author vs. writer

July 13, 2010

Some people use “author” and “writer” interchangeably, even though they have different connotations.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines writer as “one that writes” and author as “one that originates or creates.”

So an author comes up with her own plot ideas, while a writer might be writing someone else’s biography or might be a ghost writer.

For most people I know, a writer is someone who writes, but has never published a book, while an author is someone whose book is published.

Personally, I never call myself “author” — unless, of course, I talk about being the author of one particular book. But otherwise, I prefer the term “writer.” I’m a writer because I love to write first and foremost. Getting my books published, earning a bit of money… that’s all nice, but it’s just icing on the cake for me.

So, what do you prefer to call yourself – writer or author? What does these terms mean to you?



  1. I self-identify as a author, but not for the “published” angle, but out of the M-W definition: “one that originates or creates.”

    I was a writer of fanfic. I didn’t originate. I relied heavily on the characterizations, rules, consequences of the world someone else had created.

    I am the author of Bren and Cass, and their world, because I expend the energy and time *creating* their inner and outer worlds, character histories, the dynamics of the world they live in, its rules and consequences.

    • Interesting angle. I never thought of it this way, but it makes sense to differentiate between fanfiction vs. original fiction.

  2. Works for the TV world too… If you’ll notice there is a team of writers, but there is a series creator. Distinctly different people. The writers are working from within the ideas of the creator. To some extent collaboratively, but still they are writing within the boundaries of someone else’s idea.

  3. Nice information. What should I call myself. I writer articles mostly through my blog and trying to get some space for them in the papers. I am also working on my first book. It is not finished yet and hence is not published. So am I a writer or an author ?

    • The only person who can answer that question is you. Use whatever feels right to you.

  4. This has long been debated among writers/authors and each time it seems as if it’s more of a status issue. The term ‘Author’ often appears to be the title that is aspired too while ‘Writer’ seems to take on a lesser form, which is not necessarily the case.

    As for myself, it has taken many conversations for me to say, “I’m an Author,” when in actuality I’m more comfortable with the less formal term ‘writer’… then again, I’m not a formal person, so this is nothing new to those around me.

    As far as fanfiction is concerned, the author is still creating a storyline based on something already in existance… the question is, is there an orginal element to it, or has the person continued the story per cannon with no variation. Even if it’s to cannon, inspiration and writing exercise is a benefit so it’s shouldn’t be looked down upon. Also, most shows/films/books anymore have begun by being inspired by something else the author has watched/seen/read.

    • Thanks for commenting, Janice. It seems our experiences have been similar. I’m more comfortable calling myself a writer too. I was amazed when someone corrected me, telling me that I should call myself “author.”

      I think it’s up to us to choose the term we’re most comfortable with.

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