Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Are You an Author or a Writer?

Before I became published, I had business cards that said "author" on them. Some other aspiring authors were really bothered by that. After all, I hadn't sold anything. I had a tiny freak-out moment, but I got over it pretty quickly. I mean, what was I going to do? Hide my business cards?

To be honest, there's a lot of talk (old and new) on the internet about the difference between being a writer and being an author. It's something I've looked at way too much. With RT rapidly approaching and things hitting crunch time, I've had a sudden moment of clarity. One of those moments when had I been thinking about it, I might have understood the meaning of life. Silly me was thinking about being an author instead, but I'll take what I can get.

Here's the thing, everyone who writes is a writer. Unless you haven't started writing there is no such thing as an "aspiring writer". I suppose those could be the "I've been thinking about writing a book" people, but the minute they sit down and get to it, they graduate to writer. But most people who question the writer/author thing are past that stage. Most of them have stories under their belt, whether shorts, novels or something in between. So what should they call themselves?

This is where things get a little trickier. Of course they are still writers--writers write. Here's my opinion on the matter. Once you start doing the legwork and submitting, you've "graduated" to "aspiring author". Notice there's a big difference between "aspiring writer" and "aspiring author". The first is someone thinking about/trying to write. The second is someone trying to move ahead to that elusive "author" title.

If it was tricky before, it's a mess now. So, you've submitted, you've been accepted and signed with an agent or a're an author, right? Uh...not so fast.

You see, I've realized that being an author means a lot of things. First up? Revisions. Whether your agent or editor, someone is going to ask you to revise, and only when they ask you to change something you don't want to let go do you earn author points. (No, there is not really a system of "author points" I'm just using it as a goofy little name.) Because one way or another, you have to step up and deal with that revision. You're either going to argue to keep what you wrote, or you're going to change it--maybe both. But you can't just gloss over it. It's no longer writing group or crit partners who you can ignore, now it's work. More author points? Dealing with bad or even mediocre reviews. There are a lot of ways to handle this, but you do have to handle it otherwise you turn into one of those people who rant on the review site and basically make everyone go O.O. It's work, you have to treat it as such, even if that means staying away from the watercooler (ie--not reading reviews). Lastly is the issue of promo. Authors must promo if they want to sell. Whether that means building a readership on your blog, or on Twitter, or on Facebook, or guest blogging all over the universe, or doing book tours and signings, you must promo. How willing you are to learn and adapt is part of that. Your blog isn't driving sales? Adapt. Try something new. Take offers. Take advice. It's your job to sell books, time to put in the work.

If you notice, I mentioned work a lot in the last paragraph. That's because being an author isn't just about writing books, that's just the first step. Writing can be a hobby. Being an author is a job. It's a career. And if you don't treat it like one--if you aren't willing to bust your ass and do the work, or worse you whine or make excuses--you're not an author.

And in the end, it isn't so much a question of what you's a question of what you really want to be.

There are probably a lot more examples of things authors need to deal with that writers don't (based on my above explanation), these were just the top three that came to mind. I'm sure you have others. Hit me with them :)


  1. Great post, Sel. You've definitely done your share of hard work over the last year (and the few before that too). You've busted your ass to learn your craft and not to promote your work. I'm glad I have a front row seat to the show.

  2. Hey Sel,
    Lots of fun and deeply thought provoking. I always phrased it as a writer writes and an author publishes.

    Too many think that the first draft is the end of it all and they'll be the next Stephen King, they forget the multiple edits, the submissions and of course getting that magical contract after a ton of work. They then forget the work that is required to market yourself as unless its that one in a million novel, the publisher is unlikely to stump up tons of cash to publise it.

    All in great fun as always.

  3. Haha, loved this article, the old 'suck it up buttercup' that so many need to be told about to realise. I am a writer, but sometimes it feels like a job. Finding time for it as a full time working mom is brutal some days, but hey, that's life right? I have some flash and poems to be published but I still refuse to call myself an author until my first novel hits the market. It's part of my 'goal setting', a special day I hope to one day welcome with open arms and bloody fingers. :)

  4. Hm, interesting. These were always my main three categories:

    - A Writer: writes more than idly (otherwise, you're just "someone who writes sometime")
    - A Novelist: has completed a novel
    - An Author: has published a book

  5. I liked this Sel. I've often pondered the differences, but I'm glad you attacked them head on and shared your insight. I love how you tackle subjects head-on and without reservation and I really enjoy your approach to them. Thanks again for another informative and thought provoking post! :)

  6. It's like genres. There's a thin line between them. Fantasy or paranormal. Is it paranormal romance or paranormal with romantic elements?


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