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?
We discussed social media best practices for authors during a conference call yesterday. It was one of the weekly calls Strebor authors have where we exchange information, encourage each others, and get a chance to ask the publisher and our publicist questions as a group. Something said during the conversation resonated long after I hung up. The publicist talked about the necessity for authors to self-promote. No, this was not news to me. I knew it. I tried it. I concluded after more than ten years that I simply was not good at it. Since this is what it takes to succeed as an author, I considered, I may as well die.
I write because I must. Writing for me is like breathing, like thinking. It has been a saving grace since I was eight-years-old writing plays where characters said and did all the things my religion deprived me of enjoying. Writing, as a young woman, saved my sanity.
All my life, all I’ve wanted to be was a writer. I’ve wanted to share my passion for literature, share my observations and analysis of common experiences, and share my unique experiences, but if self-promoting is essential to this, forget it.
I mulled this over as I went out for an afternoon power-walk. I was walking home from the bank when it suddenly occurred to me that the God had sent me to train with a master self-promoter. My last supervisor was a pain in the ass because she insisted on writing her own press releases while I insisted on doing the work I was allegedly paid to do. She knew what she wanted to say and found it quicker to write her promotions her way than to answer my questions and wait for me to pen a press release. I hated this. I had, after all, by then published hundreds of newspaper articles and two books. As much as possible I tried to beat her to the punch, anticipating news and drafting press releases before she could get started, but we often ended up with her doing her own thing.
Yesterday, it occurred to me that it was training for work I would need to do for myself until I can afford to hire a p.r. expert.
Penning my own press releases may even force me to break a life-long habit of self-deprecation. It will train my brain on what is best about me and the literary gifts I pen.
I recently completed my first novel, and felt transformed from bitter to neutral to soon-to-be-all-out-grateful for what had felt like two years of hell. Writing about the experience helped me detach and see incidents as just that – incidents. It helped me put the incidences in context. It helped me see the “enemy” as just a character, an antagonist. It helped me see myself as just a character, a protagonist, who had to mature by the end of the experience.
Figuring out how to promote this story promises to be rewarding, as well. Already market research has showed me my experiences, as challenging and tragic as they felt, are much more common that I knew. I am looking forward to the other many rewards from this process.