Writers vs Authors

While goofing off on Twitter a while ago, I came across a stranger whose profile read that they are an author. When I saw it, I stopped in my tracks and wondered what my own profile said. A quick check revealed that I refer to myself as a “writer” despite having a few accomplishments under my belt.

I let it be and went about my day. But the thought kept bubbling back. The term “author” is (in the context of literature) synonymous with “writer.” But not every writer is an author. The English language is peppered with comparable words which have similar meanings but slight variations within a subset. Every glimpse is a look, but not every look is a glimpse. Authors and writers share such a distinction.

I admit that author has a degree of prestige, and that the label of “writer” does not. In my experience (translation: anecdotal evidence), if you tell your audience that you’re an author, they’ll want to know what you’ve penned. If you tell someone you’re a writer, they get bored. Granted, I’ve yet to have someone say, “That’s great tiger, keep living the dream…” as they condescendingly pat me on the back and excuse themselves to the bar. But the writer-title doesn’t really carry the weight of “author.”

I suppose the biggest difference between the two revolves around questions of pre and post production. A writer is focused on writing (what else?) but while an author might continue to scribe, he or she has other responsibilities around his or her finished works.

As I’ve wrapped up some pieces, I’ve come to ask myself questions regarding ideal etiquette for authors. A single Google search yielded plenty of examples of authors who have behaved badly over the last few years. I read these articles not for snark but to gauge and learn a few lessons.

Heck, I even sat back and recalled memories from author events I’ve visited. The first (and only) Black Library Weekender that I attended a few years back was an educational affair, as I watched how those authors handled large panels of interested fans. During that event, I even met a guy (I won’t be name dropping) who was observing the affair with very good reason: A little later, that same gentleman went on to publish several books with the Black Library, and was catapulted into their authorship ranks. My guess is that it was “training” for their new authors, a smart, premeditated PR move to teach them how to handle the crowds.

The one vice so many authors who behave badly make seems to be going after readers who leave poor reviews. The abuse isn’t one sided, I know. There are plenty of customers who haven’t even read a book and will leave a one-star review because of some obscure and perhaps unrelated issue they have. But it’s the poor reactions of the authors that are better remembered.

The professional author would probably say, “Never read the reviews. That way lies torture with no pay off.”

But the writer would say, “Read them, because of that one in twenty which provides invaluable feedback on how to improve your craft.”

I understand the thinking of both sides. On one hand, having a thick skin is a requirement in all things business, doubly so if it’s a matter of creativity. On the flip side, being too dense to improve helps no one and worse, may plateau one’s scrivener skills. It takes a fine balance to be open to improvement for the rest of one’s life.

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2 responses to “Writers vs Authors

  1. I prefer the term writer. For me it seems more populist–authors, to my mind, are people who write for the academics and the critics. But that’s just my own associations with the words.

  2. I see the distinction as semantics and a lot of nonsense. Writers write, and if they do the extra legwork (traditional or indie) they might be writers who have published something the public can get their hands on. It’s possible that I’ve met some really awful people, but my own experience is that people who call themselves an author are generally desperate to be taken seriously as writers (It’s not just a hobby! I’m good at it and I have a published work for sale and everything!! Honest!”) and it’s a way to put themselves above the writers who are not yet published because, again, it’s a way to say, “Well I’m actually serious about my writing. I’m a professional.”

    It could just be the few “authors” I’ve met that have left me with a sour taste in my mouth, but to me we’re all just writers with varying degrees of published works under our belts. The important thing is that we keep writing and putting it out there.

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