Writer vs. Author

writer-vs-author

You are a writer. Words are your friends. Stories move through you like the wind amongst the leaves of a trembling aspen.

You are an author. A high quality finished product is the culmination of your writing. Readers purchase your books (at least in theory).

A writer has their own style. An author has their own brand. Different hats worn by the same person.

A writer dabbles in creation. An author dabbles in marketing.

An author is, and always will be, a writer, but with the achievement of publication comes greater responsibility. The job title carries more weight. When I was on the college basketball team I was a basketball player, but now, I play basketball.  A slight shift in connotation drastically influences the mindset.

Historically, the realm of authordom was carefully guarded by the moats, walls, and soldiers. Only writers invited by inhabitants within the realm could enter. Self-publishing has changed all of that. An individual with a tenuous grasp on the written language and a rubbish story can upload to Amazon and let the novel sink into the e-book abyss. The walls are breached and the outsider is strolling through the palace gardens, claiming to be an author. But is the claim justified? I suppose this hypothetical individual would technically be an author but I would argue that they have missed the point on what an author truly is.

I think an author is a writer who has decided to go professional. The exact same decision made by an athlete who has signed a professional contract. Yes, you play basketball but now the how and the why have much more meaning. Yes, you are a writer, but now…

And this is where the schism occurs. Traditional publishing is outraged by the ever increasing amount of people who have taken it upon themselves to become “pros.” How can they be professionals? They aren’t even playing in the same league! But self-published authors are drawing from the same pool of readers so they are most definitely a threat to industry earnings.

A similar event occurred in the 1960‘s & 70‘s when the ABA arrived to rival the NBA (another basketball reference, I know). The ABA was flashy and free-flowing, instituting the 3-point line as well as the Slam Dunk Competition. Tickets were inexpensive compared to that of the NBA. The ABA was a game for the people. A lack of big money television deals eventually sealed the fate of the ABA but it had been successful enough to force a merger between leagues. The longstanding NBA was forever altered by the upstart. Traditional publishing, like the NBA, never thought it could be challenged, but the rise of a legitimate rival is changing the game.

This thought brings me around once again to the concept an author being a professional. The successful self-published authors wear this responsibility, expanding on their skills and knowledge, putting in the work to be regarded as equals by the established regime. For many writers, myself included, it is a steep learning curve filled with trial and error, of how to be an “author” once the novel is finally finished. Completing the story was the goal for such a long time and then all of a sudden it’s there in your hands. Now what?

Numerous resources advise that an individual build an author platform by blogging/tweets/Facebook/etc, utilize online marketing, accumulate reviews, produce more stories, attend conferences, stay up to date with the state of the industry, and many other tricks of the trade. It’s a lot to cover. This is after you’ve done the grunt work of sending the novel to beta readers, having it professionally edited, having a professional cover made, and formatting for e-book & print. What does any of this have to do with writing? Well, you’ve graduated into authorship and there’s work to be done.

Do you want to be a professional? Do you have what it takes?

Fellow writers, I’d love hear your thoughts on this subject. Please leave a comment about how you approach being an author. If you have yet to publish, why not? What’s holding you back?

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8 thoughts on “Writer vs. Author

  1. I agree with what you said about so-called “authors” who have breached the wall due to a self-published book. I almost get angry at people for publishing books that have so many errors and horrible plots and then calling themselves authors. It just takes away from those of us who are serious about this.

    I’m determined to go the traditional route and do the hard work to get there. With the millions of self-published authors out there, my book could easily get lost in the haze if I don’t step above the rest and fight for my work to be taken by a publisher.

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    1. Thanks anag7, I’m not saying self-published authors as a whole fit this description—there are many who are as skilled of writers as traditionally published authors. The problem is that many rush through the process before they’re ready, which wouldn’t happen with the traditional route.
      I tried the traditional route and got tired of waiting (breaking point was when a prominent agent said he liked my pitch but didn’t have the time to take on new clients) so I decided to do it myself.
      And you’re right, it’s very easy for your book/my book/any book to get “lost in the haze” but that is a professional problem for serious self-published authors.

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  2. Oh don’t get me wrong. I definitely believe there are gems out there in the pile of self-published books. It just seems to be taken less seriously due to anyone being able to publish a book these days. I’m scared to go that route due to that factor. I’m going to try as hard as I can to go the traditional route. If my books don’t get accepted, I’ll join the ranks of self-published authors and do my very best to market myself, be professional and make sure my manuscript is at its best.

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    1. Yep there is a certain stigma about self-publishing but it is slowly changing as more successes emerge. The traditional route does offer much more support & structure but less creative control. There are pros & cons to both. I wish you success in your writing. Cheers

      Liked by 1 person

  3. gmroeder

    Interesting and a bit upsetting. I am like you, tylersehn, I got tired of waiting so I found a publisher paying a very high price but who did the formatting, helped with my cover, did several edits – and the result was a good book being on the market after 2 years writing and seven months waiting for the appearance. Since it was a true memoir (not a novel) it hit a nerve with readers and I have many fantastic reviews on my website, most from history writers. One called it the “missing puzzle of WWII” and it should ‘historically and literary be placed next to ‘Anne Frank’ Diaries.’ Several universitiies bought it for their research departments. Ordinary readers keep asking for a sequel.
    I do not feel I am a second class writer because I am NOT waiting for a traditional publisher.

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