Writing Fiction

Writer – Author – Novelist | When Does a Writer Become an Author?

By April 7, 2019 No Comments

Caroline Hiley Fiction Novel EditorCaroline Hiley | Novel Editor

The question keeps coming around in writing/editing forums: At what point can a writer be dubbed an author?

Some folks feel the term only applies when the writer has published a work, generally a book, in the traditional way.

I take the other position, believing that a writer becomes an author when they have completed a work.

To support this opinion, I turn first to the dictionary accepted as the book-industry standard, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate, 11th edition. It defines “author” as:

“a person who has written something; especially : a person who has written a book or who writes many books : a person who starts or creates something (such as a plan or idea)”

Yep, that covers it.

To further substantiate my opinion, I also consider copyright law. The dictionary definition of copyright is “the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (as a literary, musical, or artistic work).”

The law goes on to describe that a work is subject to copyright upon its creation. You don’t have to register a book with the official copyright office to be protected. The right is yours the minute you capture a creative work in tangible form.

Thus I think that a writer becomes an author when they write “the end” after however many pages. Whether that writing is released to the public does not factor in. There are many reasons why a work isn’t published; and the law does not require it to be in order to consider it valid.

What matters is that ideas have been organized in a unique way, and something involving time, labor, passion, persistence, and skill has made it from concept to existence. As anyone who has written a book knows, the investment of all those things is huge, and completion is a triumph. Whether or not it’s good, or sellable, is beside the point.

So congratulations to everyone who has composed a work with a beginning, a middle, and an end that conveys their intention. You are indeed an author and can claim that with pride.

Caroline Hiley

Author Caroline Hiley

CAROLINE HILEY specializes in editing novels. She works with independent authors as well as traditional publishers, such as Penguin, HarperCollins, and Little, Brown. She also handles novellas, short stories, and memoirs. From decades of experience as an editor and compositor, along with her experience as an award-winning novelist, Caroline understands the entire writing process from first draft to publishing. She helps novice and seasoned authors prepare their novels for self- or traditional publishing, including help with storycraft, book production, and collateral documents, such as queries and synopses. More about Caroline Hiley

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