With the advance of self-publishing and the ease in which it can be done (CreateSpace, Smashwords, Word Alive Press, etc.), anyone who writes can be a published author. Or can they?
The question was put to me long ago and has only recently been resurfacing with the onslaught of self-published books. Can self-published writers legitimately call themselves authors? It's an interesting question and one that needs to be addressed. What makes a writer an author?
The first short story I sold to Chicken Soup for the Soul was an exciting one for me. I received a letter from the publishers who ended it by saying, "Pat yourself on the back, you can now officially call yourself an author." Of course they were assuming I'd never been published before, but it got me thinking. Is the title of author only reserved for those who get paid to write? For years that has been the norm. So what do we call self-published writers?
Technically, a writer is paid by a publisher to produce a work from which the writer will get royalties. No one pays self-published writers to produce their books. It is quite the opposite in fact - self-published writers have to pay someone else to publish their books. And they usually pay out substantial sums of money that they probably will never make back. Of course there are exceptions to that rule (The Shack, by William Paul Young comes to mind), but it is not the norm.
So, is it unfair to self-published writers that they not be called authors? Some say yes, they haven't paid their "dues". While that may have been true in the past, when self-publishing was just starting to become a "thing" I don't believe that is true today. Yes, about ten years ago those who self-published, produced books with amateurish covers that resembled something done on Microsoft Publishing. Some didn't bother with editors, beta-readers, book-formatting or cover design, but some did and excellent books were produced in the process. Unfortunately, many of those books went unnoticed because of the perception that ALL self-published books were horrible.
Up until about a year ago I was reviewing CBA approved books and nothing else. If a self-published book got by me, then it was only because the author did an excellent job on the cover, their story and on promoting it to me. Today, most of the books I review at Interviews & Reviews are self-published and to be honest, I am seeing some high quality stuff. Unfortunately, I am also still seeing amateurish books full of typos, grammatical errors and worst of all horrible covers! Yes - I do judge a book by its cover! Please indie authors do yourself a favour and spend $500 dollars on a professional cover. It will only help you in the end. BTW, I never post reviews of horrible books (unless the author doesn't care) but instead contact the author and explain why I won't be reviewing their book.
According to Michael Koslowski, (see video below) of GoodEReader.com, "If you can earn your living from your writing, you are a professional author, anyone else is just a plain old writer." One comment on his website defined authors this way:
Writer - Someone who writes stuff.
Author - A writer that creates a finished work.
Professional Author - An author that makes a living off of finished works.
Personally, I believe anyone who produces a book (traditionally or self-published) should call themselves an author. Indie books can be bought on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. They can be found in libraries and in bookstores, the same as traditionally published books. If done really well, no one will know how your book was published and as a reader, I have to say - I don't care how the book I'm reading was published. If it catches my eye and I can't put it down, I'm going to keep my eye open for more by that author. In the end, I believe most readers feel the same way. What about you? What do you think? Should Indie Authors be able to call themselves authors? Leave a comment below.