Are you a writer or an author?

Writing Sunset Roma Italy Italia - Creative Commons by gnuckx While in English you refer to a person who writes and publish books as an author, in the common usage these two words in my country (Italy) are almost synonymous, or alternatively “writer” defines the craft and “author” refers to specific works of a writer.
However, if we take into account their real meaning, the strict and the extended one, the matter is quite different.


I had already briefly mentioned the difference between these two words
in another post, where I was pointing out the wrong expression “aspiring writer”, which has no meaning.
Now I want to get a bit more in detail on this subject. I know that at first glance it may seem boring, but I ask you to follow me just for a few lines and you will understand.


The strict meaning of these two terms is simple. The writer is the one who writes, whatever they write, whether they are novels, short stories, newspaper articles, blog posts, poems and so on. No matter who publishes his works or if they published at all or whether they are complete. If someone writes (whether well or poorly) this person is a writer.
The author is the one who wrote something, that is a writer who has completed at least one of their works.
It goes without saying that the author is also a writer (unless you are using a ghostwriter!), but the writer is not necessarily an author.
The distinction between writer and author, however, can have an extended meaning which refers to the approach of the person concerned in respect of their writing. For a writer/author there are at least two stages: that of real writing and that of promotion of their work (even if it is something distributed for free). In the first stage this person is primarily a writer, in the second one this person is primarily an author.


There are writers/authors who focus almost exclusively on the first stage. They spend much time as possible to produce: write, edit, rewrite, design new works and so on. Instead they devote little or nothing of their time to be authors, because there is someone else who takes care of their promotion or simply because they do not know how to do it themselves and maybe do not even want to learn. Promotion is not something everybody is able do, anyway. It requires preparation and takes away a lot of time.
On the other hand there are writers/authors who, after publishing something, devote much more time to promote it, to reach the maximum number of people with that work, before jumping into a new project. They make presentations, flood the social network with links, write articles, send their books everywhere to be reviewed, attend conventions (the famous ones!), just to name a few. In short, they are very active in the promotional field, sometimes by choice, because the feedback you get in exposing to the world can be very rewarding, and sometimes by contractual obligations.


There is a whole gradation of behaviours ranging from pure writer, holding their works strictly in their drawer, up to non-writing author, usually a celebrity, who uses ghostwriters and therefore is only involved in promoting. In general we can say that almost every writer/author is located somewhere in the middle, but undoubtedly tends towards one of the two ends, maybe instinctively. There is therefore those who prefer to be writers in a broad sense, they love above all what they write and draw from it the utmost satisfaction, and those who prefer the role of author, finding more pleasure in the relationship with their readers. Sometimes you oscillate between these two approaches, depending on the periods. When you focus too much on writing, the moment comes when you need to set it aside and behave as an author. On the other hand, if you stray too far from writing, in the end you feel its relentless recall, perhaps accompanied by a certain fear of not being able to resume writing, after a long break.
But, as I said, you don’t always have a choice.


If you are a successful published author, you are forced to do what the publisher says. You have deadlines with regard to your own writing, you cannot lose yourself in a thousand different projects, because you are engaged in exhausting promotion tours, that take away time and concentration, which undermine your creativity. Yet there are author so fitted in this mechanism who still manage to carry on the two aspects in parallel, by writing in their spare time (in a train, plane, on a bench).
If you are a published writer, but you are not famous, behaving like an author is often not a contractual obligation, but a necessity. Especially if your publishing house is very small, you have to roll up your sleeves and get busy with the promotion, but not all are able to do so. Many took refuge behind the claim that this aspect is not among their tasks and do little or nothing.


The independent author instead has no excuse. They are publishers of themselves, this means that no one imposes deadlines or offers cooperation in the promotional field, but at the same time, if they don’t put effort into writing their works and promote them as much as possible (which also involves learning how to do so), no one will read them. Not to mention that they must definitely have another job, which takes away the canonical eight hours a day for five days a week.
Seen in this way, the challenge of the independent author seems impossible. With no one to encourage them in the writing stage, with no one to handle a minimum of promotion, with no one to take care of cover, blurb, book trailer, press releases and so on, how the hell do you find time for everything?
Yet you can
and if you are good at it, you want to learn and maybe have some talent as a writer, you also get a certain success.


You also have an extra choice. You can concentrate your career on quantity, that is to behave essentially as a writer. For an independent author, in fact, having many titles is important both as a matter of visibility and for the income. If you do not spend as much time promoting as you do with writing, your large production (sold all over the web) is itself a form of advertising. The moment you can “retain” a reader, you keep them close, offering much to read (and therefore buy), thus avoiding they forget about you.
On the other hand an independent author with an already good catalogue is free to give more space to the promotion, that is, to their being the author.
In both cases, the choice is only theirs and, if they manage it in the right way, it can still give excellent results.
The key is right here: the choice.


Personally I love both stages, but in a different way. I learned a lot when I was dealing with music promotion. Although the publishing industry is a very different field, some things turned out to be useful. Moreover I’m an independent author who has just taken the first steps in this field (almost two years in
Italy, but just about to try the English market), after a few years of study, and I necessarily have to be a writer and author at the same time and with the same commitment.
I have to write, produce. Both because it is imposed by my condition of indie, and because I cannot help it. I love being a writer, I love the creative act, pull out of nowhere stories, characters, feelings. But I do not mind the role of author. In the past I have dealt with the promotion of other artists (I mean music), but focusing on yourself gives a very different satisfaction. In the future, however, I hope to arrange in such a way as to leave a little more time to write.
In short, I would like to be more writer than author.


And you, where do you stand? Are you writers or authors?


A previous version of this article has been originally published in Italian on Anakina.net.