Do you have transferable skills for the business of being an author?

Did you ever think you’d write a book? Or several? Many writers come to it late or write part-time; they’ve had or still have a Real Life. Faced with the organisation behind marketing their book, which seems like rebuilding Rome, they worry about their inadequacies on the business side. All they ever wanted to do was write!

Publishing means making public. If you decide to publish your work, whatever route you choose, it becomes a publicly available product. I know some will cringe to call their work of creative art ‘a product’, but that’s what it is. Readers will not come knocking at retailers’ doors if they don’t know your book exists, so you need to tell them.

Marketing is a distinct profession, but authors can borrow some of those skills and better still educate themselves about the basics. This is the fun part of being an author today – you get to learn new things every day!

“But I don’t know how to do any of it!” you cry. My answer is that you’d be surprised…

Things we need to do

  • Set up a simple website/blog from the beginning, preferably before publication
  • Ensure our book is on the major retailer sites
  • Let people know our book exists
  • Write blogposts – own blog and guest
  • Join social media sites but only the ones you feel like doing. Join the conversation
  • Speak about our book
  • Sell our book face to face
  • Join groups and associations
  • Educate ourselves continuously (Continuous Professional Development, or CPD, if you want the proper term )
  • Learn basic record keeping and tax/legal requirements
  • Manage expectations
  • Have fun

What skills do we need

  • Reading – the ability to read, absorb a lot of information then sift it
  • Writing – not just our creative work, but blog posts. social media posts, press releases, synopses, précis and hooks
  • Organising – good organisation, online using folders and offline using filing
  • Computer skills – word-processing, spreadsheets, managing simple graphics, copying and pasting, uploading files
  • Record keeping
  • Basic accounting
  • A thirst for knowledge
  • A willingness to learn
  • A mindset for sharing and teamwork
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Listening skills
  • Negotiation skills
  • Project management

I hear your mind reeling!

But stop! If you’ve been working for a few years, managed a household or worked in the volunteer sector, club or organisation, you probably have at least some of these skills, possibly many of them. The others can be developed, I assure you.

Let’s do a skills audit!
You can give yourself marks out of ten, but be honest but not over modest. This is for you and nobody else.
Breaking down into small bites the skills you already have acquired from previous jobs highlights what you have already achieved. Think also about some of these:

  • Projects, tasks, objectives and goals you have completed.
  • What you specifically did and/or what your role was in an activity.
  • What you achieved and the impact of your work on both day to day and special projects.
  • What has gone well, what has gone not so well and what you’d like to change?

1. Practical skills

  • Keyboard skills: word-processing and spreadsheet
  • Filing and organising your work, digitally and paper
  • Copying and pasting, uploading images and files to sites
  • Fixing appointments, arranging meetings, arranging travel, taking staff or team meeting minutes
  • Writing work plans, schedules, timetables
  • Preparing and managing your own work
  • Making presentations to staff, teaching skills to new staff
  • Keeping accounts, whether for a tea club, the staff outing or in a professional context
  • Research skills
  • Managing a household budget
  • Managing stock, allocating resources and inventory
  • Keeping records, confidential information
  • Completing tasks to specification, on time and within budget


2. Team skills (being an author and getting your work published is a team effort)

  • Working as a project member or leader, enabling everybody to contribute
  • Working as a staff or union representative
  • Treating subordinates and superiors with equal courtesy
  • Running a voluntary club, residents’ association, as a hospital volunteer or local councillor
  • Running or helping at the school fete, or as a parent governor

3. Personal communication skills

  • Talking fluently to people whether outside the school gate or to a prestigious client
  • Listening actively and observing; I once won a good contract listening to somebody at the supermarket checkout!
  • Negotiating: with children (especially toddlers or teenagers), other family members, clients, suppliers, insurance companies or with the boss or colleagues at work
  • Being professional and pleasant at all times however obnoxious the person you’re speaking to is (even if it is your unfavourite telephone company or low cost airline).
  • Making others laugh or at least smile
  • Explaining your position or case clearly
  • Knowing how far to push your case or cause and when to stop

4. Expert knowledge (a bonus)

  • As an accountant, lawyer, marketer, teacher, doctor
  • Translator, copy writer, image editor, journalist
  • Academic
  • Business owner or manager
  • Skilled craftsperson, software engineer, other IT specialist, police officer
  • Other

5. The fuzzy stuff

  • Persistence – If you have always been determined whether in family, community or work environment, this will be an invaluable asset as an author
  • Dealing with insults, especially those at distance which can be personal, hurtful and untrue
  • Resilience – revising, honing and polishing your work endlessly without losing heart
  • Spotting opportunity – In your work you’ve seen how things can be improved or where you could add to the company’s balance sheet. Writing, publishing and marketing a book is a perfect place to use that business ’nose’.

So, now you’ve assessed yourself against these criteria and others I’m sure you’ve added, you may be surprised by how many 5 out of 10s and above you have already.

Go back to the list we had at the beginning of this post. Now you’ve done your skills audit, you’ll be able to see what you can already do and where any gaps are. Are you surprised?

Apart from all the things you can already do, you’ve identified the things you need to find out or learn. Find out about tax and National Insurance via the HMRC online site (UK) or your own local tax office, ask at the local chamber of commerce, do a short course in book-keeping, steel yourself and do a one-day course on making presentations. Anita Chapman (neetsmarketing) runs excellent social media courses for nervous beginners as well as those who wish to hone their social media skills. Find a teenage geek to set up a simple website with a blog for you.

I’d suggest you join a few author groups on Facebook. If you are indie/self-published, you will find the Alliance of Independent Authors’ Advice Centre invaluable. Actually, most authors would!

If you think it’s impossible, it’s not. I was surprised when I started writing my Roma Nova series  just how many skills I could transfer over. And so can you.


Updated 2022: Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series.Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers. JULIA PRIMA, a new Roma Nova story set in the late 4th century, is now out.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines and taste world the latest contemporary thriller Double Identity… Download ‘Welcome to Alison Morton’s Thriller Worlds’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email update. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.


2 comments to Do you have transferable skills for the business of being an author?

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.