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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Authors versus Writers–is there a difference?



Most of us use the terms author and writer in an interchangeable way, and for many years I was one who did this, as well. In the past couple of years, I’ve made a very definitive distinction between the two terms, and it’s one that doesn’t make me very popular in a lot of circles. Thankfully, I’m at a stage where that doesn’t much matter to me. Popularity and respect are two entirely different things, too.

In these days of computers and wonderful word processing programs, anyone can “author” a book and publish it, making it look professional and slick. Even the least talented among us can put words on a page and call it a book. This is in reality a huge part of the problem that dominates the literary world just now, the sheer number of books that are available from sources too vast to name. Quality is a rare thing these days, and often lost amid the quantity of offerings available to readers who don’t stand a chance of ever sifting through everything vying for their precious, hard-earned dollars and cents.

So, what makes a writer different from an author…apart from the fact that one title sounds much more illustrious than the other? Well, in many case, authors believe when they write those much anticipated and welcome words “The End” that their masterpiece is done. Writers, since writing is considered a job by many, understand that writing “The End” means the real work is about to begin. When you’ve finished that wonderful tale is when you, the writer, are ready to begin the building and refining process.

Do you have any idea how many horror stories editors and publishers can tell about the kind of material they see submitted to them daily? I keep wondering when these so-called “authors” become so arrogant that they forget the publisher is not there to serve them, and that to be published is honestly the privilege of having someone believe in your work to the point that they are willing to put their money at risk and hope there will in fact be a pay-off that benefits the writer and the publisher. When did this all get to be the “author” honouring the publisher with granting them the privilege of publishing? Maybe I missed that memo? Or more likely, these brilliant authors have overlooked the first rule of professionalism in this world–read and follow publisher guidelines and their formatting preferences. I realize this will shock some of you, but they don’t put that stuff on the website for show, it’s there to guide you and help them.

Oh, and there’s my other bitch, the way the entire industry suddenly narrows to a self-obsessed “me” mentality with so many new, UNprofessional “authors” who think they’re flaming Shakespeare or the next Nora Roberts. Odds are, you’re not going to be more than a momentary blip on the radar of the industry unless you learn a few hard truths rather early on. This business relies heavily on writers supporting each other, and by that I don’t mean taking advantage of someone else’s established readership to push your book down the throats of that writer’s readers because they have a FB page or a group where their readers come to chat. Common courtesy flies out the bloody window so often in these situations it’s downright infuriating. I’ve had my pages abused in this way, with never a “would you mind if I posted?” ever asked. The assumption that I’ve poured eight years of work and relationship building into all this simply for your convenience is going to get your ass booted and banned quicker than you can possibly imagine as you sit back and wait for my readers to rush in and buy your books.

I can only speak from my personal experiences, but I won’t lie to you–I’ve pitched more than one hissy fit over the past year when total strangers post their promotions on my pages without ever asking if I’d mind. I realize I have about 8000 contacts on Facebook alone, but that doesn’t mean the pages are open house. It might serve many of you well to forge your own relationships if you want to make the leap from ego/vanity author to working writer. I’ve recently formed a wonderful group project with three talented writers I love and admire, they are friends and we shout just as loudly for each other’s successes as many newbies do for themselves. Longevity and success in this world depends hugely on audience perception of you, as well as your books. So, my advice, for what it’s worth is to back off and really LEARN to write, then learn to be professional about it, because frankly–if you don’t have the support of fellow writers, it’s going to be one hell of a lonely comedown for you. Be a writer, a working artist who is learning every day–not an “author” obsessed with your greatness.


14 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree more, Denyse. Excellent blog.

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  2. YAY well said my friend. This from a lady who would love to be a "writer" but knows that she does not have the talent to do it. I know it is hard work and not just talent but I think it takes something "special "to be a writer . I do not have that something special. I do love to read and I am most supportive of "writers" who are out there busting their butts or errr fingers to write .
    I admire you greatly Denyse` as a writer and as a friend.

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  3. Thank you so much, both of you. It is, ultimately, a job - granted a very special and amazingly fun job, but if you can't be honest and pour the work into it to get better with each year - then you really shouldn't be expecting readers to believe in you and support you. I value each and every reader and friend who takes the time to speak with me every day - you guys are what make all this worth the tremendous love and effort it is daily. Thank you SO much, for always being there!!

    Hugs, D

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  4. Oh man as a publisher I can attest to the truth of this and then some. I get more crap submitted daily, in the wrong format, wrong font, zero editing and then I have look for a nice way to reject the words. I often cannot even call it a story. There are days I am so sickened I have to quit looking at submission for forty-eight hours or more just to recharge. So I hope everyone who even thinks about writing and submitting reads this.

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  5. This is beautiful, I don't think anyone would dislike you for sharing this. It excellently puts information out there that new writers should want to read. I am only 22 but have been writing vigorously since I was 17, and even earlier. The things you learn with time are so great and I know I am just at the beginning. I love to write and share what I am going through and I love opinions. I am aware of what you are saying, and further It's great to see what a true writer feels about it. It's an eye opener. I have never read any of your books, but just the fact that your blog captivated me has me seeking one out. P.s. If you do know where I could find writers who love to discuss story making and maybe even tips and personal experiences I would love it. I'd really like to have some friends who are as passionate as I am. -Matthew J. Ennis

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  6. From another editor/publisher, I can't agree more. I have very specific guidelines on the websites, down to exactly what format - the works - and I still get ... the kitchen sink. Have reading comprehension skills fallen lately? Oh, and do *not* get me started on the 'content' ... that's a whole nuther level of irritation. I've gotten to the point where I reject 80-90% of what hits my virtual desk. And—my mother is hanging her head in shame right now—I've become quite 'curt' about the rejections. However, if enough pseudo-authors read posts such as this, perchance they will get a clue? Sigh, hope springs...

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  7. I feel bad for editors. I review books now and then, and am often taken back by the errors in the edited text I receive. I can only imagine how bad the text must have been originally. Ultimately, the errors are the responsibility of the author. Authors need to understand and heed.

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  8. Penny - as always, my thanks for your input and practical good sense. As with Diane, you both have the often arduous task of wading through a great deal of "slush" in the hopes that there will be something of value to publish. This is a job, writing, editing, publishing. It's not about vanity, it's about story-telling with thought and intelligence, and passion for the written word. It's also greatly about RESPECT for what is in some writers a gift, or a calling. There simply is NO point in time when any writer has learned all there is to learn... it's an endless journey, and for those who love it, it's always going to be exhilarating and intensely exciting. Thank you both.

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  9. Matthew - if you are on Facebook, join my group there, or my newslist - there are always interesting discussions going on amid the funnier moments. MUCH good luck with your writing, as well. Enjoy it, and grow with it.

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  10. James, thank you so much for coming by. As you've pointed out - if the writer cannot be bothered to make a manuscript the best it can be, then it's hardly up to the editors to "save" a work. Errors are inevitable, but more time spent on learning the craft and the work it demands would make for a lot more skilled writers.

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  11. Denyse thank you for your insight and your experience as always. I never stop feeling appreciative for the opportunity to get published.

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  12. Aaron, thank you for coming by. As I keep stressing whenever asked, this is honestly about the learning, and getting better with each new project. What frustrates me is the sheer arrogance of so many "authors" who think they have nothing to learn because of course they've written a brilliant manuscript and it should be accepted as such. There is no perfect book, only the effort to achieve more with each offering. I think you'll do well, truly, because you already understand that the story-telling is a gift. Thanks again for dropping in.

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  13. Whoa Denise. AMEN! Everything you say couldn't be more true! I've seen ths firsthand with 2 of my pubs who've had to deal with writers who call themselves "authors." Criticizing editors, cover artists, and the pubs themselves when they don't get their way.

    And then there are the authors who haven't, as my good friend and fellow writer Cassandre Dayne says, play nice in the sandbox. :/

    We're all in this together. This isn't McDonald's and BK. This is a business where we all can benefit and help one another. We can all be successful if we continue to show professionalism.

    Great blog Denyse!

    Sharita L aka Michael M/BL/Rawiya

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