Become an Author - 5 Basic Rules

It may seem like becoming an author today is a no-brainer. You just write something, get it up on Kindle, and you’re an author.

Well, that’s true, but I wouldn’t consider you an author. And, neither would any other experienced author. And, chances are, if you get any readers, they wouldn’t call you an author either.

To be an author, you need to create a quality book.

You need to write a story that’s well written, that’s engaging, and that you can be proud to have your name on. Before this can happen, you need to have some knowledge of what you’re doing.

Below are five fundamental rules for ‘new to the arena’ authors.
1. Learn the craft of writing.

Even seasoned writers are always honing their skills.

You can take online courses or classes. You can enroll in college classes. You can read, read, read books on writing. And, just as important, you should read books in the genre you want to write.

Tip: Don’t read exclusively in that genre, read in a number of genres, but focus on the genre you want to write in.

In addition, there are many writing blogs that offer great tips on the craft of writing. Take advantage of them.

Tip2: Learning the craft of writing includes learning how to self-edit your work.

2. Join a critique group and writing groups with new and experienced writers.

Even seasoned writers have trouble finding the trouble spots in their own stories. For this reason, you must belong to a writing group and critique group.

Critique groups see what you don’t. They spot: holes in your story, areas where you’re lacking clarity, grammatical errors, and so much more.

It’s essential to have your story critiqued or edited before you submit it for publication. This includes self-publishing. Just because you’re by-passing the publishing house gatekeepers, doesn’t mean you can forego having a polished story.

3. If you can afford it, work with a writing coach.

This really does make a difference. You get answers to all your questions, along with guidance and advice. Just be sure the coach knows her business.

There are lots and lots of people claiming to have the ability to teach you the ropes. Check them out first, before paying them. A good way to find reputable writing coaches is to ask other experienced writers.

4 Learn about marketing and book promotion.

Yep, this is a requirement of being an author. Even if you’re traditionally published, you’ll need to know the book marketing ropes. Look at heavy-hitter James Patterson’s TV commercials. He knows he has to market his own books.

Obviously, most of us can’t afford TV commercials, but if do online searches, you'll find many free articles, webinars, online classes, and avenues for instruction on how to promote and market your books. Take advantage of them.

The internet is severely overcrowded. There are thousands, more likely millions, of authors trying to sell their books. This means you need an edge. You need knowledge. You need something that will bring you to the forefront, or at least close to it.

Tip: If you’re thinking of hiring a service to help with your book marketing, be sure they’re reputable and know what they’re doing. Ask questions, such as:

- What’s the total cost?
- What distribution outlets will they use?
- Are press releases included? If so, which ones will be used?
- How long will the campaign last?
- What type of social media promotion do they use?

In other words, find out exactly what you’re paying for. And, ask around if anyone knows of them and if they’re reputable.

5. Pay it forward.

Help other writers who are starting out. Okay, I know this isn't a prerequisite to becoming an author, but it should be.

Established authors have always taken the time to help other writers. I’ve benefited from this and now I do the same. I even created a blog with other experienced authors and we share writing and marketing tips. You can check it out at Writers on the Move,

Then, what you learn, pass along.

These are five of the basic elements of becoming an author. I hope they help you reach your writing goals.

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children's author and a working children’s ghostwriter as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move. You can find out more about writing for children and her services at: Karen Cioffi Writing for Children. Check out the DIY Page!

And, check out my new picture book: The Case of the Plastic Rings – The Adventures of Planetman


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Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Karen, I'm glad you suggested a writing coach. Though I still think that the thriftiest way of learning writing basics (for a book or whatever) is using books. I suggest Tom Chiarell's book On Dialogue. It was once a Writers' Digest Book Club choice and is still avaialble--probably at 2nd market prices. And it is still pertinent and the best thing I've ever seen on dialogue. AND, dialogue is still the #1 thing my clients have trouble with. Everything from punctuation to dialogue that sounds authentic. The writing world is lovely to have your articles--and your books--out there and available. Hugs.

Karen Cioffi said...

Thanks so much, Carolyn. I agree that learning from books is a great way to learn. That's how I first learned. I have lots of books on writing and studied children's books. I'll have to check out On Dialogue. And, another must-have in every author's tool box is The Frugal Editor. Along with writing, an author has to edit her work!

Terry Whalin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Terry Whalin said...


You have built a great deal of valuable, hard-earned lessons into this article. Thank you. I appreciate what you said about the value of a critique group. In the early days of my writing, I was in a group with four writers and we met once a month--simple format but the group pushed along and improved my writing and storytelling. We need feedback on our writing BEFORE it shows up in print. A critique group is a valuable part of the process. Of course, finding the right group is important too. The details matter.


Karen Cioffi said...

Terry, I've been in a couple of critique groups over the years. They were all online though. The feedback from members show you what you don't see. Writers are usually too close to their work to be able to see it with fresh eyes. And yes, you do need to find the right group for you.

Linda Wilson said...

Hi Karen, thank you for your helpful article. It's great advice and if followed, authors will succeed.

deborah lyn said...

Continuous learning is fulfilling, plus it's value added to pay it forward!
Thanks Karen

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