Monday, July 13, 2009

What Constitutes a Title?

What constitutes whether or not you are a writer or an author? An unpublished reader preparing business cards for a writers conference recently asked this question, and while it never dawned on me to do a blog post about it, it is something that has often niggled at the back of my mind when speaking at conferences or writing posts.

While I try to use the terms interchangeably I know that somewhere along the line I have decided that "author" is best used for those who are published and "writer" for those who remain unpublished. I’m not sure that’s fair though. Does it imply that if you are a writer you’re less than an author? Or does it simply give the distinction of having reached the goal of publication that published authors deserve?

When it comes to business cards or how you define yourself in a bio I’m not so sure it matters. In fact, I know it doesn’t matter. No one is going to look at your business card and berate you for using the word "author" when you’re unpublished. I’m not sure anyone cares that much. But those are my thoughts, and while I like to think I might be a writer, I certainly don’t think I’m an author. What about you? Do you think of yourself as an author or a writer and what distinguishes the separation for you? If you are an author do you feel that’s because you’ve reached a certain point in your career that others should also reach before using the moniker? Do you even think it matters?

Jessica

90 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on the distinction. I've always felt you can reasonably identify yourself as a writer while working in the trenches toward the goal of becoming an author (a published writer). It seems an obvious distinction to me.

wellreadrabbit said...

I call myself a writer. I wouldn't feel comfortable calling myself an author until I had a book published. I don't think it's a class distinction - just a simple definition: the dictionary defines author as someone who publishes books for a living.

Then again, I wouldn't get uppity about someone else doing it differently!

Katherine

Anonymous said...

As an unpublished writer, I agree with all of you. I found myself asking the same question recently. I needed business cards as well, for the upcoming RWA. I finally decided to simply put the romance genre I write in under my name. I figured it made what I do clear enough without getting into semantics.

Sally MacKenzie said...

Hmm. I think I prefer the term writer. That's what I do--write. In the crazy business of publishing, it's the only piece of the puzzle I can hope to control.

Lori A. May said...

Interesting! I have similar views on the distinction and yet use them interchangeably as well.

Now that I think of it… if I am referring to myself I use one or the other depending on the circumstances. For example, when I introduce myself to someone and they ask what I do, I say I am a writer. But when I send out a media release, event posting, or write a publication bio, for example, I say “author Lori A. May.”

So, I guess it comes down to this: in social or casual settings, I say I am a writer, because that’s what I do; in professional situations, I am identified as an author, because that’s who I am.

That being said, I am sure I throw around each term without much thought on any number of occasions. Good question and comments!

Lori A. May
www.loriamay.com
http://loriamay.blogspot.com
http://twitter.com/loriamay

Alexis Grant said...

Interesting topic. I still consider myself more of a journalist than a writer or an author, even though now I'm writing a book.

A few people brought this to my attention when I named my blog Aspiring Author. But you've been published for years, they said. Yeah, I responded, as a journalist. But I'm now aspiring to be a published author, a new goal. They said I wasn't giving myself enough credit, but I still think I'm offering my blog readers the honest truth. No matter what my writing background, I'm still working toward becoming an author.

Looking forward to reading the rest of the conversation here!

Anonymous said...

I think that the term 'author' is a distinction for those who have 'made it'. Heck, I went to a school where uniforms were mandatory. Everyone wore green blazers, except the seniors who wore white. It was a distinction they deserved. In a law firm, a select few get to call themselves partners. They earned it, although it doesn't mean the other lawyers in the firm aren't skilled or dedicated. They're still lawyers too...just not partners. We can all be writers in varying fields and with varying levels of experience, but if you make it out of the slushpile, you deserve to be distinguished as an 'author'. Note: This is an unpublished writer's opinion.

Keren David said...

I like writer. Author is a little pretentious, I think.
I say writer and editor, and leave it to people to ask further to discover whether I'm published or not. Writer covers books and journalism. And my business card just has my name and contact details.

Anonymous said...

