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Old 30th January 2012, 01:28 PM   #136 (permalink)
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Re: Published authors and percentage income

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I don't think there's a defined line as to who's a writer and who isn't.
You can always tell an author because they never give up.
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Old 30th January 2012, 01:30 PM   #137 (permalink)
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Re: Published authors and percentage income

Hi JDP,

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Your assumption seems to rely on the fact that if someone is not writing as a profession then they are not entitled to describe themselves as a writer.
Not quite, although it does rely on there being some sort of consensus that a person is not misleading others by their use of the term.

Quote:
I think there's a difference between someone who might describe their job as a writer to someone who might describe themselves as a writer.
Absolutely. My argument is that most folk would regard "a writer" as being someone who writes professionally - or at least earns their living from it without relying on the DWP. This is why qualifiers such as "aspiring" or "hobby" are important.

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I might describe myself as a cyclist. That doesn't mean I get paid for it, or that you'll likely see me in le Tour de France anytime soon. I might describe myself as a guitarist, but I won't be playing the O2.
Yes, but as discussed above, that is largely because "cyclist" is predominantly used to describe the hobby and not the profession. A professional cyclist would call themselves just that - a professional cyclist.

Quote:
Similarly, someone who regularly trains and plays football might describe themselves as a footballer; not, perhaps, when asked what their job is (unless they are indeed a professional footballer), but perhaps when asked about themselves. The relevance is in the context.
Precisely my point. And to use the term "writer" without any qualifiers has a very specific, widely understood context which might not be an appropriate way of genuinely describing the person using the term.


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The majority of people outside academia might assume that if you describe yourself as 'doctor', then you must be a medical doctor...
They might, but a Dr of Jane Austen is unlikely to breeze into a room and start peforming surgery on people with the bread knife. They aren't holding themselves out (impliedy or expressly) as medical doctors - it just so happens that term has more than one meaning.

Regards,

Peter
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Old 30th January 2012, 02:49 PM   #138 (permalink)
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Re: Published authors and percentage income

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They aren't holding themselves out (impliedy or expressly) as medical doctors - it just so happens that term has more than one meaning.
For me, this phrase is interchangeable with (again, my emphasis):

Quote:
They aren't holding themselves out (impliedy or expressly) as professional writers - it just so happens that term has more than one meaning.
However, I concede that your definition of the term might be more popular than my own.
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Old 30th January 2012, 03:07 PM   #139 (permalink)
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Re: Published authors and percentage income

FWIW, John Scalzi has some pretty clear definitions

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/01/2...essional-good/
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Old 30th January 2012, 04:03 PM   #140 (permalink)
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Re: Published authors and percentage income

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For me, this phrase is interchangeable with (again, my emphasis):

However, I concede that your definition of the term might be more popular than my own.
Or perhaps not! Anne's link to Scalzi has me down as a snob for the second time in this thread! I shall respond in type to friend Scalzi by saying that anyone who puts the bar so low probably subscribes to the drippy nonsense of cultural relativism, in which case the fellow should be boiled in lead at the first opportunity.

Joking aside, for me it all comes down to what most folk would understand by the term "writer". If I'm right, most folk who call themselves writers aren't. If I'm wrong and "writer" carries no connotations of quality or professionalism in the mind of the average person, then so be it. I don't see much snobbishness in that.

Regards,

Peter
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Old 31st January 2012, 12:29 AM   #141 (permalink)
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Re: Published authors and percentage income

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Originally Posted by Stephen Palmer View Post
You can always tell an author because they never give up.
I think that's so true and it makes me wonder. Does the most accomplished author have doubts about his/her work. A bad review and their confidence is destroyed. A good review then they're hoping it continues...

Are authors insecure?
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Old 31st January 2012, 01:31 AM   #142 (permalink)
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Re: Published authors and percentage income

Hi Peter,

I think you're mixing up two different concepts here.

