I still remember the online conversation when I first self-identified as an author – and the wonderful Carina Press authors who said “Of course you are!” Back then (the Dark Ages, it was 2010) I had a clear idea of the distinction between writers and authors. Writers are people who write. Authors are people who’ve been published.
That was the last gasp of an era when editors and publishers were gatekeepers. I lived and breathed that air and needed the validation of editorial approval and the concrete expression of a published book to believe myself an author.
So to return to my ancient definition: writers write; authors write plus are published.
These days, I shake my head at my own delusions. Do you know how often Charles Darwin went on the lecture circuit? Well, no, neither do I, but it was lots. The point was, his books weren’t the only element that defined him as an author. He was an author because he lived that public role.
Aha! Do you see where I’m going with this post?
Writers write. Authors write plus they act like authors.
Self-publishing means the old gatekeepers no longer define who is and isn’t an author (even for deluded people like me). The issue of who is an author is self-defined.
Writers produce the product. Authors sell it.
Some lucky people manage to focus only on writing, and somehow *sprinkles fairy dust* their books still sell really well. For most of us, that stuff on our shoulders is dandruff, not fairy dust.
Authors study their market. What will they write, for who, on what publication schedule and how will they publish it (which publisher or self-published)?
They have a marketing plan – and this is so much more than a promotional tour in the book’s release week. This is the hard slog bit of designing your social media strategy and sticking to it. Who are you as an author and where are you online? What are your strengths and your weaknesses (and this includes whether you can be trusted on Twitter or whether you’ll procrastinate forever)? Where is your community and how can you contribute to it? Remember, you have to bank a heck of a lot of social credit before you can draw some to help promote your next book. People are busy!
That said, authors are realistic. They learn through experience what is and isn’t within their control. Ideally, we’d put our energy into what we can influence, but most of us spend a lot of time fretting over things we can’t change – like making Jane at Dear Author review my books. Do you think I can bribe her with TimTams? No? *sigh*
Finally, authors are passionately committed to the craft of writing. Producing a quality product is their most important work and they know it. But we know that all that other stuff is necessary, too.