Once upon a time, the terms writer and author were interchangeable, but that was back in the days when a minority of the population could read and write. So what are the differences, and do they really matter?
These days it does among certain circles, because some people claim you can only call yourself an author when you have published a work (technically a book in print or online). However, people can self-publish and others can publish a work online whether it be on a website or a blog. The main difference is an author creates an original piece of work that is individual that may or may not be creative; for example, one could be the author of a history book (with theories), or a fictional romantic novel. A writer though can be someone who is commissioned to write an article, or to to make a list of facts and figures. Therefore they have not created anything original, but have put down on paper (or typed) information for a purpose, or physically have carried out the act of writing. Journalists are technically writers as they are conveying news and facts to the masses that is easily understood. For example, numerous people have written articles on Brexit, but they choose which facts to include so many articles maybe similar, but the language and the way they convey that information could be neutral or biased.
Therefore, an author can also be a writer, but not all writers are authors. The writing skill sets are very different, not only in motivation, but also in the end result. This has become more prevalent recently with the increasing use of people calling themselves writers, when they either spin an article for a website, or are content writers where they write (not create) an article based around keywords for the sole purpose of generating SEO. Sadly many websites are centered around articles with SEO in order to get traffic and hits, and that is how they measure success. However, how many people actually read what is written, or visit a site due to a click and bait headline? The latter is becoming common, and writers are encouraged to use them, in order to to attract readers or rather clicks. While a good title and heading is important, a misleading one (fake news) diminishes any credibility the writer has. Success maybe measured by hits, likes, traffic, or sales figures, but to an author, success lies in readers appreciating and enjoying their work.
Is there snobbery in calling yourself a writer or an author? An author is always writing, but writers may never become authors. Then you have people who call themselves bloggers, but are they writers or authors? Recently I’ve read some reviews on a Facebook group, and they are painful to read; they are that bad. Not everyone has the ability to express themselves with words and it is a skill that all writers hone in time. Writers write for an audience, and authors create, and an audience is formed from that creation. Think about novels such as Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter; these created an audience and a genre of their own.
A writer may focus on keywords, grammar, and readability to the masses, however, an author expresses themselves not according to rules, but to create an atmosphere for their work, for example J.R.R. Tolkien created different languages (Elvish) for his novels. I’ve noticed in my own writing when I am using dialogue or creating a tense scene, those standard rules of writing don’t apply as you must use your characters to convey the emotions as you write. It’s far more complex than simply writing words in grammatical order. One could say authors are storytellers, and writers convey information. An author thinks about their how to tell their story, while a writer thinks about their word count and keywords and tags they can slip in.
That’s the main difference; authors have the freedom to express themselves, while writers write for an audience and for SEO. At times I admit an author must think of their readers, and what they expect. If you have ever had to submit a manuscript to a publisher they will ask who your audience is. Often I want to say the world, but publishers are business people and want to narrow down the genre of the book so they know whether they can market it and make money from your work. Therefore, many authors are also writers, if they want to sell their books. But do writers get writer’s block, or only authors who are writers? What do I call myself? I call myself a writer because many people don’t understand the difference between the two, and it’s much easier than having to explain why I use a pen name (and what it means) for my books…