A lot of people use these words interchangeably – ‘author’ and ‘writer’. But there is a major difference between author and writer. This isn’t a difference in quality of writing, or even in the nature of the material. This is a logistical difference – authors are published writers, while writers are yet to find their big break in the literary world. Writers may write for a variety of purposes – to satisfy their inner being, to express themselves, for someone else, on someone else’s behalf etc. But for an author’s work, only an author can take credit.
Now this one difference that separates an author from a writer – publishing – what exactly is it? Basically, it means making a writer’s writing available in the public domain for everyone to read, so that the writer can earn accolades and royalties out of it. Authors go about this in various ways. The traditional way is to publish a book via a publishing house.
For example, the Penguin Random House, or the Harper Collins House, or even Puffin Books. In India, we have Westland Books, Rupa Publishing House etc. This publishing signs a contract with the author, wherein he or she grants an exclusive (or non-exclusive) license or copyrights to the publishing house. In exchange, they print copies of the book and look after its distribution – if it’s a well known publishing house, your book will almost always find a place in major bookstores. They also look after the design of the book – the paperback cover page design, the hardcover dust jacket design, and even the back of the book. They will also have an editor who will help the author polish his work, to increase its impact and also to make the book appealing for audiences. For this, they have a team of experts in design, marketing, and also editing.
The other way to go about this is to self publish works. This can be done via Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, Google Play Books Partner Center or self publishing companies. In the first two, you design, edit and market the book yourself, and upload it for free on Amazon or Google as an e-book. Now, anyone using the sites can buy your book for the price you set. The last option is to actually print copies of your book yourself by investing your own time, effort and money into it, without any guarantee of payback. But if you think your book is worth it, and will recover the costs, why not?
In the end, the difference between author and writer is that of effort, of going that extra mile. It involves taking initiative. This starts with drafting and re-drafting, editing and re-editing your work over and over again, to make it the best it can be. It then entails looking for publishers high and low and facing several rejections before you find a publisher who is the perfect match for you. Then comes the signing of the deal, or the decision to publish the book yourself, which is even more effort. And then, because the sales of the book directly affect you, whether you’re self publishing or not, you have to be an active part of the editorial and design process.
But when you finally see that book on the Crossword or Barnes and Noble, nothing can beat the feeling. The fact that your writing, no matter what genre it is, exists as a physical book that you can feel and touch feels ecstatic. Signing books for eager readers is perhaps the most sublime feeling ever. In either case, the journey between a writer and an author may be a long and tedious one, but it is worth walking.