Writer or Author?

The terms “writer” and “author” are used nearly interchangeably, so why choose to call oneself one over the other?

Vintage Typewriter
About Writing

Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.

– Robert A. Heinlein

For me, it comes down to this: Writing is something you do. You pour words out on your keyboard to form stories, essays, articles, poems, etc. Writing is active, forward-looking, and a writer is something you cease to be when you stop writing. Authoring is something you have done – It’s backward-looking, an accomplishment, a legacy. You have something in print or e-print, with your name or nom de plume on the cover. You will be an author forever, long after you stop writing, should you do so.

I am a writer.

It is ironic but entirely predictable that I am moved to muse on this question on the heels of inaugurating a weekly series of compilations about publication and promotion as well as writing and editing. As I stare into the abyss of what comes next now that I have a novel in the hands of beta readers, I am morbidly fascinated, and a little turned off by the demands to promote, Promote, PROMOTE via every social media channel in near space. I have stories to write. I want to stumble through the publication process and then move on to the next thing. Do I really have to spend tons of time on promotion after that?

Q: Does the market these days let you do what you want? Are you able to write and sell the novels you want too?

Lee: Until fairly recently the ‘market’ did let me do just that. In the beginning I seldom even had to offer a synopsis or proposal, either. As I hardly ever work from a synopsis – I find they act like chains, besides anyway not often knowing where exactly the book will go until I am writing it – the earlier state was a happier one. But I did my best when a synopsis of some sort began always to be required, only adding a note to the effect that some things might change during production!

Now though most of the so-called big publishers are unwilling even to look at a proposal. They aren’t interested in seeing anything from me, not even those houses I’ve worked with for many years. Where any slight interest in my turning in a book exists, I find I must work inside certain defined formulae. And to me that’s one of the arch inspiration-stranglers. I have at this time no new book, adult or Y.A, either out or due to come out, let alone any contract to produce a book for any of the main companies. And besides that only a couple of things are scheduled to appear from small, if reputable and elegant houses.

I must add, that doesn’t stop me actually writing. Writing is one of the most important things in my life. I have, so far, a cupboard stocked with 3 completed never published novels – contemporary, horror, 2 short (original) story collections, and proposals for 4 books, 2 of them adult fantasies. I’m just now finishing another novel.

Which means I have, largely, been returned to the darker element of my 20’s, when The Birthgrave, The Storm Lord, Don’t Bite the Sun and Eva Fairdeath were stacked in a box in my bedroom, unwanted, rejected and indeed – in the case of some publishers – insulted. It was hard enough then. But I’m in my 60’s now. I don’t have time to wait.

Source: Darrell Schweitzer’s interview with Tanith Lee in 2012.

This interview is worth reading in its entirety.  Is it difficult to make the leap to self-publishing?  Has the indie publishing field grown so much in 6 years that what wasn’t an apparent option in 2012 is viable and attractive today?  Why did Tanith Lee not consider indie publishing?  She had success with some small publishing houses even as the larger publishing houses no longer were interested. In 2012, the aspects of traditional publishing that boxed her in appear to no longer be an issue in self-publishing in 2016.  As an established writer with a dependable following, I’d like to think she would have done well with indie publishing.

Will I enjoy promoting a novel? Will I tolerate it? Will my desire to write and be read survive the experience?

I’ll find out as this year progresses.

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