On Writers and Authors

I usually don’t get upset by “dumb things people say on the Internet” but this article Self-Publishers Should Not Be Called Authors got under my skin, so I’d like to address some things about it. Let’s go point by point:

  • “So the question is, should we quantify a distinction between an [sic] writer and a professional author? I think a line needs to be drawn in the sand so that we know who is the real deal.”  My first thought is why does Michael Kozlowski (or anyone) feel that a distinction should be made?  It seems to me that those who want to separate people into classifications do so to define an exclusive group to boost their own egos. It seems the one doing the separating think way too much about labels while those that are actually successful at the writing profession are too busy to be concerned with such trivialities.
  • “Just because its easy to upload your written word, so that it can be downloaded to another machine does not make you an author, any more than me buying a stethoscope allows me to be called a doctor.” Seriously?  Are you trying to discredit your argument?  To become a doctor in the United States you need (a) a four year BS or BA degree (b) four years at an accredited medical school (c) spend 3 – 7 years in a residency program under the supervision of senior physicians. After all that they need to maintain licensing and board certification. It is a profession that requires specialized training. Writing is an artistic pursuit, and while you can attend higher education to help hone your craft, it is by no means a requirement. How many great authors have had no formal training? A lot….Ray Bradbury, Agatha Christie, Harper Lee, Charles Dickens, Jack Kerouac, William Faulkner, Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Jack London. I could go on and on. Art and technical professions have much different requirements. Mr. Kozlowski’s argument is the classic apples to oranges.
  • “I would like to see the process simplified, you are either a writer or a professional author. If you can earn your living from your writing, you are a professional author, anyone else is just a plain old writer.” Okay we are half way through your article and you finally have two sentences that at least make sense, and define your position.  But if this REALLY is your position why is the title of your piece “Self-Publishers Should Not Be Called Authors.”  Do you really think that the earning money and self-publishing are mutually exclusive?  Do you think that all traditionally published authors actually get paid?  My first “publishing gig” was at a small press for which I never earned a single royalty payment. In fact, there were times when I bought copies of my books to pay for warehousing fees just so the distributor would stop holding my books hostage from stores who were trying to buy the books. I’m not alone. There are thousands of stories of authors who have been owed royalties and never received them.  On the self-publishing side, I know more self-published authors that earn a full-time wage than traditionally published ones.  So if this sentence about “earning” being the distinction between the two “labels” is at the heart of your assertion than how they produce the work is immaterial.
  • “In order to join these organizations you have to earn ‘x’ amount of money over a single calendar year, where the specified amount for indie publishers is a *multiple* of the requirement for traditionally-published authors minimum income, because it is easier to make money by going indie.” Note my underline.  The author of this article recognizes that it is easier to make money going indie, has said that those who make money are authors while those who don’t are just writers, and then has the audacity to say self-publishers shouldn’t be called authors?  I guess he just likes digging himself into a deeper hole.
  • “Indie authors and self-published authors who claim they are real authors makes me laugh. The term basically doesn’t mean anything.”  You know what makes me laugh? People who throw around terms like “real authors” considering the subjectivity in the evaluation of art. Now I may be reading something into this statement that wasn’t intended…and if he wants to bring it back to a purely objective statement – like “a real author” earns $x. Then there are plenty of “real authors” who are self-, traditional, and hybrid published.
  • “In the science world, things are very different. In order to be taken seriously, not only do you have to write articles or research papers, but other people have to cite them. The more people you have citing your reports in their books or their own reports, your position as a scientist is elevated.” Yes, but writing isn’t scientific it is artistic. But let’s try to make your analogy work. In fiction, the more independent reviews of your books you receive the higher they are evaluated. Readers are the ones who validate an author’s work – and they are consuming both self and traditionally published works in large numbers.
  • “I think a debate in the publishing industry must be made on what constitutes being a writer and an author” – Why?  So those that go a certain route can feel superior to those who go another even if their sales an incomes are significantly less?  Look, I don’t care what you call me. What I care about are my readers, and producing books they love. Sometimes I do that through self, other times traditionally, and in some cases (such as Hollow World) I do both (print rights sold to Tachyon Publications, audio rights sold to Recorded Books, but ebooks rights retained by myself.

In the comments Mike Conway made these definitions:

  • Writer – Someone who writes stuff.
  • Author – A writer that creates a finished work.
  • Professional Author – An author that makes a living off of finished works.

That sounds a lot more logical to me and he did so with very few words and without bias or hyperbole. For myself, I would modify Mike’s definitions just slightly:

  • Writer – Someone who writes stuff.
  • Author – A writer that creates a finished work.
  • Professional Author – An author that has earned more than $x off of finished works. (Where x is going to be highly subjective)
  • Full-time Professional Author – An author that makes a living off of finished works.

All I can conclude about Michael Kozlowski’s article is it was “click bait.” But the results are probably not what the author intended. It gave me a much worse impression of him and his organization (Good eReader), so he would have been much better off if he didn’t take the worm he dangled in front of me.




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1 Comment

  1. Wow. That’s all I can say. This guy (not you, the other Michael) is pretty offensive and judgemental towards indies. The word “author” can come across as a bit grandiose in any case. Maybe that word should be expunged and the word “writer” remain instead.

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