Monday, January 11, 2010

When are you an author?

A while back I asked the question “When are you a writer?” The upshot of the post was basically that, since there are no credentials required to call yourself a writer, anyone can. Even if the only thing you’ve ever written is a drunken manifesto in blood on a series of bar napkins, you can call yourself a writer. Even if you’ve written nothing, you can call yourself a writer. I hadn’t been able to bring myself to use that term in relation to myself, however, until I signed with my agent. Somehow, a publishing professional giving me their stamp of approval felt like a benchmark. So I decided I was a writer in September.

So, the next logical question is: When are you an author?

Honestly, I’m still struggling with that a little. I’d always expected that when my book sold—when it was truly on its way to being out there in the world—I’d consider myself an author. But I don’t feel like an author yet.

I know it’s all semantics, and hardly matters in the real world, but I find it funny that, in my gut, I still feel awkward about calling myself an author—like I’m overstepping somehow. Maybe I’ll feel differently when my book hits the shelves this coming September.

So, I’m curious how everyone else feels about it. When do you consider yourself to be a writer? An author?


  1. When you say it is so - it is so. But that is just my viewpoint.


  2. Personally, I went from writer to author when my first book was released. For a lot of people, that's the difference: writing vs. being published. I'm still more comfortable telling people I'm a writer; sayiing I'm an author seems more pretentious, somehow. Although I do use it to describe myself, and don't have a problem believing it. I'm published, I'm an author.

  3. Tom--
    But you also have to BELIEVE it. =)

    I agree. There's going to come a time where it's going to sound more professional to say "I'm the author of PERSONAL DEMONS." Maybe when it's out. We'll see.

  4. I hadn't really thought about it, but 'writer' vs. 'author' does make a difference in my head. Author does sound more important. Like you hear in an interview, "The author of..." And for some reason, in my head it should be some weighty tome on something important to the survival of humankind.

    I can't imagine anyone saying that I'm "the author of the newspaper column Blah-Blah-Blah" although I'm certainly the writer of that column.

    Now you've got me wondering if anything I've ever written is serious enough to make me consider myself an 'author'. Huh. Weird thing, semantics.

  5. I'm struggling. But I think you're on the right track. If I had an agent, I might feel better about calling myself a writer. If I were trying to get an agent, I might feel better about it.
    With regard to you, though. I'm thinking you're an author. The deal has been done. I hope if feels more real for you soon.
    Looking forward to buying and reading your book!

  6. Kari Lynn--
    Ooo, Clint is definitely "author" worthy. (and worthy of a few other things too!) =)

    I appreciate the vote of confidence!

  7. When it sells, baby! You are an author! Yes, you ARE! :D

  8. Kristin--
    Thanks bb! (Also, thanks for fixing my exclamation point!)

  9. For me the difference between writer and author is when you sell your book. Hey, you aleady did that!!

    When I see a website that promotes someone as an author I have the expectation that they've published a book or have signed a deal and their book is coming out.

  10. The author/writer distinction irks me a little because it feeds into the whole 'oh you're a writer, what a nice hobby, my brother-in-law is writing a book too, blah-de-blah-blah.' That said it's a good topic of discussion because it does come up a lot in writerly circles. I use writer and author interchangeably now - though I didn't use that label publicly until my book sold mostly to have a clear distinction for readers of the blog, my web site, etc. Many, many people don't realize how hard writing is, that as much as a writer loves her/his work, it is still work. Hard work.

  11. Paul--
    I agree that an author is probably someone who's profession is writing, so I'd generally think published.

    We're both in professions where there are hurdles, benchmarks and credentials required to call ourselves Professor, or Doctor, but in writing that doesn't exist. I agree that writing is really hard, even for those who will never be published. But when you start making a profession of it, including everything OTHER than writing that goes into being published, I guess that's what delineates an author from a writer in my mind. But that's just me. I guess I feel like not just anyone should be able to use those terms. Does that make me elitist?

  12. You'll have to let us know how you feel in September :)

    btw, love the new look!

  13. I always used "writer" as person who writes, and only graduated to authorship when I sold a book. As if I suddenly know what I'm doing!

  14. Ooh, I'm late to this discussion, but I ask myself that question ALL THE TIME. I'm with Carrie though. Writer, if you write. Author, when it sells. Now, as for when you start to *feel* like a legitimate writer/author, I have no idea.