competitive field and does not pay well, for the most part, but if you enjoy it, you will always have a great hobby and be able to contribute to the world at large.  I hope this helps.  

 

ShyWriter (not verified) says...

Your not the only one. I've been told numerous times that writing stories is stupid by people. They always told me that I couldn't be an author, but yet, I don't care about what they say, Don't listen to those people, because in the end when you end up becoming famous then they'll say "Oh, I encouraged that writer so I'm like the only reason that their famous." They'll be mean to you and try to tear you down, yet they only make you stronger in your writing. Good Luck.

Guest (not verified) says...

Never let anyone, even family tell you that you cant be a writer, or that its a waste of time. you dont need a mentor, most importantly you need yourself and your own confidence that you can do it yourself. if you feel it calling your name, and you know its where your heart belongs then go for it and dont let anyone hold you back. become a writer. inspire yourself to push further and to get up where youre suppose to be. i believe in you. and you only need one person to tell you thst you can.

hannahjmichal (not verified) says...

Becoming a writer is my true passion and this article really helped me see what it's like. Thank you truity!

Dramione&Larry (not verified) says...

This article was great! Very helpful for a school project I`m doing.

Murr (not verified) says...

This was helpful! Thanks! I'm looking into being an author and I was told I have college level writing! (I'm 14.)

Guest (not verified) says...

This is very helpful information, I can't wait till' I go to college and become an author! I hope to write like some of the greats...

Guest (not verified) says...

You need a college degree to be a writer? Welp, there goes all my dreams.

Mortimer (not verified) says...

Like I said to the other person, I don't think college is necessary at all, but then again it sounds like you might agree with me :)

purpleperson says...

Not ture!

If you like writing, you will most likely enjoy (or at least partly enjoy) the classes you can take in collage. If you have a collage degree, you are more likely to be hiered as a journalist (my dream) or other carrier that includes writing.

Some people I know are worried about the monney it takes to get to collage. However, most people get loans or schollorships. Just start researching and applying! Don't let anything get between you and your carrier. Don't be discoraged! 

Have a good day and Good luck to you and your future!

Guest (not verified) says...

Hmm... quite interesting. That just means that I have to go to college to become a writer, even though. Not to brag, but I've already sold two copies of the nook. Although, I really want my book to be published to print. Anyway, that's about it for my comment.

Mortimer (not verified) says...

I don't think college is necessary at all. Follow your dreams friend!

Mortimer (not verified) says...

Yeah not going to college. Just like all schools they want you to be able to repeat everything you hear. It's all about repetition with school. I think if you want to write then you need to find great examples of excellent writing and over time progress your own skills as a writer. I kind of gave up on writing because I couldn't figure out how to convey my emotions with the correct words and punctuation. This made me really frustrated so I gave up, but now like I said I think it's about natural progression and great literary examples. But that's just my opinion and I think I'll give it another try and post my own stories online for everyone to read.

ShyWriter (not verified) says...

Do I have to go to a college? I mean I've read about every book by Stephen King about being an author and everything, but in pure curiosity, do I need to go to a college or is it just my choice? I'm already writing a book and I know all about self publishing and publishing businesses.

Guest (not verified) says...

College is not necessary for nearly any job. With that said, you will need to gain experience doing something to get paid even close to the amount that a person with a college degree can earn. The degree gives people the opportunity to get a higher end entry level job. It has become very difficult for young people to find good paying work without a college degree. It also gives you options. I write in my free time but I have an excellent middle management job that pays me enough to LIVE, not just survive.

Do I know writers that are baristas or waitresses? Yes. Is it difficult for them to find time to write? No. Some would say that the struggle of the starving artists is important to the process.

I love my stories. They may never be published but I do what I love on the side. Someday, if it becomes lucrative to write, that's great but I'm paid well at my job and I have a hobby that I absolutely love.

For me, my college degree gave me this opportunity to be secure and still write. It is a personal choice and one that you should absolutely contemplate for your future.

purpleperson says...

Thankyou. That is amazing and inspiring. I love this. Thank you.

 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^EVERYONE READ THE COMMENT ABOVE ME. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

arrilove53 says...

Being a writer is fun. But then working with animals would be fun too.

typewriterxx_cap (not verified) says...

maybe do both then?

FutureWriter (not verified) says...

This was really helpful to me! I am planning to become a writer in the future

Ryan Ross (not verified) says...

I wonder if i have to get a college degree to be a writer.... i was in a band for a while so im not exactly skilled and i was only in college for one semester.

Vivian (not verified) says...

Reading this was interesting. It encouraged me to try out freelance writing, but also helped me with the necessary requirements needed to
become a writer/author. I think this information would be great for starters! Thank you!! :)

Pepper McGowan (not verified) says...

I am actually a writer and I have been doing writing my whole life but I got an opportunity to write a book about a topic that I am actually fairly experienced in-I have been a professional astrologer for over 25 years. It's kind of funny that the majority of my own writing tends to be narrative and short stories or even poetry. I was even an accidental singer-songwriter with a few records and a decent moderate amount of success in my 20s...but I was wanting to be a real writer and I felt like a fraud. I wrote a proposal for a book idea that I had about the generation of children born immediately after my own.  They were dealing with a lot of unique challenges that nobody else ever faced and I am really impressed by the way they've risen from the circumstances as they are becoming adults. So I was shocked when it was accepted by a publisher. I had just turned 40. I could tell people that I am a writer and it's true now.  The benefits of this occupation? Whatever doesn't kill you gives you something that is writing material potentially. The downside? I guess it's like making records and songwriting- you are going to be in my inner life,  can't promise I will not write about you. It's funny how I was just getting onto Facebook and I got messages from a couple of people who are friends from my past and the other person was just a teenage girl in another country on a military base with my old albums... she referred to a couple songs that I did this record...It's 9 years older than she was. Finally she messaged me to tell me "That's my dad. The blue haired serviceman. You're the one my mom dyed it with and then I think your friend in the song stole their wedding cake and you were mad and that song is the story. He's a lieutenant now. My parents said to say hi." I think that is the coolest thing to happen to me. I DID write a song on my first record about that. But I remember it as dating a guy who was not that into it,  and his roommate was a jerk whose ex was getting married to a guy who just joined the Navy. We decided to dye his hair navy blue-we were 18, and made a big pink cake, but the ex boyfriend roommate smashed it into the wall and yelled LET THEM EAT CAKE.. and I was yelling And get on with your LIFE! And that's yelled back and forth a few times til it sounded like a song,so it became one. Writing is not that difficult..... All you have to do is tell what really happened,  just make it a little bit more boring and less interesting than reality had been so people will believe it.It's never taken seriously if you tell the truth. Life is way too interesting and complicated by irony and plot twists to be fiction in my opinion. 

Sora Little (not verified) says...

I'm only 17. But it would be a dream come true to write/publish my poems and stories and people enjoy them.

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