The landscape of publishing has dramatically changed over the last five years. In the past, if you wanted to publish a book you had to do it from a vanity press or land a deal with a traditional publisher. Now, anyone can write a book and submit it to Smashwords, Kindle, Kobo or Nook. So the question is, should we quantify a distinction between an 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.
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. A “singer” is someone who sings. A “professional singer” is someone who makes a living from singing. There is a stark contrast between being a writer and being a professional author. Many indie writers who publish a title or two on Amazon or Smashwords normally think otherwise. They wear the title as an author as a badge of honor.
Major writing organizations such as the Romance Writers of America, Canadian Writing Union and Published Authors Network all accept indie published authors as members and the Science Fiction Writers of America is currently drafting guidelines to do the same. 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.
The Published Authors Network has strict requirements on who can join their organization. You have to earn $1,000 in the form of an advance on a single Eligible Novel. Or you have to earn $1,000 in the form of royalties or a combination of advance plus royalties on a single published Eligible Novel. Finally, you have to pull in $5,000 in the form of earnings for a Self-Published novel.
Calling everyone authors who puts words on a document and submits them to the public devalues the word so much, it makes it meaningless. Indie Author, Self-Published Author, Hybrid Author, Published Author, Blog Author, Forum Author. All of these titles mean different things, depending on who you talk to. 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.
Indie authors and self-published authors who claim they are real authors makes me laugh. The term basically doesn’t mean anything. Being a photographer means nothing either; as soon as you pick up a camera, you are one. By definition, you would be an “author” because of commenting on this post or a “singer” because you sing in the shower. If you put words on a document, you are certainly not an author.
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.
I think a debate in the publishing industry must be made on what constitutes being a writer and an author. These terms are thrown around so loosely that it gets confusing. Some people will say “I want to only read books by professional authors, because I am of the opinion they are of a certain quality, as compared to self-published works.” Others will say “I consider people who have NOT published books by one of the big five real authors. People publishing through the big five just write useless, commercial drivel that sells well. They’re not authors. They just do their job. The self-pubs are doing it for the love of writing, and create original, non-mainstream works. I love that! They’re real authors.”