Writer or Author? What To Call Whom and Other Industry Silliness

writer author copy

A writing colleague of mine sent me an interesting article recently; wanted my opinion on a piece written by a book blogger with a rather fierce agenda about who gets to call themselves an “author” these days. The piqued pontificator asserted that there are fundamental distinctions to be made between “author” and “writer,” nuances he deemed essential to preventing confusion in the literal and virtual book-buying marketplace.

And here I thought readers just wanted to know which were the good books!

This inexplicably grumpy guy (who shall remain nameless and linkless in a nod to collegial decorum), purports to have his finger on the pulse of the book industry’s beating heart, and takes personal umbrage at our loosey-goosey tendency to let just anyone use the term “author.” Since it’s a matter of great importance to him, and, unfortunately, many others in this rapidly evolving marketplace, I decided to give his thesis a whirl:

According to our parsing pundit, the title of “author” applies only within this very limited parameter: a writer who makes a living with the books they write. Their full-time living. No side-jobs. No article writing, copyediting, babysitting; mowing of the neighbor’s lawn, or even the occasional catering gig. If there is any under-the-table commerce unrelated to the business of the book, well then, they are not an author. They are just a writer.

Why that assignation—writer— is considered lesser, I do not know; but, apparently, it is.

Obviously this semantical corralling would include most self-published authors—I mean, writers—because, except for the select few who’ve managed to self-publish their way to enviable fame and fortune, the rest are busy selling real estate, proofing web copy, or teaching grade schoolers while pursuing their passion on the side…and until they hit their literary jackpot. Our bitching blogger believes distinctions are to be made for these folks.

But even if you agree with him, I have to ask: why should the distinction matter…to anyone? And yet it does. To that particular blogger and others I’ve encountered along the way. So much so that self-publishers who dare refer themselves as “authors” are likened, in some ways, to paralegals posing as attorneys, interns marching hospitals in doctor whites, or security guards puffed up like the NYPD Blue. In other words: pretenders, imposters, frauds.

Really? The distinctions between writer and author are SO carved in stone as to allow the Word Police to pejoratively deny one group use of the more vaunted descriptive of author?  Well, how ’bout we leave it to the dictionary? 

Author: noun; 1. a person who writes a novel, poem, essay, etc.; the composer of a literary work; 2. the literary production or productions of a writer; 3. the maker of anything; creator; originator. Verb: to write; be the author of:

That seems clear. Shall we continue?

Writer: Noun: 1. a person engaged in writing books, articles, stories, etc., especially as an occupation or profession; an author or journalist. [emphasis added]

Yep, as interchangeable as driver and motorist, teacher and educator; trapeze artist and aerialist. More importantly, did you note the first, most important definition of “writer”? According to the dictionary, it’s the writer who’s identified as the professional, not the author!

Holy bloviating blogger, that drops the whole theory on its head!

But while I poke fun at the condescension of said cynic and his ilk, the sad fact remains that they are emblematic of many who marginalize independent, self-published authors as dilettantes and amateurs, relegating them (sometimes literally) to card tables in the back room rather than up on the dais with the “real authors.” Fair? No. But the nose-snubbing endures.

It likely began with the vanity press, that notorious business model that gave amateur writers the opportunity to publish their work for a fee. The narcissism of the option was presumed: anyone who would pay to have their own book made, a book they obviously couldn’t get published through professional means, must surely be a vainglorious sort.

Forget that they might have just wanted a few copies to leave the family.

Self-pub meme

But moving past vanity presses came the even more paradigm-shifting digital revolution, which first hit the music industry like a hurricane, forcing analogue studios into Pro Tools machines, and traditional record companies upside-down-you-turn-me. No one was sure how to adjust (it’s still a conundrum…see Taylor Swift and Spotify; see Apple and Spotify, see Spotify and Pandora…), but adjustments were and continue to be made. And artists who’d previously been kept outside the gates were suddenly making and selling their own, affordably recorded, music, while payment formulas, arcane to begin with, went up in smoke. No one knows how anyone’s making a living these days, but there’s lots of great music and many excellent (heretofore ignored) singers, songwriters, bands, and musicians who are finally able to get their work out there. That, alone, is worth a great deal to a great many.

