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Difference Between Author and Writer

writingAuthor vs Writer
We often use the words author and writer interchangeably. But indeed both these words are quite different. A writer is a person who writes a book, article, or any literary piece, while an author is essentially the person who originates the idea, plot, or content of the work being written. At times, the author and writer can be the same person. In case of an autobiography, a person writes about the own life. So the author is expressing his own thoughts and ideas. But in cases like biographies, the writer is not the author. The ideas of thoughts of another are being written.

Though the difference may not seem to be much, depending on the situation, the difference can be more. If you are writing a novel or short story based on a plot developed by self, you get to be known as the author of the novel. And if you are penning down someone else’s ideas or stories, you will be known as the writer of the work. Being a writer is at times easier than being an author. The reason being that an author has to create, develop, and communicate an idea, while a writer has to only communicate somebody else’s idea. An author may be excused if the writing skills are not that competent. But an author must have exceptional writing skills to be dominant in the field. Writing skills include the command over the language and the expressiveness with the play of words. These skills can be obtained through constant writing and may be an inborn talent in some. Only a skilled writer is capable of portraying ideas, events, and pictures through the mere use of words.

When it comes to writing books, a person becomes an author only when the book is published. If your work is unpublished, and even if the idea is purely your own, you will still be considered as the person who wrote the work. And when your work is published you get to be known as the author of the work. So if you write a lot, but never get them published and out to the public, you remain a writer.

An author can get the work copyrighted under the copyright laws. This ensures that nobody else steals or uses the original idea as it is. So only the author is always associated with that particular idea or work. To be an author one must have the capability to think and express the thoughts. And a write must have the capability to understand and convey an idea correctly to the readers.

Summary

1. To be an author, the idea of your writing must be your own and you must get your work published.
2. An author must have a specific skill set but writer’s skill is suited to the job required.
3. You become an author when your books are published, but if your writings never publish, you remain a writer.
4. An author can get work copyrighted.


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15 Comments

  1. Thank you for the insight. As you say, the difference is very slight, but there is nevertheless a big difference between the two. I have written 2 educational environmental booklets that have been published by corporates and a travel booklet that has also been published by a company. I am now working on a novel. Am I therefor a writer or an author?

  2. This piece incorrectly states the law about copyright. Copyright does not protect original ideas. Rather, it protects the original expression of an idea in written form. Therefore, if write, in my own words, an expression of another’s idea, I still have copyright in the work.

    It is for this reason that Dan Brown won the lawsuit against him for copyright infringment when he published the Da Vinci code. The plaintiffs alleged that he used their ideas in his bestselling novel. The judge rejected the claim, because copyright doesn’t protect ideas–only the original expression of ideas. Mr. Brown may have borrowed some of their ideas, but he hadn’t borrowed any of their actual writing (their expressions of the idea), so he hadn’t infringed on any copyright.

  3. If “writer” meant “unpublished” and “author” meant “published”, writers’ organizations whose membership requirements included being published wouldn’t be named (for example) “Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.” The distinction is social, and like most socially defined terms, slippery. It can help to go back to the words’ roots to find out why. “Author” comes from the Latin word “auctor” (one who enlarges, originates) and that comes from the Latin word “augere” (to increase.) Authority and authorize come from the same root. In older literature, the “auctor” was the one who first presented a story (and thus became the source material for later storytellers, who reworked it. At one period, it was considered proper for those who wrote stories to rewrite old stories rather than make up new ones…which is, in many cases, what Shakespeare did…took an old story, adapted it for the stage, and made it much better than it had ever been.) But not all authors were writers: “He was the author of the Marshall Plan” doesn’t mean that he published a book titled “The Marshall Plan” but that the concept was his, and he was directly involved in its development–”author” in the sense of “originator.”

    “Author” acquired social-literary cachet from both auctor and authority and was the way (some) writers and (some) critics distinguished between those who wrote serious, important, worthy-to-be-read work and those who wrote ephemeral, undistinguished, “merely commercial/entertaining/whatever slam was in style” work…the subset of “writers” you could safely call “scribblers” or “hacks.” When photography and book covers met, “authors” were the ones in glam photos (which for men might be the tweed jacket and pipe and appropriate dog, and for women might be the backlit hairdo, the pearl necklace or wispy scarf) and “writers” had a blurb on their covers–if they had covers–and not a photo.

    The term is used loosely through society, but always suggests something “more” than writer, but publication isn’t it. Many published writers are never introduced as “an author” (though they may be said to have “authored” a given book. ) The “more” that’s suggested has to do with the speaker’s opinion of the writer’s work and the writer’s perceived standing in relation to other writers. ..with prestige. I have heard someone in an academic setting say, of a multi-published novelist, “Oh, he’s not an author–he’s just a writer,” because to that person only certain kinds of books counted towards the title “author.”

    Words shift meaning all the time (consider–when I was a kid, a keyboard was what you found on a piano or harpsichord, a monitor was someone watching for misbehavior or a lizard family, a hard drive was a difficult automobile route, a chip was a small piece of wood flaked off by an axe or something tasty to put in a cookie…and cookies were all edible, not some way for strangers to keep track of where you’d gone on the internet. The first computer I learned programming on had no chips (wires and tubes), no monitor, no keyboard and was the size of a very large freezer. Its punch-card reader was the size of a couple of washing machines.) So it is with the author/writer distinction: it’s fuzzy because different speakers make different (but related) distinctions. Anyone with a Pulitzer or Nobel will be called an author; those with less impressive literary credentials may be called a writer or an author, depending on the opinion of the speaker. The person who’s never met a novelist (or lived with one!) is most likely to call him/her an author in hushed tones; the person who lives with a novelist most often tells others that the spouse/partner/lodger is a writer. Such is fame (or lack thereof.)

    A note on copyright. In the US, copyright belongs to the writer (or author) from the time the words are put in physical form (on paper or in a computer file) unless you write “works for hire” in which case your employer owns the copyright. So don’t do that. So if a burglar steals my computer, and then sells a story or novel I’ve finished but not yet shipped off, and the burglar publishes it…the files on the thumb drive the burglar missed will prove that the burglar/plagiarist stole my work as well as my computer–and my copyright is still in force. You can register the copyright of unpublished works (it costs money) and that then allows you to recover damages from the plagiarist (your sneaky sibling or cousin, who thinks the work isn’t copyrighted.) Right now a number of groups are trying to break copyright (the motive, as usual, is profit–theirs) but at the moment this is how it works: If you write it, you own it. It’s protected (you can sue for infringement, but you can’t sue for damages unless you have registered it.) When you “sell” a book, you’re not actually selling the copyright–you’re licensing a publisher to produce copies of it (hence, “copy right”, the right to copy.)

  4. just really dont know about this whole difference between author and writer thing. thanks for the gyan.

  5. Thank you for the clarification. This is exactly the information I was searching for today.

  6. Nice to know the difference. Thanks.

  7. Now I have finally cleared the doubt in my head I was too lazy to clear.thank you now I think I’ll be author not writer

  8. Information most informative. I’d like to think I am both !
    Pegga

  9. Crystal clear definition, many thanks!

    A.

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