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.