Interesting point Alexis. There are so many scientists, researchers, doctors etc...out there who write extensively as part of their jobs (ie. journal publications). Yet, if asked what they do, they say 'doctor' or 'biologist'. They don't typically identify themeselves as authors, although they might use it as a verb and say that they've authored several research papers.

Aimless Writer said...

I agree with your distinction between the two. However when I get published I'd probably still say I was a writer simply because I like that word better.
:)
Author is a stuffy sounding word.

Rick Daley said...

I share your views on this, Jessica. I don't think the title author denotes anything more that an advanced progression in the course of publication. For me, this distinction offers a goal to work toward.

An author is still a writer. It's like basic geometry: a square is always a rectangle but a rectangle is not always a square.

B.E. Sanderson said...

I guess I make the same distinction myself. Right now, I think of myself as a writer. (And just to add a wrinkle, I also consider myself a novelist.) Maybe someday when I'm published, I'll also think of myself as an author.

I have run into some people who get their panties in a bunch if an unpub calls herself an author, but in the end, they really don't matter. To quote the wisdom of Popeye: "I am what I am." ;o)

Kate Douglas said...

I've always thought of myself as a writer, more in terms of the fact that it's what I am, not what I do. I didn't think of myself as an author until I was published, but even that term is changing as more and more people self-publish. I know that when I tell people I write, there is always the question, "Are you published?" When I say yes, there's more definition required: By a REAL publisher? LOL...my, how times have changed--and no, I don't sell my books out of the trunk of my car. How we define ourselves is personal--I don't think it's that big a deal, except to the individual.

For years I defined myself as a wife or a mother. Now when I say I'm an author it's because I'm proud of my accomplishments after so many years of struggle--I'm still a wife, mother and now grandmother, but in my head, I'm first and foremost an author.

Shawn McGuire said...

I agree with Anon 8:38 that there is a certain 'earned' it respect that comes when your book makes it to the shelves. Publishing of course will be the biggest reward, but I like the idea that when I finally publish I'll also get to use the title 'author'...join the club so to speak. It seems a little silly I suppose but in a field where we agonize over every word, to me there is a difference .

Anonymous said...

Author means originator, and writer, well, somebody who writes. So, an unpublished writer is the author of her unpublished works.

"Debut Novelist" is the author of "Stunning Title". You'd write this sentence about a published writer, and this may be the reason why author has a more professional feel to it.

Fawn Neun said...

I pretty much do the same thing. I use the term "writer" for unpublished writers and "author" for published writers, unless I'm referring to a specific work (i.e. "author of The Book" or "author of 700 poems about cheese) even if it's unpublished. I can it would get sticky for business cards, because "writer" would just look funny.

Andrew said...

To be honest I'd be reticent to use either until I was published - or even then until I was sure it wasn't a flash in the plan. I mean I play football at the weekend, but I don't say "Hi, I'm a footballer".

My day job is infinitely more mundane, but alas I'm still 'an analyst'...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

The only exception would be if someone spent the majority of time writing and did, like, pizza delivery a couple of nights. The majority of their time is spent writing so publication or not they are probably earning the right to call themselves writer. I think Author should be reserved for those who have something literary recognized that they are the "Author" of.

Word verification - Hoingiss: The sound a very old spring makes when you flick it.

Scott said...

I'm not sure how I feel on this one. As a newspaper reporter, I had several thousand articles published with by-lines. But I've not had any fiction published ... so I guess that makes me a writer?

sylvia said...

The problem is that writer doesn't necessarily mean unpublished. I've worked as a copywriter and I also have a number of magazine articles to my name. On a couple of occasions, I have done ghostwriting. Writer encompasses the set.

I agree that author means "published book" to me but I'm a little bit uncomfortable with writer meaning "unpublished".

I received a press release today about a novel (implied as in progress but with a November launch, I'm sure it must be complete) which said that a bright creative person with numerous short stories to his name was working on a novel.

"‘This Book’ is the first effort of the novelist ..."

