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  • Tom Sullivan

The Difference Between an Author and a Writer

People often use “author” and “writer” interchangeably, but there’s a distinct difference. If you’re trying to become one, wondering what to call yourself, or simply curious to learn about writers and authors, this article is for you. We’ll break down the distinction across all mediums, and explain how to become an author without writing a single word.

What Is The Difference Between An Author and A Writer?

To best understand the difference between an author and a writer, we must define both terms.

What is a writer?

To be a writer is simple. You just have to write. You don’t have to be paid for it, have your work published, or ever show your writing to another living soul — if you write, declare yourself a writer.

What is an author?

An author can be described as someone who has created and published a literary work. While “literary work” may have your mind jumping to “literature,” a literary work can be many forms of writing. Books, articles, reports, songs, and poetry are all examples of literary works.

With these definitions in mind, the distinction between writer and author becomes clear:

Writer’s write. Author’s publish. It is possible to be a writer and not an author. And contrary to popular belief, it’s also possible to be an author and not be a writer.

In this article, we’ll define the difference between writers and authors across a variety of mediums.

An author writing a book

Writers vs Authors Across Various Mediums

There are several mediums that allow writers and authors to create. In this section, we’ll break down each medium and point out the difference between authors and writers.

Copywriter

A copywriter is a person who writes the words used in marketing materials. This includes working on assets like websites, social media posts, blogs, articles, emails, advertisements, billboards, and more. This very article is a form of copywriting.

Copywriters are writers, but they can also be authors if their work is published under their name. However with copywriting, the author can often be the company the writer is working for. For example, if you come across one of Wendy’s twitter posts, Wendy’s is considered the author, not Beatrice, the copywriter from the marketing department.

Screenwriter

Screenwriters are people who write content for visual mediums. Movie writers, TV writers, video game writers, and commercial writers all fall under the category of screenwriting.

Screenwriters are not usually considered authors because screenplays aren’t meant to be the final product — the film is. This is why directors are sometimes referred to as auteurs.

According to Constantine Santas, an auteur is “an artist with a distinctive approach, usually a film director whose filmmaking control is so unbounded but personal that the director is likened to the ‘author’ of the film.”

Journalist

Journalists investigate and write news stories for newspapers, magazines, and websites. Journalists come in many forms, including reporters, correspondents, columnists, editorial-writers, and editors.

Journalists are considered authors when their work is published. Unlike some other professions on our list, in this case, the writer and the author are nearly always the same person. 

Blogger

Bloggers are writers who publish their work on the internet, often in an informal style. Anyone can start a blog, sharing their thoughts, insights, and opinions with whoever wishes to read it. Examples of blogs that started small but grew into large media companies are HuffPost, TechCrunch, and Barstool Sports.

Bloggers are usually considered authors of their blogs, because those blogs are published on the internet. Sometimes bloggers publish their blogs under a pseudonym such as Mr. Money Mustache. When it comes to corporate blogging, the company itself is often the author. For example, Rosetta Stone is the company, not the name of the blog writer!

Ghostwriter

Ghostwriters are hired to write content that someone else will be credited for as the author. This means that ghostwriters are not authors. For instance, J.R. Moehringer is the ghostwriter of Shoe Dog, but Nike Inc. founder Phil Knight is the author.


At Write It Great, our ghostwriters work with authors to bring their ideas to life — using the author’s original concept to weave together an organized, comprehensive, and authoritative text.

Poet

As Robin Williams’ character in The Dead Poet’s Society tells his students: 

“We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.”

If your poetry is published, you officially become an author. With poetry, the unique and often personal nature of the craft indicates that the writer and the author are nearly always the same person. However, some poets use pseudonyms (like Theodore Geisel as Doctor Seuss), and it’s also possible for ghostwriters to pen a poem for another author’s use.

Songwriter

Musically-inclined writers may consider trying their hand at songwriting. Songwriters can either record songs themselves, or write songs to be recorded by other artists. For example, Pharell Williams is a famous recording artist who has also written many songs for other performers, including “Hollaback Girl” by Gwen Stefani, and “Hot In Herre” by Nelly.  Some songwriters write and compose a whole tune, while others are simply lyricists.

Guitarist writing a song

Historically, there has been a distinct difference between the songwriter and the recording artist. A recording artist creates sound recordings whereas songwriters write compositions. It was rare that a recording artist would write their own songs. A songwriter would submit a composition to a music publisher, who would then give that composition to a record label. The label would then choose a recording artist to record that song.

Nowadays, things have changed, and many musicians are both. However, to receive the proper royalties, these people must think of themselves as two separate entities: The songwriter and the recording artist.

Novelist

Novels are books of a certain length that tell a fictional story. Many of the world’s most famous authors are primarily novelists, such as J.K. Rowling, Charles Dickens, and Mark Twain.

Anyone with enough determination can sit down and write a novel, but novelists are considered authors only when their books are published.

How To Be A Writer Without Being An Author

Becoming a writer without being an author is very simple — you simply don’t publish your writing. If you wish to publish your work, but still avoid the title of “author,” you can write on behalf of an individual, business, or organization. 

Writers can also publish their work under pseudonyms, such as Daniel Handler’s pen name, “Lemony Snicket.” This allows the writer to create a fictional author of their work.

How To Be An Author Without Being A Writer

Becoming an author without being a writer is more rare than the other way around, but it’s very possible. Here are a few ways to make it happen:

Publish Your Interviews

When interviews are published, the interviewee is generally considered to be the “author” of the interview. If you have interesting ideas but don’t want to communicate them through writing, you can sit down for an interview and then have the interview transcribed into an article.

Create Your Own Publication

As we stated earlier, publishers can be considered the author of literary works that the publisher themselves did not write. By creating a blog, journal, newspaper, or website and hiring writers to write for that publication, you can become a published author.

Hire A Ghostwriter

Eighty-one percent of Americans feel they should write a book. But only three percent of those who start to write a book actually finish it. Ghostwriting agencies not only take your idea and turn it into a fully realized book, they also help publish that book for you. That means you are considered an author.

At Write It Great, our writers sit down with non-fiction authors for in-depth interviews, discussions, and consultations. We then use that information to craft a complete book. If you want to become an author, WriteItGreat can turn your goals into reality.

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