Writer vs. Author

Hi Folks,

Note: This post was originally scheduled for 4/10/2013. It didn’t post to MailChimp, so I’m posting it again now. I’ve revised the original post so it’s up to date.

I think all of us can agree that being a writer is a wonderful, if sometimes exasperating, predicament.

For writers, especially if we must pursue a day job in order to enable our writing habit, there really is nothing like making the time to sit down to write. If you need help in that regard, I urge you to check out Dean Wesley Smith’s classic workshop, Productivity. (When you get there, scroll down).

I’ve heard often that writers don’t want to write; they want to have written.

In my experience, nothing could be farther from the truth.

All of the real working writers I’ve known write as much for the process itself (and to entertain themselves) as for the eventual result of the process, whether poem, short story, essay, play or novel.

So what’s the difference between an author and a writer, other than the sense that an author is something better, somehow, than a mere writer?

My American Heritage College Dictionary (Fourth Edition) defines writer as “One who writes, esp. as an occupation.” Period. That’s it.

On the other hand, it defines author as “1a. The original writer of a literary work. b. One who writes professionally. 2. An originator or creator. 3. Author God.” Seriously, that’s what’s in the number three slot: Author God. Goodness! No wonder everyone wants to be known as an author instead of a writer!

But frankly I believe American Heritage missed the boat. Certainly writer and author aren’t exactly the same thing, but the difference is broader in some aspects than the American Heritage hints, yet I can promise you neither has anything to do with divinity.

Writers are folks who write and who are serious or passionate about writing, as outlined in the Thirteen Traits of a Great Writer. (You can read the original post for yourself.) They take great pride in the study and application of the craft, and very few things, if anything, are more important to them than their writing.

But more important to this comparison, writers are those who have the freedom to write and who exercise that freedom at every opportunity.

Authors, first of all, are writers who have written. But the author is a writer and a publicist and a marketer and a salesperson. In some cases, the author is also a publisher.

Now, if you happen to be Stephen King, you can be extremely successful and retain your just a writer status because other people are falling all over themselves to publicize, market, publish and sell your books. If you’re a highly successful author or are otherwise wealthy enough to hire publicists and marketing folks, you can also pretty much remain just a writer.

But if you’re anyone else, once your work is published, you have to be an author too. You have to be not only the creator but the manager, the marketer, the publicist, the guy who checks the coats and the guy who gets the coffee.

Now whether you bring a baggie full of Folgers and a coffee maker or just swing by Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks is up to you. Me? I’m a make my own kind of a guy.


Update: Since I originally wrote this post, indie publishing has bloomed. The best first thing you can do to promote your work comes in three parts: create a great cover, write a great beginning, and write a great ending.

The cover draws the reader to browse the book. The beginning sells the reader on the current book. The ending sells the reader on your next book.

The best second thing you can do to  promote your work is Write the Next Story.

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