I'm saying a writer is a writer when he writes, and I'll add a stipulation here that I probably should have added before, - with the view to producing a publishable work. So that he is serious about his or her work. I think you're asking when is a writer a good writer? Quality is not really important to the definition of the word in my opinion, dedication to the art is. (Hopefully quality will follow.) So if for example Tolkein had never been published, if every agent and editor had said this is utter drivel and won't sell, I would still class him as a writer. Not because of the quality of his work, which was excellent, but because he took his writing seriously. If you read LOTR you can see the effort he put in to it.

As for your body of professionals, - agents, editors and publishers, they don't pass judgement on effort, and too often not even on quality. For the most part they are concerned about saleability. If we are to think of an approved body to accredit writers, I think the people I'd want passing judgement on whether I could be a member and be awarded the title of 'writer', would be other writers. There is sadly no such body.

Cheers, Greg.
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Old 31st January 2012, 09:16 AM   #143 (permalink)
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Re: Published authors and percentage income

Hi Greg,

Thanks for this.

Quote:
I think you're mixing up two different concepts here.
I certainly understand where you are coming from (and you make a very good point), but I disagree. Before we can decide if I am a good writer or a bad writer, we first have to decide if I am a writer at all. My argument is that if we answer that first question simply by saying "a writer is someone that writes", we render the term meaningless and also arguably use it in a way in which it is not widely understood. Using terms incorrectly is hardly a good start point for a writer in any event.

Let's say I claim to be a sculptor. Now, it's a pound to a penny that this puts a certain image into your head of what I do. If it then transpires that all I do is make little men out of blu-tack whilst I'm on the phone to Mrs Graham's mother, you might decide that I am being somewhat misleading in calling myself a sculptor. You might even go further and say that I am displaying a certain arrogance in my self-definition.

To be a writer, surely one must not only write, but also have the ability to write. This means an ability to spell and construct grammatically correct sentences. It also means having an undertstanding of imagery, plot and story. It might involve far more, but even if we leave it at these absolute basics, we are still ruling out a significant number of "writers".

Once a person has the basic toolkit (like a carpenter with her bag of drawknives and shaves or a stonemason with his bag of chisels), they can in all conscience call themselves a writer. We can then go on to decide whether their writing is good or bad.


Quote:
As for your body of professionals, - agents, editors and publishers, they don't pass judgement on effort, and too often not even on quality.
I agree in part. But publishers, agents etc work in the literary world. They cannot afford to massage fragile egos. They want good writing and know how to spot it. They aren't judges per se, but acceptance of a mss for a traditional publishing deal is, to all intents and purposes, validation that a person is a good writer. I accept that saleability can skew this - bad writers who happen to be famous in some other field can get published whereas literary geniuses who haven't written something which suits the market get rejected - which is precisely why I argued that some self published writing really should be out there.

Regards,

Peter
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Old 31st January 2012, 10:05 AM   #144 (permalink)
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Re: Published authors and percentage income

At FantasyCon, a panel of 5 published authors were asked this question ie when you know/feel you were a writer.

One said when he walked into Waterstones and saw his book on the shelf.
One said when she received the first copy of her book from the Publisher.
One said when he signed the contract for a book deal. (but added it wasn't until the book actually came out that he knew it was true.)

And I can't recall what the others said, but I'm pretty certain the confirmation of their writing status was defined by the acceptance of others. Admittedly, this is an unbalanced argument (in this thread) as they all had been published, but I'm pretty sure they were being honest.

M'self: in the past I've had a series of articles published in a prestigious motorcycle magazine, some in DIY magazines, some in Horse and Rider, and won 2nd place in a short story writing competition, that published the story. I had 2 full-length film scripts optioned (but never made) but (sorry Scalzi) I guess it's just me: I'll consider myself a writer when my novel is published. If it IS the self-published route, then you can be certain I'll have exhausted the traditional route first. So, yes a self-published writer IS a writer, and it's up to them (just like any writer) to be as good as they possibly can be. Hopefully, after the torrent of bad writing has diminished, good writing will shine through. It certainly seems to be doing that for the self-published who are posting here, but you'd expect that, wouldn't you?
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Old 31st January 2012, 10:59 AM   #145 (permalink)
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Re: Published authors and percentage income

Okay -- I've had thirty plus articles published in peer-reviewed journals, and a few years ago Palgrave offered me a book contract (although I didn't follow it up). I spend a lot of my life writing but it's not fiction -- just part of my day job -- so I'm not a writer.