Well, then, he's not a novelist yet, is he?

BnB Paulson said...

I like what Kate brings up. In this world where self-publishing is a common trend, is it okay to say author? Better yet, is it okay to say you're "published"? Does that constitute the long-sought-after title of published author if you pay someone to do it for you, rather than go through the tedious work involved grasping for that editor's attention.
Reputable writers/authors might think one way, while those willing to pay for their titles will feel differently as well.

I consider myself a writer until published. Am actually working toward a contract and am counting the moments until I can change my title to author! But, it IS just a mind-set. It is like taking the T-shirt after accomplishing a marathon. It's proof you did it!

Very interesting topic. Thanks Jessica.

B.R. Paulson
www.brpaulson.blogspot.com

Liana Brooks said...

It's probably a holdover from years past but a writer is a freelancer or newspaper writer, someone with a byline. An author is someone writing fiction or biographies.

If someone came up to me and said they were a writer my next question would be what paper they work for. I worked for newspapers for a few years and that's just my brain works.

It doesn't fit the dictionary description, but it works for me.

H. L. Dyer said...

I agree with Fawn... I don't generally call myself AN author, but I occasionally refer to myself as THE author of my manuscript.

What's funny is that I don't really think the title semantics matter much, but I do it anyway. =)

As far as business cards go, I don't think it's necessary for a writer to put any title on them, really. I included the pertinent stats for my manuscript on my cards (MS title, women's fiction, 89,000 words) so it was pretty clear I was a writer shopping my manuscript.

Of course, now that I'm agented I have a stack of fairly useless business cards, but... I'm okay with that. =)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Like Alexis and Scott, I am a former newspaper reporter, so I have tons of bylines. I have defined myself as a writer for years--also having magazine articles and haiku published. But I have always considered 'author' to mean the writer of a published book. I think it is a title, rather than a vocation, and can procede a person's name in reference.

Natasha Fondren said...

LOL, others WILL berate you. :-) I've seen wild comment sections over this issue. I'm not sure why. Writers seem very concerned about the dividing lines, LOL. I don't know why that is, either.

I'd feel comfortable with both. I tend to use "writer" with everyone, including myself, only because it's closer to the verb I normally use. (I don't say I'm going to sit down and author today, LOL.)

Christina said...

I'm going to say that I agree with everyone else (very daring of me I know). But "Author" seems to denote a professional status and until you have been published, I think being a "writer" is a more fitting title.

Although, I have to say I don't call myself either. Like Andrew, I feel like until I do have something published, I can't publicly call myself a writer or an author. It just doesn't seem offical yet.

Mira said...

Well, I'm often in the minority on this one, and I also find it an interesting discussion.

I use author and writer pretty much interchangably, although I tend to reserve 'author' as a title for someone who has a finished piece of work. But I don't let the concept of publication enter the picture for either one.

For me, publication implies that other people liked your writing enough to pay for it. That's very nice, and I hope it happens to me someday.

But I don't think whether someone is a writer or an author should be determined by outside factors. It's an internal distinction. If someone expresses themselves through the written word, I believe they have earned the title writer or author, if they so chose to use it.

Kimber An said...

Unless I achieve paying publication, I will always call myself a writer. Not an author. Although, I prefer 'storyteller' over both.

Bill Greer said...

I don't get too hung up on labels. I can't define myself by one term since there are too many facets to me and too many things that I do. Once you start throwing slashes between labels, people's eyes start to glaze over.

I rarely think of author as a label. I can't say I've ever met anyone who described himself as an author. It's always "I'm a writer" which then begs the question, "What do you write?"

Personally, since I've written a novel, maybe I should refer to myself as a novelist. That immediately answers the "What do you write?" question.

Dawn Maria said...

I got in trouble one day with the women in my writing group when I said I "wanted" to be a writer. Right away everyone jumped on me- "You are-own it!" I was pretty pissed, to be honest, because I felt that until I was published I wasn't comfortable with that title and saying it out loud doesn't just make you one.

