It used to be that when someone new asked me, ‘So, what do you do?’ there was a panic switch in my brain that flipped back and forth for a split second before I picked one of my two usual answers:
I write books.
See what I did? I dodged my internal struggle between which term to use – writer or author. But, I am both, right? When the conversation turns into, ‘Oh, have you written something I might know?’ I resist the urge to ask them, ‘I have no idea, can you read?’ Instead, I explain that I write mostly Fantasy, though I write in several genres really. And if they ask who I’m published with, I answer, ‘I’m self-published.’ *holds breath* Then I have to watch their face contort in and out of odd expressions as they go blank listening to the book titles I list off at their request, and the convo I was equal parts loathing but excited for, quickly dissipates into a lackluster attempt for one of us to find something more interesting to do; anything other than staring at each other.
Usually a random stranger doesn’t know who I am. I’m okay with that being slightly introverted myself, because it means I can go to Target with my unwashed hair in a bun, no makeup on, and a tank top that shows my bra straps, while dragging along my two reluctant children behind me without much judgement.
But I’ve found that the conversation goes a bit differently when I use the word ‘author’ right upfront and worry about the self-publishing part later. Often times, it goes more like this:
Unsuspecting Stranger: So, what do you do?
Me: Oh, I’m a published author. *big smile*
Them: Really? That’s cool! What’s the name of your book?
Me: Well, I have three series, adding up to about ten books! (Lists off my series titles)
Them: Wow. What genre are they?
Me: Mostly Fantasy, but there’s YA, Adult Dystopian, Science Fiction, Action and Adventure, some Romance, a little Paranormal and Horror, etc…something for everyone, really. *winks*
Them: Interesting, where can I find them?
Me: On your Kindle, Nook, iPad or smart phone, where the first books of my first two series are free. The prints can be ordered off of Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Oh, and there’s the audiobooks on Audible, too!
Them: Thanks! I’ll have to check them out. *big smile*
Me: Please do! *really big smile*
Obviously, the conversation above has about one hundred possible variations, but you get the gist – for some reason, people are more interested to engage in a conversation about what I do, when I say I’m an author, not just a writer. And if I mention I am published, bonus points. But if I start the conversation off with the fact that I do it myself, they lose interest quickly.
But, why? An author IS a writer. A published author ALSO is a writer. So a writer can be all of those things. And being self-published means I do most of that work myself. It doesn’t change the fact that I still write books and they are still published in reputable places. But there can be a bit of a divide between the terms in the literary world, none the less. Check out the definitions below of each title:
Thank you Dictionary.com for the above. For me, I personally think that the words ‘writer’ and ‘author’ are basically the same thing. Of course, publishers are not all writers, but us Indie Authors typically are also publishers. I think for a lot of people we meet along the way, this can be confusing, especially if we have that ‘I haven’t slept well in three months because I’m working on a book, and I missed my coffee this am, so don’t speak to me’ kind of demeanor while out and about. I can count on one hand the number of people who have wanted to genuinely know more about being self-published, and less about the big publishing name I’m not behind. So, to be fair, they are out there. 😉
Perhaps, the issue is not which term we use, but how we explain it. Here’s my opinion: everyone who has ever written anything of their own is a writer in a sense, an author is typically a writer who not only writes but has their work out for the public to see or buy, be that in magazines, blogs, books, etc… There’s going to be exceptions to this, of course. And a publisher is someone who sells books.
So, what are Indies supposed to say when asked what we do for a living?
Whatever we want, that’s what.
Just kidding. Kinda. If only that would work every time. *wink* I think the easiest answer to this is to practice on your own the best 5-10 second answer you can give with a genuine smile on your face, leaving yourself willfully and eagerly open to further discussion. The term ‘writer’ might sound too broad to be interesting, the term ‘author’ may sound a bit more professional but also intimidating, and the term ‘self-published’ might scare people away, most likely because they don’t understand what it means. But if you learn which term best suits you, and make yourself and your work sound interesting right off the bat, it can turn a stranger into a reader. And that’s what makes the writer and the reader happy in the end, right?