I was up against a strange decision last week as I was creating my new public Facebook page: should I choose the term “writer” or “author” as the type of page I was setting up? (Spoiler: I chose author, switched to writer, went back to author, then decided on writer… for now.)
I’ve touched on this topic before when I guested for Patrick Ross, in my post “What the Heck Should I Call Myself, Anyway?” The crux of the matter is this: A writer is anyone who writes. An author is a writer who’s been published. Seems pretty simple, right?
Ha. Ha. Ha.
The problem: What the hell does “published” mean? As I established in my blog for Patrick, there’s no one out here setting up criteria for different terms and handing out certificates of authenticity. At the end of the day, it is up to each of us as individuals to decide what terms to use for ourselves and our work. Which can be pretty scary.
Technically, posting something on your blog counts as publication. I know this because 1) the button you push says “publish,” and 2) contests and venues that don’t want “previously published works” usually won’t accept anything that’s been on your blog. So if someone slaps a short story up on their website, does that make them a published author?
My gut instinct is, “Yes, technically, but no, not really.” But who am I to say?
For me, a better defining line is having someone else publish my work. The more credible, established, and exclusive that someone else is, the more confident I feel in considering that “publication.” (Just keepin’ it real.) So having my little micro-fiction piece published at Six Sentences was awesome, but I didn’t start calling myself an author after that. But after having four short stories accepted for publication – two of them at professional rates – I do feel comfortable calling myself a short story author. [Random side note: interesting how a poet is a poet regardless of publication.]
Of course that definition only works for me because I’m seeking traditional publication. Self-published authors must have some other defining line, but what?
Either way, the Facebook page doesn’t allow me to specify which types of publication I’ve achieved as I have elsewhere (like in the note under my headshot up in the sidebar, for example). They want one word, and only one word. I am a novelist because I write novels, a poet because I write poems, and a short story author because I have short stories published. But what am I when I can only chose one term?
Writer, or author?
I guess in my mind, if I’m only choosing one of those terms as a defining label, an author is someone who has had not just short works published, but a whole book. A novel. A collection of short stories. A full-length book of poems. Or, to use the term “author” with “debut” implied, someone who has sold such a book that’s schedule to come out.
I also think it’s worth noting that I’m more concerned about this and a lot harder on myself than I am for other people. When someone’s profile says “author” or “writer,” I generally don’t give it a second thought. I have no problem with other people creating their own definitions; I just struggle to find mine. And yes, I know I’m running the risk of coming across as totally neurotic, but for the record, this is less of an obsession and more of a topic I thought would make for good discussion.
I have an agent (yep, love saying that), I have many long works completed, and I have quite a few short works published… but I still can’t quite bring myself to say “I’m an author” instead of “I’m a writer.” Maybe when I’ve sold a book I’ll update the Facebook page. But for now, I think I’m going to stick with writer.
Readers: What do you think about all of this? As a reader, do you care, or even really notice?
Writers: What term do you use for yourself? And what was your defining line? Are you comfortable with your own terminology?Share this: