What Does a Western Author Do?

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  • Written By: Maggie Worth
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 22 December 2019
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The term "western author" most often refers to a writer of fiction works based on the American West. Specifically, these books are about the western lifestyle, which often involves ranches, cowboys and other such traditional symbols of the West in America. The term may occasionally be used to refer to an author of non-fiction books about the same topic. A western author not only writes books, but also works to sell them to publishers and publicizes them once they are published.

The area commonly known as the American West includes the states of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota. Parts of Nebraska, Kansas, Nevada, Utah, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas might also be included. Stories set in the 1800s or before might also be set in California, Oregon, Washington or any of the territories that eventually became these states.

A western author is often required to do a fair amount of research into the ways and customs of the West. Many westerns are set prior to 1920, so historical research is required. Westerns frequently take place on ranches, so knowledge of ranch operations, livestock and horses can help make the story more realistic and interesting.


Writing is the most obvious task for a western author. This includes developing a story line and characters, creating believable dialog and developing a sense of place so that the reader can picture the characters in their settings. It also includes editing — before submitting a work and even sometimes after the project has been purchased by a publisher.

Another task that all writers face is getting published. For many writers, including western writers, this means finding an agent willing to represent the book to publishers, or finding a publisher who will work directly with the author. This process includes not only writing the book, but writing synopses and query letters as well as researching agents and publishers. Some writers, however, opt to self-publish. This involves choosing a publishing platform or printing house, negotiating contracts and designing a cover, along with other duties often managed by an agent or publisher.

Once a book is published, the western author still has more work to do. The book must be promoted, often through venues such as book signings and conferences. Most writers also maintain an author website and may use social media accounts or blogs to communicate news to their readers.

In addition, a published author must often be busy writing his next book while promoting the last one. Readers who love the current book will soon want another. One way to maintain reader interest is to publish regularly.



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