I've even had a few bits of fiction published.

I wouldn't describe myself as a writer (although I spend a lot of time writing fiction and trying to get better at it). Even when (when!) I become rich and famous and my books can be found on every bookshelf in the known universe, I don't think I'll describe myself as a writer.

Nonetheless, the growth of self-publishing, in my opinion, makes it difficult to draw the line between 'writers' and 'not-writers'.

I've said everything else about four times before on this thread, so I won't bore on
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Old 31st January 2012, 12:28 PM   #146 (permalink)
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Re: Published authors and percentage income

For me, I think it was when I started submitting stories to magazines and going to writers' conferences - because I was putting my work in front of pros, instead of just tapping away on my typewriter in the privacy of my own home. By that point I was good enough to get some positive feedback, so I felt it was just a case of persevering...

Of course it probably helped that I'd already had some non-fiction published, and that I'd worked in publishing and wasn't terribly in awe of the whole process
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Old 31st January 2012, 12:39 PM   #147 (permalink)
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Re: Published authors and percentage income

For me it was the phone call from my then editor at Orbit.
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Old 31st January 2012, 07:17 PM   #148 (permalink)
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Re: Published authors and percentage income

It was a long time ago, but I think it was after I signed the contract for my first book that I began to feel that I was a "writer."

The definition I use to determine whether I think somebody else is a writer is quite a different matter. I believe that anyone who has worked long and diligently at the craft of writing, constantly improving (because they are always striving to improve, published or not), is a writer — so long as they keep on writing.

So there are many people who are not published writers who I nevertheless consider writers. On the other hand, there are some people I could name who have been published, about whom I have my doubts.

Hex, I consider you a writer, as I also believe many other unpublished writers on these forums are genuine writers.

But I'll throw another word into the discussion: "author." The way that I use it, "author" refers to an individual's relationship with a particular book or books. I am the author of The Green Lion Trilogy, I am the author of Goblin Moon. That is not going to change. The books exist; I am the person who wrote them, therefore I am the author of those books. I need never write another book but I will still be an author.

During periods when I have suffered prolonged writer's block, and feared that I would never finish another book again, the thing I dreaded most was that I would stop being a writer and dwindle to a mere author instead.
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Old 31st January 2012, 07:52 PM   #149 (permalink)
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Re: Published authors and percentage income

I think Dean Wesley Smith makes that same distinction - an author is someone who has written (and published) a book, a writer is someone who (currently) writes. People in the latter category are often aspiring to be in the former and, as Teresa points out, sometimes vice versa!
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Old 31st January 2012, 08:15 PM   #150 (permalink)
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Re: Published authors and percentage income

Quote:
Originally Posted by Teresa Edgerton View Post
It was a long time ago, but I think it was after I signed the contract for my first book that I began to feel that I was a "writer."

The definition I use to determine whether I think somebody else is a writer is quite a different matter. I believe that anyone who has worked long and diligently at the craft of writing, constantly improving (because they are always striving to improve, published or not), is a writer so long as they keep on writing.

So there are many people who are not published writers who I nevertheless consider writers. On the other hand, there are some people I could name who have been published, about whom I have my doubts.

Hex, I consider you a writer, as I also believe many other unpublished writers on these forums are genuine writers.

But I'll throw another word into the discussion: "author." The way that I use it, "author" refers to an individual's relationship with a particular book or books. I am the author of The Green Lion Trilogy, I am the author of Goblin Moon. That is not going to change. The books exist; I am the person who wrote them, therefore I am the author of those books. I need never write another book but I will still be an author.

During periods when I have suffered prolonged writer's block, and feared that I would never finish another book again, the thing I dreaded most was that I would stop being a writer and dwindle to a mere author instead.
Why are you always right Teresa?

Great post, sums up everything while still showing total respect for aspiring writers
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