I agree with the writer/author definitions. On my business card it's says Writer. I do tell people that, but when I'm referring to myself in residency applications, or places like this, I say emerging writer because that is really more accurate for where I'm at today.

I'm working hard to get to the author title though!

Recessionista Genie said...

There are lots of value judgments here attached to whether a writer has had a book published or not. There is an assumption that anyone who has been published, deserved to be published on the basis of merit. I believe this is usually true, but not always. Some "authors" can pretty much buy their way into the industry. Some talented writers are not appreciated in their own times and later considered geniuses.

I feel that anyone who writes seriously can legitimately call herself a "writer," if that is how she sees herself. I feel that anyone who has completed a book, published or not, can honestly call herself an "author" of that work. There are good writers and bad writers, skilled authors and unskilled authors, but the nouns themselves do not necessarily connote quality. They label people based on what they do, not based on a degree or rank achieved.

We wouldn't say an artist is not an artist until one of her works is purchased or commercialized. Why is it so with writing?

Jess said...

I certainly call myself a writer, however, I wouldn't call myself an author as of yet.

However, I am of a slightly different mindset.

I feel that once I finish the manucript of my novel, I can be referred to as an author. It may not have BE published, but I will have completed a book-length piece FOR publication.

Does that mean I'm actually going to call myself an author pre-publication? Probably not. It feels a bit pretentious unless I can see my name on a cover.

Anonymous said...

With many writers being introverted by nature, using pen names, or holding day jobs/other careers, it's understandable that defining ourselves as writers/authors becomes difficult. I think we tend to define our profession by paycheck. Until we get a contract and advance on a book, it feels presumptuous to say 'I'm a writer/author'. Think about it. Do you hear people shake hands and say, "I'm a doctor and a writer" or "I'm a construction worker and a writer"...they just go with the profession they're paid to do. It's not necessarily right. It's just how it seems to be.
Word Verif: Corotter - Someone who, at their core, is an author (regardless of what they're paid to do).

quixotic said...

I've often wondered what the professional opinion was on the difference. I consider myself a writer. Someday, when I am published, i'll call myself an author. Glad to see others are of the same mind.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Oh, someone once told me an author writes fiction and a writer writers non fiction. I believed him because he does both. When I had my business cards printed, I had 'author' put on them for that reason even though it didn't feel quite right. Now I know why. Oh well, I'm hardly going to reprint them considering how infrequent I use them in professional circles. The main point of them was for my blog and to highlight that I'm also a photographer.

Horserider said...

I considered myself a writer when I finished my first novel. Now that I've finished more than one, I'm a novelist. When I'm published, I'll be an author.

I don't think 'author' is necessarily any better than 'writer.' Just because someone's an unpublished writer doesn't mean they're not good enough to be an author. They might be very good; they just don't have any ambition to be published. :)

Anonymous said...

If author defines someone who's published, then why do we use the term "published author"? Just wondering. I'm undecided on the whole thing.

Laurel said...

Only writers would become so fascinated with the difference between "writer" and "author".

Anonymous said...

Ha Ha! Touche, Laurel!

(Yes,I know I'm missing the french accent, but I'm lost when I'm not in Word)

Word Verif: pricisbo - Precisely!

Becke Davis said...

I've been a professional freelance writer for twenty years and I've had six books published. BUT I'm now struggling with fiction, and I'm NOT published in that genre.

I have no problem with either "writer" or "author," because both are true. But I find myself hesitating to call my story a book, because it isn't published as such. Another niggling distinction, but every time I accidentally refer to it as a book instead of a story, I want to bite my tongue.

loveskidlit said...

I'm with Anon 10.32. The distinction would make "published author" redundant, and "unpublished author" oxymoronic. But as for business cards, it only matters where you plan to hand them out, surely? It'd be pointless to hand out business cards at a SCBWI conference stating your profession is "analyst," or "construction worker," just because that's the paying job! Two sets of business cards... not such a radical idea!

