Writers and authors develop content for various types of media, including advertisements; blogs; books; magazines; and movie, play, and television scripts.

Duties

Writers and authors typically do the following:

  • Choose subjects that interests readers
  • Write fiction or nonfiction scripts, biographies, and other formats
  • Conduct research to get factual information and authentic detail
  • Write advertising copy for newspapers, magazines, broadcasts, and the Internet
  • Present drafts to editors and clients for feedback
  • Work with editors and clients to shape material for publishing

Writers must establish their credibility with editors and readers through clean prose, strong research, and the use of 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 clearest language and phrasing.

Some writers and authors are self-employed or freelancers. They sell their written content to book and magazine publishers; news organizations; advertising agencies; and movie, theater, and television producers. They may be 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.

A number of writers produce material that is published only online, such as for digital news organizations or blogs.

The following are examples of types of writers and authors:

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

Bloggers write posts to a Web log (blog) that may pertain to any topic or a specific field, such as fashion, news, or sports.

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

Copywriters prepare advertisements to promote the sale of a good or service. They often work with a client to produce written content, such as an advertising slogan.

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

Playwrights write scripts for theatrical productions. They come up with a concept, write lines for actors to say, produce stage direction for actors to follow, and suggest ideas for theatrical set design.

Screenwriters create scripts for movies and television. They may produce original stories, characters, and dialogue, or adapt a book into a movie or television script.

Speechwriters compose orations for business leaders, politicians, and others who must speak in front of an audience. Because speeches are often delivered live, speechwriters must think about audience reaction and rhetorical effect.

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Work Environment

Writers and authors held about 123,200 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of writers and authors were as follows:

Self-employed workers 61%
Professional, scientific, and technical services 11
Information 11
Performing arts, spectator sports, and related industries 3
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations                             3

Writers and authors may work anywhere they have access to a computer.

Jobs are somewhat concentrated in major media and entertainment markets—California, New York, Texas, and Washington, DC—but improved communications and Internet capabilities allow writers and authors to work from almost anywhere. Some writers and authors prefer to work and travel to meet with publishers and clients and to do research or conduct interviews in person.

Work Schedules

Some writers and authors work part time. Most keep regular office hours, either to stay in contact with sources and editors or to set up a writing routine, but many set their own hours. Others may need to work evenings and weekends to produce something acceptable for an editor or client. Self-employed or freelance writers and authors may face the pressures of juggling multiple projects or continually looking for new work.

Education and Training

A college degree in English, communications, or journalism is generally required for a salaried position as a writer or author. Experience gained through internships or any writing that improves skill, such as blogging, is beneficial.

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 who have a degree in English, communications, or journalism.

Other Work Experience

Writers and authors can get job experience by working for high school and college newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, advertising and publishing companies, or nonprofit organizations. College theater programs offer playwrights 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 related experience.

Employers may prefer candidates who are able to create a visual story using tables, charts, infographics, and maps. Knowledge of computer software and editing tools that combine text with graphics, audio, video, and animation may be helpful.

In addition, anyone with Internet access can start a blog and gain writing experience. Some of this writing may lead to paid assignments regardless of education. Writers or authors can come from different backgrounds and experiences.

Training

Writers and authors typically gain writing experience through on-the-job training. They may practice and work with more experienced writers and editors before their writing is ready for publication.

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

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

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

Certification may increase opportunities for advancement.

Advancement

Writers and authors can get a start by putting their name on their work when writing for small businesses, local newspapers, advertising agencies, and nonprofit organizations. However, opportunities for advancement within these organizations may be limited.

Writers and authors may advance their careers by building a reputation, taking on complex writing assignments, and getting published in prestigious markets and publications. Having published work that has been well received and consistently meeting deadlines are important for advancement.

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.

Personality and Interests

Writer or authors typically have an interest in the Creating interest area, according to the Holland Code framework. The Creating interest area indicates a focus on being original and imaginative, and working with artistic media.

If you are not sure whether you have a Creating interest which might fit with a career as a writer or author, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Writer or authors should also possess the following specific 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 $63,200 in May 2019. 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 $33,660, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $122,450.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for writers and authors in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Performing arts, spectator sports, and related industries $70,990
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations                           68,560
Professional, scientific, and technical services 63,920
Information 60,440

Some writers and authors work part time. Most keep regular office hours, either to stay in contact with sources and editors or to set up a writing routine, but many set their own hours. Others may need to work evenings and weekends to produce something acceptable for an editor or client. Self-employed or freelance writers and authors may face the pressures of juggling multiple projects or continually looking for new work.

Job Outlook

Employment of writers and authors is projected to show little or no change from 2018 to 2028.

Online publications and services are growing in number and sophistication, spurring demand for writers and authors with Web and multimedia experience. However, employment of writers and authors in the newspaper and book and periodical publication industries is projected to decline.

Some experienced writers should find work in the public relations departments of corporations and nonprofit organizations. Self-employed or freelance writers and authors may find work with 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 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 and social media, and who 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 and the popularity of electronic books will allow many freelance writers to have their work published.

FAQ

Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

I would like to cite this page for a report. Who is the author?

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I think I have found an error or inaccurate information on this page. Who should I contact?

This information is taken directly from the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Truity does not editorialize the information, including changing information that our readers believe is inaccurate, because we consider the BLS to be the authority on occupational information. However, if you would like to correct a typo or other technical error, you can reach us at help@truity.com.

I am not sure if this career is right for me. How can I decide?

There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. On this site, you can take the Career Personality Profiler assessment, the Holland Code assessment, or the Photo Career Quiz.

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