Authors, writers, and editors create all of the printed matter that informs, entertains, and inspires the public. This writing can appear in any number of formats: books, magazines, online articles, blogs, and advertisements, just to name a few. There are many excellent distance learning opportunities in these areas.
The words writer and author are roughly synonymous, although a person who writes books is more likely to be called an author, while a person who writes articles or advertising copy is usually called a writer. An author may spend years researching and composing a book. This process can be arduous and, except for the case of reported nonfiction, is conducted largely in solitude. For many people, the isolation is the most difficult thing about being an author.
Writers are more likely to interact with others as part of their job. A writer usually needs to speak with experts and regular citizens in order to research his or her topic. Some writers produce copy for advertisements, and so they spend a great deal of time talking to marketing professionals and focus groups.
One contact that both authors and writers share is with an editor. Editors guide authors and writers. They suggest ideas, review early drafts, and make corrections. An editor helps the composer of a work see it in perspective, and tries to develop a solid idea of what his or her audience would like to read. Many editors split their time between helping writers and managing the business side of a publication.
Authors, writers, and editors must be educated in order to perform their professional duties. While it is possible to obtain the requisite education independently, the vast majority of print professionals have at least a bachelor’s degree. The most common undergraduate majors for authors, writers, and editors are journalism, English, and communications. Nevertheless, those who want to focus on a certain area in their writing or editing may find it useful to obtain a different degree. For instance, science writers often have an undergraduate or graduate degree in chemistry, biology, or physics. In most cases, however, writers and editors simply obtain a general education and then acquire focus once they have landed a job.
High school and college newspapers are one of the common areas for authors and editors to obtain experience. Many also work at community newspapers and television stations. College literary magazines are a good place for aspiring writers of fiction and poetry to gain experience. Perhaps the most important factor in the development of a writer, however, is practice. Many writers toil for years before they feel they have achieved some level of mastery over their craft.
Many writers will discover special skill in dealing with other writers and finding interesting topics for books and articles. These writers may choose to become editors. However, many of those who like the idea of becoming an editor are unaware that it involves a significant amount of business acumen. Editors are essentially the managers of a publication and often have to make decisions about advertising and financial management. For this reason, courses in business administration and marketing can be useful to aspiring editors.
Some writers work on a freelance basis, while others are employed full time and placed on salary by a single organization. For those on salary, the average income is $53,000 per year. Wages tend to be a little higher for those who work in advertising and public relations, and a little lower for those who work in newspapers, periodicals, and books. Editors who are on salary make about $50,000 a year. However, the top 10 percent make more than $95,000 annually. It is more difficult to assess the annual earnings of freelance writers, who are only as successful as they are productive. In addition, freelance writers are required to fund their own insurance and benefits.
The demand for authors, writers, and editors is expected to increase at about the same pace as the rest of the economy, though competition for these jobs will increase because of their popularity. In particular, online publications will need to hire continuously in order to maintain a steady stream of content. As online ventures increase, print publishers will probably decline in number. Many writers and editors will find the prospects for career advancement to be superior in nonprofit organizations and public relations departments. Positions at well-known newspapers and magazines will be the most contested.