The Rejection Queen said...

I think you are officially a author when you are published.

Becke Davis said...

Luckily, business cards are really expensive these days (they didn't used to be). Because I'm freelance, I wear many different hats. I have FIVE different business cards to choose from, depending who I am that day. Just call me "Sybil!" (For those of you old enough to remember that movie.)

Aimee Laine said...

Amazing conversation!

As a photographer in real life, we have one and only one title ... "Photographer" (then a whole lot of crazy initials).

But it doesn't matter if you are an amateur, seasoned pro, master, full-time, part-time or hobbysit. The title sticks.

Everyone that uses a camera for the purpose of a hobby or to make money calls themselves a photographer.

And yet we're all at various levels -- rock stars of photography, down home small businesses who just love it as an art and to make a life or somewhere in between.

Our level of success is what we deem it to be.

I personally see writing exactly the same way. I am the author of all my writing, whether published or not. Its mine. I own what I do with it including doing absolutely nothing -- but I am still its author.

Photographer. Author. Writer. Picture taker. Same thing. Different art.

Becke Davis said...

INexpensive. Duh.

Jim King said...

Now that I've hit the jackpot and will have a novel published next year, I've been thinking about this very question as fiddle with how I describe myself on my blog and website. Here's how I've been thinking about it:

Someone who writes = Writer
Someone who gets paid to write = Professional Writer
Someone with a published book(s) = Author

Still, I'm having a little trouble describing myself as an "author." It's okay when someone else calls me that. But, somehow, describing myself that way feels a little... pretentious? I'm much more comfortable saying, "I'm a writer," than "I'm an author."

Go figure.

Melanie Avila said...

I agree that an author is someone who's been published. A writer is everyone else. :)

I am a writer.

Dara said...

I've just always called myself a writer. I assumed an author was someone who was published, but for me it doesn't really matter what people classify themselves as.

Anonymous said...

When I tell people I'm a writer, they ask which books I've published. So now I say I'm a magazine writer or a journalist who's working on a novel. Just as doctors get to put M.D. after their names, we should make a distinction. I agree that "Author" should be reserved for those with published books to their credit.

Marsha Sigman said...

This is interesting to see how everyone feels about the distinction between 'writer' and 'author'.

I am writer because I write. When I am published I will still be a writer....only a lot happier.

Ana V. Rios said...

I consider myself a "writer" not an "author" because I have not published any books. To me this is the main difference.

Kate Douglas said...

Becke Davis wrote: "I find myself hesitating to call my story a book, because it isn't published as such-- every time I accidentally refer to it as a book instead of a story, I want to bite my tongue."

Becke, just call it a manuscript. That's really all it is until it's done, ie: Published, because they're always a work in progress until the final edits are finished.

karenranney said...

My business cards just have my name, email, and web address. That's all.

Jilly said...

I'm a writer. I've had short stories published, articles published, and one of my short stories has been selected for an anthology - an actual book. However, I will not consider myself an author until I have my own novel published. It's a strange distinction, and maybe once I reach that step I still won't be able to call myself an author, but to be "a mystery author" has been a goal of mine since I was in grade school.

Kristin Laughtin said...

I make a similar distinction: writers are writers whether they're published; published writers are authors. However, I waver on that a little too. I'm not sure whether I'd consider myself an author if I had short stories but no novels published. No matter what, though, I try not to attach any stigma to the terms; "authors" aren't necessarily better than unpublished "writers" simply for the fact of being published. I think "author" is just the professional title I bestow on those who have made it to publication.

Christine said...

I agree with your distinction and I think it's a common connotation. I'm unpublished, so I call myself a writer. Heck, whenever I am published, I'll probably still call myself a writer - author sounds like that word that should precede "event" or "signing" - great things, no doubt, but separate from the actual "writing" part of the gig.

Ameya said...

