Each month we take a look at one of the 650 career pathways featured within Indigo. This month we’re exploring the role of an Author.

Find out what’s involved in the role from children’s author, Sue Purkiss, in this video career profile from the Indigo Careers module.

So what is an Author?

Authors write the text for books, magazines, IT resources and more. This can involve developing initial ideas to create a complete piece, or simply rewriting sections.

Authors often specialise in a particular subject area such as technical writing, science, medicine, cookery, travel or education. A small number of authors write and publish creative works of fiction, poetry or drama.

Some authors write for tiny audiences and live their lives in relative obscurity.  Others achieve national or even international renown and sell millions of copies of their work.

You will have to work long hours to meet project deadlines.


As the majority of authors and scriptwriters are self-employed, you will usually work from home. There is a high concentration of writers and scriptwriters in London and the South of England.

Type of work

It may be necessary to juggle deadlines with other part-time employment taken on to supplement income.

Most authors/ scriptwriters are employed on a project-by-project basis, so the work provides very little job security. 

Things to consider

This type of work can provide the satisfaction of being creative and seeing your work in print and in the public domain.

Unpredictable/unstable profession
Not all authors succeed in publishing their work and you might need to take on other types of work to make a living. You may need to have a second job to support you, especially at the start of your career.

Flexible hours
You will have to meet deadlines but will be able to write whenever and wherever you want.

Creative freedom
If you write works of fiction, poetry or drama then editors and proofreaders will check and streamline your work but you are the driving creative force.

Potential for knock-backs
Your first few pieces of writing are likely to be rejected by publishers.

Most people have an undergraduate degree and you will need natural ability in your chosen field

Natural ability is the most important aspect of this profession. There are a variety of courses available that are designed to improve a writer’s technique, ranging from evening classes to a postgraduate course, but style, originality of ideas, imagination and use of language are key.

There are no specific qualifications required in order become an author, although it is important to note that many writers are graduates in a relevant degree subject, such as English language, literature or creative writing. Competitions may help you to break into the profession and attending conventions such as the Winchester Writers’ Conference or Crimefest, alongside membership of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, are useful ways to network.

You will need to continue thinking about fresh ideas once you have published your first book. Research and travel will allow you to explore new topics and write about them with authority.

Salary progression

Earnings vary depending on the nature of the writing project, your experience, and your popularity as a writer. For freelance writers in screen and television, you will negotiate your own fees but remuneration at a senior level can be over £100,000. The median salary for professional writers (writers who dedicate 50% or more of their time to writing) is currently £11,000.

Click here to explore the full library of over 650 career profiles, including multimedia content and LMI data for students to interpret and discuss.