The Difference Between a Writer and Author

What’s the difference between a writer and an author? 

I was delighted to consider myself a writer, having published hundreds of newspaper articles and two books with major publishers. Then I heard Zane’s opinion that the difference between a writer and an author is the personality quotient. An author has to have a marketable personality, she says. Now, coming from a woman who publishes books and has sold her own books to the tune of NY Times best seller status, that struck me as instructive.

There is a reason why so many great, well-researched, well-written books never even get published. A reason why many great books never make best seller lists. Half of the job is selling the book and, yes, it takes personality, charm, and a whole lot of other things to sell the book. I have picked up books from bargain bins, books I never saw reviewed, books I had not heard of on the internet, books that were great because they offered some novel perspective I had not considered, offered something that solved an internal conflict for me. 

Now I’m inclined to get a good old fashioned dictionary and compare the definitions of writer and author. Thinking of the definitions, I am considering that a writer is one who writes and an author is one who has gained a level of authority on a subject or an experience. In fact, speaking of authority, just this morning I was thinking about how important it is for me as a writer to seek more authority of my characters and their internal conflicts and high hopes. That would mean more research and interviews.

It occurred to me this morning that in my first memoir, when I wrote about losing my beloved granddad, and the impact that had on me, I had not explored the emotional impact it had on my grandmother, who had lost her husband of 20-plus years. That came to mind this morning as I considered how my current experience of loss and grief will help inform my writing in the future. As a writer, I wrote the basic details of the experience: who died, when, why, how it made me feel. As an author I can establish more authority of that experience by exploring – and sharing – the emotional and psychological ramifications of the experience. 

What do you think? 


2 responses to “The Difference Between a Writer and Author

  1. Certainly selling your work is a major factor in successful “authorship” in todays market anarchy. I completely agree that masses of excellent books go unpublished and those that are often go unreviewed and “undiscovered.” The problem is even if you have that silver tongue, that magnetic carisma, it probably still won’t be enough. Today’s major players – agents, publishers, distributors – are more interested in name recognition than anything else. You are more likely to get a book deal offer if you take your clothes off on the Capitol’s front step’s while playing the violin and wearing a sign that says “My name is Joe Schmoo, and want to save the Edsel,” than if you wrote the best novel since “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

    • Sandy,
      thanks for the tip. Since my first novel is about the working life on Capitol Hill, I should prepare now to promote it by standing on the Capitol steps half naked acting a fool. I hadn’t thought of that. Thanks! LOL. Seriously, thanks for your comment. Have a great day!

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