What’s the difference between a writer and an author? According to the dictionary, a writer is ‘one who expresses ideas in writing’ or ‘one engaged in literary work.’ An author is ‘a person who writes a novel, poem, essay etc, the composer of a literary work.’
On the surface there doesn’t seem to be much difference, but I’ve always known there was, without stopping to analyse why. But as I’m about to publish my first novel on Amazon, with a second to follow a few weeks after, I now think of myself as an author, not a writer. Somehow author has a more authentic, professional ring to it. An author is someone who takes their writing seriously and often makes a career of it, whereas a writer could be composing long, lovelorn sonnets in their attic for years with no-one being any the wiser – not that there’s anything wrong with that, if you happen to be a budding Byron.
When I Googled ‘difference between writer and author,’ I came across the site ‘Difference Between,’ which explained it clearly. If you’re a writer, you can write about other people’s thoughts and ideas, but an author has to come up with the idea, the plot and content. But to my mind point 3 is the most important point – ‘you become an author when your books are published, but if your writings never publish, you remain a writer.’
In this age of digital self-publishing more and more of us are destined to become authors rather than writers. However writer Dean Wesley Smith has a different take on it in his post The new world of publishing: Writer vs Author. He doesn’t mince words. He believes that ‘a writer is a person who writes, an author is a person who has written.’
In other words, a writer is focussed on the process of writing, and as soon as they publish one book they’re on to the next. Whereas an author is someone who remains in the past, resting on their laurels and promoting their book instead of getting on with the next one.
He has a valid point when he ends with ‘authors are missing the best promotion tool there is for their old books. Their next book.’ And he’s a writer (as opposed to an author) who takes his own advice, having written more than one hundred novels and two hundred published short stories. (And judging from his photo he definitely isn’t 96).
But I do believe that as a debut author I need to engage in a certain amount of promotion to create awareness of my book in the vast cyberspace of e-books, although I’m concerned about how much time it will take from my writing. And promoting a novel you’ve already written can be a convenient way of putting off getting stuck into your next one.
But I still like the idea of being able to call myself an author – a reward for the last 10 years of nose to the literary grindstone. For a short while – then it’s back to being a writer. Except for filling in forms that ask for my occupation. And at parties when people ask me what I do. Then I’m an author.
What do you think? Do you agree with Dean Wesley Smith’s definition?
Robin Storey is an Australian author from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. She is a certified book nerd and has no weird hobbies or unusual pets.