Friday, June 24, 2011

Writer vs. Author - What's the Diff?

So I've been talking with a friend on twitter about the difference between a writer and an author.  It started out as a simple enough tip: he suggested that I should take "aspiring" out of my profile, because if I write, then I'm a writer.  I disagree.

Part of it goes back to what I said in this post about not being able to call myself a writer until I've finished the novel, and not being able to call myself an author until I'm published. But I realize now, that in my head, they're two different titles.  It's like being called Staff versus Manager, or an Analyst versus Accountant.  It's not necessarily hierarchical, and maybe it's pigeonholing, but to me they're entirely different animals (though not mutually exclusive).

In my opinion, being a writer means that you sit down and write pretty much every day.  A writer may or may not share that work, but that's not the point.  A writer actively writes, and that's a good thing, and a goal in and of itself.  You can be a writer regardless of the style of writing (it could be poetry, news articles, corporate brochures, or advertisements), and you don't have to make money doing it.  It could be hobby or something you do sitting on a train (which is how I got started).  The point is the writing, and going back to my old post again, finishing what you start, even if you don't share it.

An author, however, is someone who writes book-length work and shares that work broadly, generally with the intent to earn money on it, even if it doesn't pay all of the bills.  I don't think a copywriter is an author, but both are writers.  Similarly, I wouldn't call a journalist an author, but they write too.  To me it's a title, and one that's earned through publication, be it traditional or self-publishing. 

I am a writer, but I aspire to be an author.  It's the next step in my writing career, and that's precisely how I look at my writing: as a career.  I enjoy it immensely, and there's a strong possibility that I'll never get rich or famous from it, but being an author is still a career goal.

I don't want to demean anyone who calls themselves purely a writer.  Being a writer is a self-defining thing, and something to be admired.  I just don't think that the two terms are synonymous.


  1. It is great to differentiate between the two, thanks for this. I remember when I had the shift in myself. Someone asked me if I was committed to my book. I realised I was committed to writing my book. But I realised I wasn't committed to the publishing!There were more fears around that, as it meant facing things that I had never faced as a writer. Authorpreneur was the word that made it clear for me!

  2. Hi Matthew! I love, love, LOVE, authorpreneur. Full disclosure: I may steal it. :)

    I'm glad this was helpful for you. I think everyone has their own little variation on the difference, but hopefully this makes sense!

    Thanks for the comment!!

  3. I completely agree with you! I consider myself a writer (I try to write everyday in my novel), but I am not published, so I do not, and will not consider myself an author until then, or rather if I ever do. But it is a goal. Great post!

  4. I posted a blog about this very subject last week. I've been writing full time for two years, but only recently identified myself as a "writer."

    I love the term authorpreneur! In fact, I want a t-shirt ... "Authorpreneurs do it write!"

  5. Hi Charlotte! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. What a great t-shirt idea! You should make them up at Cafe Press and sell them for a charity or something. I'd buy one!

  6. Thanks Megan. I just might do that. I need to find a charity that supports young writers, maybe gives scholarships to writers' workshops or conferences. Hmmm something to think about.

  7. Thanks for writing and sharing this Megan. I've never really given it much thought but it makes sense. I am an author, I've published ( and sold a few books and I plan to again. But I consider myself a writer, because my passion lies in writing......your blog puts it in perspective for me. :) Thanks.

    I love that T-Shirt idea!

  8. I think the real difference between "author" and "writer" has nothing to do with length or recognition.

    The real difference in about where the ideas come from, and how they are executed.

    If you write a commissioned piece based on creative guidelines, or an critical piece analyzing an existing work--that's writing.

    If you give birth to your own, new ideas, or bring an overriding creative eye to the entire process, executing your own unique vision--that's authorship.

    In my opinion, it helps to separate the add-on ideas of being "good" or "recognized" from the idea of being a writer or author, just as it helps to prune off those add-ons when asking "is it art?"

    Cool blog, by the way~ I'm finding it motivating to read about your process! :)