“When does an author become a professional writer?” This question comes up often at writers conferences, but it’s difficult to answer. Usually it’s followed with a question like, “Does getting published make an author a professional writer? Or does that designation come with publishing a book?”
More Than a Hobby
While no one I know has a definitive answer, professionalism begins with a mind-set of thinking of writing as a business or a career, not a hobby. I remember when I crossed that threshold in my thinking. For a couple of years, I wrote when I felt like it. Writing wasn’t a priority; it was another activity, a hobby, I pursued in my spare time.
But when I wanted to buy a house and needed a down payment, I got serious about writing. I made it a part-time career, putting it in my schedule regularly and looking for greater opportunities and better-paying markets. I started marketing myself to editors for assignments instead of relying solely on unsolicited submissions. I developed book ideas that would bring in checks for years after they were published.
Certainly getting published is a basic prerequisite for becoming a professional writer. But it’s more than a few hit sales or a one-book splash. It involves regular, ongoing, steady publication—a career as a published writer.
Like other business people, professional writers study the market, an activity that includes reading trade magazines like Christian Communicator. They attend writers conferences to find out what editors are looking for and how their ideas may fit into current publishing trends (until they have so many contracts they don’t have time to attend conferences).
Since this isn’t the final and definitive definition, I welcome your input. What is your definition of a professional writer? Or what points would you add to mine? Leave your comments below.