I wouldn't call an unpublished writer an author, but I do use author and writer interchangeably for those who *have* published without thinking about it. Hmm. If someone said "I/he/she am/is an author" i would definitely assume they have been published, while if I heard writer i'd probably assume they weren't at least half the time.

britmandelo said...

I think it's a murky definition. I'm a published author (got paid and everything *g*) but I call myself a writer, because that is what I am. I write stores. The implication of "author" to me is more your public face as a published writer, how you present yourself to fans and audience, etc. It says PUBLIC. I think writers are writers are writers, but once you're out there in the public forum ad a published writer, you get a second title--author. I think it's an add-on to being a writer in a professional sense.

Diana Peterfreund said...

FWIW, I only use the term "author" in specific reference to a book.

Ex: Jane Austen is a writer. She is the author of Pride & Prejudice.

When people ask me what I do, I say I'm a writer. When I go into a bookstore to sign stock, I introduce myself as the author of whatever book I'm there to sign.

I feel like it sounds awkward to say "I'm an author" without the name of the book behind it and I also wouldn't described "being the author of XYZ" as what I *do*. What I do is write books.

My biz cards have my latest book cover on one side, then my contact info on the other. I don't include a title like "writer" or "author" because that's pretty self explanatory, and it's not like I can get promoted or demoted in my one-person company.

Anonymous said...

To me this distinction has less to do with published vs. unpublished and more to do with writer of what?

If it's books, then "author". If it's screenplays, or magazine articles, etc., or all of the above, (with or without books), then "writer".

Dictionary says (among other things) that "author" means composer of literary works. Obviously, an author is the originator of a creative work, but I think most folks associate it with books.

Dictionary also includes journalists, and authors in its definition of "writer".

Just my 2 cents, but I think you're an author if you've written a book, whether it's published or not - and I'm a card-carrying member of the Author's Guild. I'm certainly, totally okay if folks who aren't, say they are authors.

BTW, I refer to myself interchangeably as "writer" and "author". To me, it answers more questions up front if I say "author" because then they know I'm writing books.

J.F.

Ieva said...

IMO, "writer" means that somebody does something (in this case, writes regularly or at least pretends to). "Author" means "author of something", and I'd use it only as "Ieva, author of 'This Awesome Novel'".

Or, in my case, I am Ieva, writer, author of a heap of drafts and some short stories. The publishing status doesn't matter really in this case. (Albeit it matters to me :D)

In my native language "author" is never used as stand-alone descriptor, it's always "author of something".

Maria Zannini said...

Ironically, my blog post today is on designing your business card (part of Lynn Viehl's Left Behind and Loving It virtual workshop tour.

I see no reason to attach a label. The business card I use to promote my book is self explanatory since I use the cover art as the background to my business card.

For general purpose business cards, I list: Fiction, Non Fiction, Editing

If it's a card specifically for branding purposes, I use: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance

There's no reason to get hung up on labels. List what you write. People will get the picture and won't question your legitimacy.

Deb Vlock said...

Somehow "author" feels pretentious to me, even though I am fairly well published. My website describes me as a writer, not an author.

terri said...

I have no problem with that distinction. It gives me something to aspire to. When I graduated law school, I earned the right to call myself a lawyer. When I passed the bar exam, I earned the right to call myself an attorney. I utterly refuse to use the title 'Esquire' after my name, but that's a topic for another day - when the use of titles becomes insufferable . . .

Anonymous said...

However, does the distinction go too far when a writer starts making sure they are referred to as a "Published Author" (capitals manditory) as is the norm at one notorious reverse vanity press?

verify word: paphilb (the content of a certain talkshow run by a pseudo-psychiatrist)

Anonymous said...

All authors are writers, but not all writers are authors.

Anonymous said...

Also, in this context, that of a lit agent for books, author refers to either novelisst or non-fic book writer, not journal, mag or newspaper articles. (And not e-books or POD-only, although that's a different discussion).

Anonymous said...

I will always tell people "what I do" based on whatever I earn the most money doing. If it's my dayjob, then I give the title of my day job, if it's writing books, then I'd say "I'm a writer."

