Bookmark and Share Scholarships

Authors, Writers, and Editors - What They Do

How to Advance (Advancement)
Writers and authors generally advance by building a reputation, taking on more complex writing assignments, and getting published in more prestigious markets and publications. Examples of previously published work form the best route to advancement. Establishing a track record for meeting deadlines also makes it easier to get future assignments. Writing for smaller businesses, local newspapers, advertising agencies, or not-for-profit organizations either as a staff writer or on a freelance basis, allows beginning writers and authors to begin writing right away and take credit for their work. Opportunities for advancement within these organizations may be limited, because they either do not have enough regular work or do not need more advanced writing.

In larger businesses, jobs and promotions usually are more formally structured. Beginners often read submissions, do research, fact check articles, or copy edit drafts, and advance to writing and editing more substantive stories and articles.

Most editors begin work as writers. Those who are particularly adept at identifying stories, recognizing writing talent, and interacting with writers, may be interested in editing jobs. Except for copy editors, most editors hold management positions and must also enjoy making decisions related to running a business. For them, advancement generally means moving up the corporate ladder or to publications with larger circulation or greater prestige. Copy editors may move into original writing or substantive editing positions or become freelancers.

Authors, writers and editors held about 281,300 jobs in 2008. Writers and authors held about 151,700 jobs and editors held about 129,600 jobs. About 70 percent of writers and authors were self-employed, while 12 percent of editors were self-employed.

Among the 30 percent of salaried writers and authors, about half work in the professional, scientific, and technical services and in publishing (except Internet) industries. These industries include advertising, public relations and related services and newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers, respectively. Other salaried writers and authors work in broadcasting, professional and social organizations, and the motion picture and video industries.

While 51 percent of salaried editors worked in the publishing, except Internet industry (half of those for newspapers), a large number of editors were also employed in other industries. Business, professional and social organizations, information services, and educational institutions employed editors to work on their publications or Web content.

Jobs are somewhat concentrated in major media and entertainment marketsóBoston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, DCóbut improved communications and Internet capabilities allow writers to work from almost anywhere. Many prefer to work outside these cities and travel regularly to meet with publishers and clients and to do research or conduct interviews in person. As a result, job location is less of a requirement for many writing or editing positions than it once was.

Job Outlook
Employment is expected to grow about as fast as average. Keen competition is expected for writing and editing jobs as many people are attracted to this occupation. At the same time, many employers are downsizing.

Job Growth
Employment of authors, writers, and editors is expected to grow 8 percent, about as fast as the average for all occupations, from 2008 to 2018. Employment in salaried writing and editing positions is expected to increase slightly as jobs become more prevalent throughout the economy. Companies in a wide array of industries are using newer multimedia technologies and online media to reach a more technology friendly consumer and meet the growing demand for Web-based information. Online publications and services are growing in number and sophistication, spurring the demand for authors, writers, and editors, especially those with Web or multimedia experience. Businesses and organizations are adding text messaging services to expanded newsletters and Web sites as a way of attracting new customers. They may hire writers or editors on either a salaried or freelance basis to contribute additional content. Some publishing companies however, especially those that rely on advertising revenues and sales receipts to support large staffs of writers, will employ fewer writers and editors. But many experienced writers and editors will find work with nonprofit organizations and associations in their public relations offices, or in the public affairs departments of large companies or agencies. Others will find freelance work for newspaper, magazine, or journal publishers; some will write books.

Competition is expected for writing and editing jobs as many people are attracted to this occupation. Competition for jobs with established newspaper and magazines will be particularly keen as many organizations move their publication focus from a print to an online presence and as the publishing industry continues to contract. Writers and editors who have adapted to the new media and are comfortable writing for and working with a variety of electronic and digital tools will have an advantage in finding new work. The declining costs of self-publishing and the growing popularity of electronic books and book readers will allow many freelancers to get their work published. Some job openings will arise as experienced workers retire, transfer to other occupations, or leave the labor force.

Median annual wages for salaried writers and authors were $53,070 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $38,150 and $75,060. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,020, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $106,630. Median annual wages were $58,740 for those working in advertising, public relations, and related services and $43,450 for those working for in newspaper, periodical, book and directory publishers.

Median annual wages for salaried editors were $49,990 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $36,690 and $69,140. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,090, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $95,490. Median annual wages of those working for newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers were $49,280.

Freelance writers earn income from their articles, books, and less commonly, television and movie scripts. While most work on an individual project basis for multiple publishers, many support themselves with income derived from other sources. Unless gotten from another job, freelancers generally have to provide for their own health insurance and pension.

Back to Page 1

Career Related Videos

Academic Programs of Interest

Agricultural Journalism

Agricultural Journalism is a fast moving and a challenging profession to meet the farm information requirements of farm graduates, extension workers, Media persons and farmers. Since agriculture has become a business, the demand for agricultural journalism is growing day by day, not only in developed ...more

American Literature

The study of American Literature refers to written or literary work produced in the area of the United States and Colonial America. While majoring in American Literature, you can expect to encounter such literary luminaries as Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay, Washington Irving, William ...more

Comparative Literature

Comparative literature is critical scholarship dealing with the literature of two or more different linguistic, cultural or national groups. While most frequently practiced with works of different languages, it may also be performed on works of the same language if the works originate from different ...more

Creative Writing

Unlike its academic counterpart of writing classes that teach students to compose work based on the rules of the language, creative writing is believed to focus on students' self-expression. While creative writing as an educational subject is often available somewhere, if not throughout, K-12 education, ...more


As a broad program of study, the English Major provides students with an opportunity to analyze works of literature and film originally written in English. Such an analysis prompts students to exercise both critical thinking skills, in which they analyze and reflect upon a text such that they can ...more

English Composition

Many universities have a required freshman, or first-year, composition course. This is not always the same as a literature course, which focuses on literary analysis and interpretation; rather, composition courses are often intensive instruction in writing non-fiction, expository texts using academic ...more

English Literature

The term English Literature refers to the study of literature written in the English language, including literature composed in English by writers not necessarily from England; Joseph Conrad was Polish, Robert Burns was Scottish, James Joyce was Irish, Dylan Thomas was Welsh, Edgar Allan Poe was American, ...more


Journalism is a discipline of gathering, writing and reporting news, and broadly it includes the process of editing and presenting the news articles. Journalism applies to various media, but not limited to newspapers, magazines, radio, and television.

While under pressure to be the first ...more

Musical Theater

Musical theater is a form of theater combining music, songs, spoken dialogue and dance. The emotional content of the piece " humor, pathos, love, anger " as well as the story itself, is communicated through the words, music, movement and technical aspects of the entertainment as an integrated whole.

Musical ...more

Playwriting and Screenwriting

A playwright, also known as a dramatist, is a person who writes dramatic literature or drama. These works may be written specifically to be performed by actors or they may be closet dramas or literary works written using dramatic forms but not meant for performance.

Screenwriters, scenarists, ...more

Technical Writing

Technical writing is a subset of technical communication, is used in fields as diverse as computer hardware and software, chemistry, the aerospace industry, robotics, finance, consumer electronics, and biotechnology.

Technical writing exists to communicate and disseminate useful information. ...more