Writer V Author. Author At Work

Writer V Author – What’s The Difference?

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?

About the Author Robin Storey

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.

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16 comments
Sam says March 24, 2014

What if your writings have been published in print in say a magazine, but you’ve never published a book. How would you classify such a writer? Published Writer? Or Published Author? Or something different?

Thanks

Reply
    Robin Storey says March 24, 2014

    According to my dictionary definition, if you have any sort of writing published you can call yourself an author. So congratulations – you’re an author!

    Reply
Lyn says May 24, 2014

These days publishing takes many forms, from blogs to ebooks. It seems those definitions were written when you could narrowly define publishing as traditionally printed books. I still struggle with if it is time to broaden the definition to reflect the new realities of our publishing world.

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    Robin Storey says May 25, 2014

    I agree with you, Lyn. These days I think it’s quite legitimate to call yourself an author if you’re self-published/or if you’ve only written e-books.

    Reply
Carpool Goddess says June 6, 2014

I struggle with this definition too. In addition to being published online on numerous blogsites, I have been published, or as I’ve seen others phrase it, “contributed,” to two anthologies. Does “contributing” to an anthology make me an author?

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    Robin Storey says June 6, 2014

    As author and blogger Seth Godin puts it,’ ‘pick yourself!’ In other words, don’t wait for other people to confer a title upon you – call yourself whatever you are. In my book, contributing to two anthologies would make you an author.

    Reply
365 Day Challenge (Day Forty Eight): Writer or Author? | Jessica Braun Gervais says February 17, 2015

[…] a quest for the answer I came across an interesting article explaining there may in fact be a difference.  According to the article, a writer is someone […]

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Bonnie Jean Feldkamp says May 6, 2015

“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.”

This line sums up what I’ve always understood the difference to be. But then if you are a biographer – It’s someone else’s story – therefore you’d still be a writer not an author. Under this definition, Laura Hillenbrand would be a writer, not an author.

Interesting

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    Robin Storey says May 11, 2015

    Yes that’s an interesting dichotomy. But I would still call a biographer an author because they are still shaping the facts and events of someone’s life into a coherent story and that takes just as much skill as creating the story – different skills but just as challenging,

    Reply
Wilda Bostwick says August 30, 2016

Thoroughly enjoyed this article and the comments, as I have just had a piece of my writing published in a national Canadian newspaper, and some folks have suggested that makes me an author. I agree with the comment that it is perhaps time to revisit the definition of author vs writer in the era of ebooks and blogging. And maybe it is time to revisit our insistence on labels and thinking one is superior to the other. I plan to write a blog, “Call me an author or a writer, I will answer to both.”

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    Robin Storey says September 1, 2016

    Hi Wilda thanks for your comment. I agree the labels can be an unnecessary complication.

    Reply
Paul Ardennes says September 7, 2017

Since everyone seems to have their own interpretation, I probably would define it by my own view. I see myself as a writer and an author. I write books that are of my own composition, based on my own knowledge of what I am writing about. That alone makes me an author who writes ( i.e. a writer). I author my own writing. So I am the writer of my authored books.

Reply
    Robin Storey says September 9, 2017

    Hi Paul
    That sounds complicated, but I understand (I think). 🙂

    Reply
Richard says September 10, 2017

That is an absolutely hilarious exploration of the difference between author and writer. Dictionary definitions aside, I’ve always had the gut-feeling that an ‘author’ is somehow a more weighty identity than writer; and inclusive to the ‘weightiness’ is the production of full volumes of work. No rationale for that gut-feeling; just the onus of once having been an English major. I’ve written four books I’m about to self-publish (personal, intimate discussions …not commercially viable) but no way I will redefine myself as an author. I am a photojournalist who has a secret identity as a writer. Thanks again for that wonderful discussion! rfb, Napa, CA

Reply
    Robin Storey says September 12, 2017

    Thanks for your comments Richard, glad you enjoyed the post. Your ‘secret identity’ as a writer sounds enticingly mysterious – although I’m sure if you wanted to call yourself an author, no-one would argue with you.

    Reply
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