Otherwise, I never mentioned writing unless asked point blank if I write, or maybe what I do in my spare time. Now, however, after having a sold a book (even though I will keep my dayjob), I hve a book to promote, so,,,as soon as I have a pre-order date on Amazon and a release date, annyone who asks about "what I do" will get the book info.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Amazon pre-order date...where are you?! WHEN are you?

Jessica said...

I call myself a writer and won't be comfortable calling myself an author until I've been published. I wasn't even cool with saying "writer" until I started querying and considered myself to be serious about noveling.

careann said...

I think every possible opinion has been offered here but I'll add mine to the poll. I have short stories and poetry published in anthologies and have been paid for my newspaper and magazine articles, but so far my novels are unpublished. I consider myself a writer and novelist, but not an author.

Like the term "painter", "writer" doesn't adequately identify what we do, while "artist" and "author" are more specific.

Careann/Carol J. Garvin

More to consider: I have an aunt who says she will always *only* be a painter--that her husband was the truly talented artist. Both have produced beautiful work but his is outstanding. So does "artist" and "author" somehow denote a higher calibre of ability?

Anonymous said...

I call myself a writer, too.

However, I recently finished my first novel, which is quite an accomplishment, I think. It's a feat many "writers" haven't accomplished.

So, maybe if you have actually written a novel, you can be an author. An unpublished author.

Sara Ramsey said...

I'm with Mira (and apparently in the extreme minority) - while the lines between author and writer are blurry, for me it seems to come down to whether the writer in question has finished a piece of work. I didn't start thinking of myself as an author until I finished my manuscript.

Then again, maybe I'm in self-justification mode, since my snazzy new business cards have "author | blogger | friend" as the tagline :) But, I think I chose "author" over "writer" in that case because it just sounded better phonetically in that particular string of words -- I didn't even think of the possibility that I'll get cold glares of reproof from fellow writers.

DOT said...

I am a writer - a professional in the sense I have written for my supper since I was twenty - I have now written my first novel, as yet unpublished, and have taken time to consider myself an author. I believe it an important switch in self consideration. To be an author, I must think like an author and behave like an author - whatever that entails. In other words, I must take myself seriously in a different mode or how can I expect others to do so?

London Mabel said...

Wow, I've never given it any thought. I think I'm going to have to differ from most of y'all and be *out* for making this distinction. Getting published is partly luck dependent, so I really don't think it means you've *earned* something that an unpublished author hasn't. And it would mean that Kafka died a writer but not an author. Do we distinguish between painters who've sold from those who haven't? Do we distinguish between composer and songwriter based on sales?

This distinction seems a bit silly to me.

Nick said...

I call myself a writer. I have written a number of published books, but I also write articles, distance learning courses, website copy, training materials, and so on. It seems to me that writer is a broader-based (and more accurate) description of what I do. If I called myself an author, I guess I'd be concerned people might think books were all I wrote.

Nick Daws
www.mywritingblog.com
http://twitter.com/nickdaws

Angie Fox said...

Interesting. I've always called myself a writer and never thought much else about it. I am a writer. I happen to write books, but writing is what I do.

Published or not, I don't think it's important how you label yourself as long as you put words on the page and get those books out there.

Clare C Sager said...

It's an interesting question - being unpublished, I'd feel uncomfortable calling myself an 'author' and only dare call myself a writer as it can reasonably be defined as 'someone who writes', which I do. I was hoping the dictionary would clear this up and say one is an occupation, but it mentions writing 'books' on both (ie, book as in finished product as opposed to manuscript) and for writer it specifically says 'for an occupation'. (This is AskOxford.com as my paper dictionary is at home.)

I do think, though, that when you say 'author' to people they automatically picture a published book.

S.D. said...

According to Webster, if you write, you're a writer.

They had a couple definitions for author: One that originates or creates, or the writer of a literary work.

I think if you're unpublished and referring to a specific work of yours, you can say, "I am the author of that."

