Five Skills Every Author Needs to Have

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Nov 08 2022

Obviously, the most important skill every author needs to have is the ability to write a book, but there are (at least) five other skills you’ll need to hone and develop as you build toward a publishing career. These are things you’ll need to do at every stage (from querying to your 20th novel) so learning and perfecting them now will be part of your building process.

Writing a Blurb

As a querying author, you’ve been working on your blurb. It’s a key part of your query, well the most important part of your query, and the same thing your agent will use when talking to editors about your book. It’s also the thing editors will use when talking to their art department and cover copy department. In other words, that blurb will be seen by a lot of people.

But blurb writing doesn’t end when you get an agent. In fact, every book you write will likely need a blurb. When my clients reach the end of their contract the first thing I ask for are blurbs of their next ideas. I use these to talk to editors about a new contract. And they need to be as compelling and exciting as the one they first queried with.

When a new book is written, the editor will ask for your blurb so, once again, they can go to the art and copy departments while creating your next book.

Writing a Synopsis

The dreaded synopsis. Everyone hates them and yet everyone has to write them…forever. A synopsis, different from the blurb, is a full account of your book. It includes all the inciting incidents, details of the climax, internal and external conflict and it tells the ending. A synopsis can be anywhere from 1-10 pages. I prefer them in the range of three pages. Any longer and I lose focus.

The beautiful thing about being a published author and having a relationship with your editor is that you can sell a book on the synopsis alone. But you need to learn how to write a solid synopsis. Like the book, a good synopsis has to point back to your hook and compel the reader to want to continue reading. It can’t meander and shouldn’t list too many characters. It should focus on not just the heart of the story, but the hook.

If you’re telling me your story is going to focus on a homeless grandmother and her granddaughter then I better see how that storyline plays out and will play out throughout the book. Books have been rejected on synopsis alone so make sure you work to master this craft.

Learning from Revisions

When I take on a new client I work really hard with that author on revisions. Our goal is to make the book rejection-proof (if possible) so we can sell it to an editor. That editor will then work really hard with their new author on revisions. Their goal is to sell a ton of books and garner incredible reviews. The goal we all share is building a long and successful career for the author starting with this one goal, but that only happens for the author who takes those lessons learned from revisions and incorporates them into all of their writing moving forward.

Revisions and edits should never be seen as for one book only. They should be seen as part of the learning process to build a strong writing career and make you a stronger writer. Think of how, as a student, you were expected to take the feedback from your teacher on one paper to the next. If you were terrible at commas you were expected to better your comma game with your next paper. The same is true of revisions. I don’t want to do another round of revisions with any of my clients that’s as extensive as those I did on the first book. In fact, I expect that all of those revisions are going to land squarely in the author’s head and I won’t have to do them at all. Because they now know what needs to be done. It doesn’t mean they won’t do revisions with the editor. It just means those revisions will be something new. Something more they can learn from.

Knowing Your Weak Spots

As an editor I have weak spots. When I represented romance for example, I found I accepted a more unlikeable hero than most editors. It was something I had to watch for when giving feedback to authors. As a fan of upmarket fiction, I fall into the trap of a quieter book. Again, something I watch for when taking on new clients.

You have weak spots too. Maybe you are great at characters, but fall short on plotting. It’s something you need to know so when you edit and review, you can watch carefully and correct them before going to your editor.

Understanding Publishing is a Business

Writing a book is a craft. Publishing a book is a business. Every good business owner will tell you that success comes because you have learned how the business works. You’ve learned not just how to bake an incredible cake, but what is expected of the cake in order to sell it. You’ve made an effort to know how to market your cake and what customers want from your website.

The same is true in publishing. You can no longer just write a book. If you’re getting published it’s time to build a business. Besides the obvious like a website and social media handle, you need to know how the business works. What is the timeline for marketing and publicity, what are your expectations when it comes to contracts, deadlines and feedback on the cover.

As you’re writing your book I suggest you hone all of these skills in whatever way you need for success. Writing a book is one thing, building a career is another and we all want you to have a career.






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