Several weeks ago I saw another author post a question on Facebook about what makes an author. Is it one book published, five books published, or maybe ten books? How many books would she have to publish in order to call herself an author?
She proceeded to go into some detail about a conversation she had with a woman who told her that because she only had one full novel published and one short story published on Amazon and that they weren’t sold in book stores that she couldn’t call herself an author.
Of course this AUTHOR got tons of support, as she should have, from other authors and writers, telling her that even with just one book on the market, she could call herself an author if she wanted.
But the whole post got me thinking.
Aside from the fact that what in the blue heck has this world come to that someone would even think it’s acceptable to say something like that to someone, it got me thinking about what makes an author, an author.
Is it the number of books published? Is it being published at all? What about self published books? I’ve known a few authors in my day that don’t consider self published works to have much credit because they weren’t accepted by a agent, editor, or publisher, so do they believe those authors are just writers? And, while we are at it, does it matter? I mean, author or writer, is one word more important than the other? Or does one imply a higher level of status or education? Does author imply that the person is better than a writer, putting author on a pedestal, like that of a Knight while the writer is the squire?
Before my debut novel published, I considered myself a “writer” and it wasn’t until after my debut published, I even called myself an “author”. I don’t really have a reason as to why I did this other than it just didn’t feel right to call myself an author unless I had a book to sell. I couldn’t fathom putting myself in the same career catergory as J.K. Rowling, Nicholas Sparks, or Stephanie Meyer, and call myself an “Author”. They were authors. I was a writer.
Again, though, I have to wonder if that stemmed from this stigma that we’ve socially imposed upon ourselves. Think of that whole Knight and Squire scenario.
People can write and publish book after book after book, penning hundreds throughout the course of their career, or people can write a handful of books before calling themselves as satisfied and hanging up their computers. With those, there are also people can write for years, never publishing anything other than blog posts, or even some who don’t even do that. They keep their written words in a safe place where only they know of them, read them, and enjoy them, never allowing anyone else to ever see them.
So who is the author and who is the writer?
In doing research for this post, I not only asked my writer friends, but I also read a bunch of articles and blog posts about this very topic. Time after time I heard, and read, the same thing—unpublished = writer, published = author.
Okay. I understand that and I believe that, considering that’s how I’ve thought about it for the last seven years (Wow. Seven years. Have I really been writing for seven years?) Back to my point, however, with that said, when you look up the definitions for “writer” and “author”, they really kind of blend into on another and neither of them specify between “unpublished” and “published”.
Writer: NOUN 1. a person engaged in writing books, articles, stories, etc., esp. as an occupation or profession.
I suppose by definition, if some unpublished writers want to call themselves authors or if some authors wish to continue to call themselves writers, it’s completely acceptable.
So why isn’t it socially acceptable?
Furthermore, is it really a bad thing that it’s not? Does reaching the status of Author give us a sense of accomplishment? Is it something to strive for, as though we use the words as stepping stones? I mean, there are different levels of employee status in companies, why not the writing world? Certainly, a receptionist isn’t at the level of a Vice President or CFO. Obviously, there isn’t anything wrong with that, so why would there be between writer and author?
As for the woman’s claim that only one novel doesn’t equal an author, remember Emily Bronte’s only novel was Wuthering Heights. Sylvia Plath’s only novel was The Bell Jar. And Margaret Mitchell’s only novel was Gone With the Wind. Are they just “writers”? Which is exactly what I would have said to the woman telling me I wasn’t an author.
P. S. As for what I think, whether it’s one novel or one hundred novels, published or unpublished, an author is an author is an author . . . or writer—whichever you prefer to call yourself, because in the end, it’s your life.