Otherwise, saying that you're a writer sounds more accurate.

Vivienne said...

I'm an unpublished amateur writer who's won a couple of contests. I'm not even a native speaker though I'm a graduated English major. I used to use the word author when speaking of writers a lot until someone said not to. As for my humble self, I simply prefer the sound of writer to author. So even if I ever get published, I'll remain a writer.

BJ said...

A writer is one who writes. An author is one who has written. I am a writer, but I am the author of the (unpublished, so far) novels I have written. Personally, I think 'author' is best used when mentioning a person's work, not as a stand-alone identifier. That is, Joe is a writer, and the author of an unpublished mystery.

Random House dictionary: author: a person who writes a novel, poem, essay, etc.; the composer of a literary work, as distinguished from a compiler, translator, editor, or copyist.

Encyclopedia Brittanica: author: one who is the source of some form of intellectual or creative work; especially, one who composes a book, article, poem, play, or other literary work intended for publication.

Watery Tart said...

I feel like the term author goes with a specific work, so when referring to a person in relation to a work (or set of works) they are the author. By definition, that means non-published won't often have such referrals.

Writer though, is the identity. It feels more inclusive of the broader thing we do and isn't bound or tied to a specific work or body of work.

joycemocha said...

I'm with those who identify themselves as writers, even though published, but that I'm the author of a specific work. Writer is what I am; author identifies what I've written.

At least the writer/author dichotomy is easier than the teacher/educator dichotomy! I am a teacher, not an educator--the latter term sounds stuffy and far too arrogant to me for what I do.

Irishspartan1775 said...

An author is someone who has written something which is copyrighted, and can be used in their credentials.

A writer is someone who writes, published or unpublished.

An author can be, and should be, considered a writer, but a writer cannot automatically be called an author without published work to their credit.

But that's just how I look at it, and I am simply a writer. :D

sallyhanan said...

I've mentally thought of the word author as describing a writer who has published novels or non-fiction books, whereas a writer is one who writes everything else and could be published or unpublished.

Bane of Anubis said...

I'm even harsher (and probably in the minority) - I don't think you're a writer until you've been published (short stories, poetry, etc.) -- you're an author when you've gotten a book published... otherwise, you're just someone who likes to write..

Lorelei Armstrong said...

I am the author of my published novel. I'm the writer of the one I'm working on now.

Anonymous said...

I have always felt that an author is a published writer of books, fiction or non-fiction. And I do think it matters if you misrepresent yourself. I know someone who had business cards made claiming to be two things, when she was neither, and I was appalled.

Jane Steen said...

I describe myself as "freelance writer". Meaning, "I will write for you if you pay me". I might say that I'm the "author of the Keep Going You Fool blog" if I ever have the good fortune to gain a following worth bragging about.

If I ever get a book published (oh, happy day!) I would describe myself as "author of That Book Everyone's Talking About" on my publicity materials, but if anyone asked me "what do you do?" I hope I'd always simply say "I'm a writer". Of course if I can generate income from my own writing I could drop the "freelance" tag; it's something to aspire to.

I guess the bottom line is whether you're looking at your profession from the process side or from the results side. Either way it's a noble route to earning a living, right?

Beth said...

I agree with the majority of you--writers write whether it's short stories, novels, press releases, TV scripts, newspaper articles and so on.

An author is someone who has published a body of work whether it's a novel or a collection of short stories. That's how I feel about the distinction.

Recently, I had this very conversation with my husband, and just last month, I finished my debut novel. He said, "Now you're a novelist." Wow. I didn't expect to hear that but it felt so good. Now to become an author!!!

Matthew said...

I never really thought about the distinction. I think it does go a little farther than just published and unpublished--it depends on what is published. I've always thought of an author as someone who primarily writes book-length material. I'm not sure if I would give that title to a short story writer or columnist who publishes a collection though.

Seeing as I write in a variety of forms (plays, poetry, stories, novels, articles), I think I would prefer to remain known as a writer (and editor).