Are they, then—those scratching out a living however they can while playing gigs, hawking CDs, and keeping hope alive on the Internet—allowed to call themselves musicians, recording artists, bands, and so on? Of course! Because they actually are all those things. How they get their art produced and delivered, or how much money they’re able to accrue in the process, has zero bearing on their talent, skill, or the value and artistry of their work.

Or what they’re called.

Is it all good work? No. But it never was all good work, even when record companies were stationed like trolls at the gate. But much of it is astonishing music that would have never seen the light of day under the old regime. And now it’s the audience, the marketplace, that not only has access to many more artists by virtue of this democratization, but will be the arbiter of just how the supply and demand piece plays out.

That same paradigm shift is happening in book publishing.

Since sites like Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, iBooks, IngramSparks and others have created platforms for independent authors to upload, publish, and sell their work, similar fears, criticisms, and condescensions have percolated. But just as those who naysay indie musicians tend to be backward travelers, so, too, are the curmudgeons who’d generalize, dismiss, and denigrate independent authors across the boards.

Because the talent, skill, and artistry of authors is not based on whether or not they fit the narrow demands of publishers scrambling to stay relevant (or solvent); nor is it based on whether the sum total of dollars they’re able to earn is enough to cover their bills. No; the talent, skill and artistry of authors is based on…drum roll…the talent, skill, and artistry of each individual author. Period.

Is every book by a self-published author a good one? No, of course not. That’s been established. But many are as profound, as resonating, as any good book sitting on the shelf at Barnes & Noble. And, conversely, all one has to do is ferret through a book bin at CVS, peruse the racks at an airport, or consider some of the most viral of bestsellers put out by traditional publishers to find examples of the kind of drek that makes our blogger’s teeth grind.

It’s past time for the media, the publishing industry, book stores, and cultural taste-makers to move beyond elitist, myopic attitudes about the clearly indefatigable self-publishing world. As that demographic evolves, the authors within it will raise their own bar to demand the highest standards from its members: constructive peer pressure designed to make sure the steps are taken, the funds invested, and the necessary work done to deliver the most excellent books possible. And what will happen then is that more and more of those authors will break through the barriers to slowly but surely make more money, get more attention, and find their way onto bestseller lists, award tables, Kindles, and bed stands of discerning readers.

Because they are authors, just as the dictionary confirms: “writers creating original, literary works.” Which is exactly what self-published and independent authors have been doing all along.

Image courtesy of Wellcome Images @ Wikimedia Commons

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

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The New Novel Is Here! HYSTERICAL LOVE Hits The Book Shelves

HL on the rocks

Like a gestating, beloved baby, Hysterical Love has been nurtured, polished, fed well, spit-shined, and lovingly led to glorious life in the last many months, coming to full creative fruition, and finally, right on time, stepping onto the stage:

HYSTERICAL LOVE now available for purchase!  

For those who’ve asked, it is, in some ways, a bookend to my debut novel, After The Sucker Punch. Though very different stories told from very different points of view, both books involve adult children reading the written words of a father and being propelled onto a journey of a personal and/or transformative nature as a result. In the case of Hysterical Love, the story is told from the first-person perspective of Dan McDowell, a man knee-deep in a burgeoning existential crises:

Dan McDowell, a thirty-three-year-old portrait photographer happily set to marry his beloved Jane, is stunned when a slip of the tongue about an “ex-girlfriend overlap” of years earlier throws their pending marriage into doubt and him onto the street. Or at least into the second bedroom of their next-door neighbor, Bob, where Dan is sure it won’t be long. It’s long.

His sister, Lucy, further confuses matters with her “soul mate theory” and its suggestion that Jane might not be his… soul mate, that is. But the tipping point comes when his father is struck ill, sparking a chain of events in which Dan discovers a story written by this man he doesn’t readily understand, but who, it seems, has long harbored an unrequited love from decades earlier.

Incapable of fixing his own romantic dilemma, Dan becomes fixated on finding this woman of his father’s dreams and sets off for Oakland, California, on a mission fraught with detours and semi-hilarious peril. Along the way he meets the beautiful Fiona, herbalist and flower child, who assists in his quest while quietly and erotically shaking up his world. When, against all odds, he finds the elusive woman from the past, the ultimate discovery of how she truly fit into his father’s life leaves him staggered, as does the reality of what’s been stirred up with Fiona. But it’s when he returns home to yet another set of unexpected truths that he’s shaken to the core, ultimately forced to face who he is and just whom he might be able to love.

Hysterical Love infuses a deft mix of humor and drama into a whip-smart narrative told from the point of view of its male protagonist, exploring themes of family, commitment, balancing creativity, facing adulthood, and digging deep to understand the beating heart of true love.

I realize these are wild times in the book industry, traditional, independent and everything in between. Hundreds of thousands of titles are published each year and it’s a challenge for readers to know what to buy, what books will engage them, and which authors they want to explore and follow. As a reader myself, I know it’s hard to ferret through the tsunami of supply to find the work that resonates with you. Given that, I hope you will take a look at this new book of mine. I guarantee you will find something within it to engage you, make you laugh, pique a thought or two, and, hey, there’s much mention of ice cream and pie… that can only be good! 🙂 

Pick up a copy…and ENJOY! I’ll be most appreciative, I promise.    

Hysterical Love on Amazon
Hysterical Love on Smashwords

Photograph of Hysterical Love by Julie Schoerke @ JKSCommunications.

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

How We Find Our Stories and What Sparked Mine: AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH

Meeting with Readers

Do we write for ourselves or for our readers? Do we write what we think will sell, what might get us the most attention, or what we’re compelled to write? All fair questions, particularly given the challenges of marketing a book, specifically an indie book, in an ever-changing industry.

A colleague of mine, quite the brilliant writer, spoke with me recently on the topic, specifically about “fan fiction,” that ubiquitous genre that has unleashed vampires, zombies, paranormal lovers, and whip-yielding CEOs on an eager reading public. In his weariness at the uphill climb of promoting literary fiction (my genre, as well), my friend asked if I thought I could ever write a “genre” book, for no other reason than to tap into the trend and hopefully hit the mother lode. I thought about it. I mean, if you used a pseudonym, if you created an alter ego, why not?

Because I couldn’t do it. Not because I’m above such things, but because the Muse that compels me to write, to sit down at the computer and tap into something ephemeral and demanding and propulsive, has to be sparked by the Idea That Must Be Written. For me, that happens rarely and only with stories I’m moved by, stories I’d want to read myself, stories I feel contribute something of depth and value to the world. They don’t have to be dirges, certainly humor is a big part of my style, but they’ve got to tap into something meaningful. For me. Nothing against vampires—if I had a vampire story that tickled my brain to the point that I had to write it, I would—but I cannot imagine finding the mental, emotional, and creative energy to write a “trend-tap” story in hopes of going viral.

Could you? How do writers find their stories? What does move most authors to do the work, take the steps, dedicate the time to complete a novel? 

Fact is, I wasn’t sure I’d ever write a novel… of any kind! It seemed so large and looming, that process, particularly after years of writing screenplays with their 120-page formats and mandate to move the story along with just visuals and dialogue. That was certainly its own challenge and skill set, but it couldn’t approach the depth and breath of an 80K-100K+ word novel! And I never felt I had a story deep enough to compel the novel format… until After The Sucker Punch came to me.

ATSP has gone global... now being read in Greece in by Marina Terzopoulos!

Some of you are familiar with the story: a thirty-six-year-old woman—ex-rocker, lapsed Catholic, defected Scientologist, and fourth in a family of eight complicated people—finds her father’s journals on the night of his funeral and discovers he thought she was a failure. The journal she reads is ten-years-old, there are others that may offer more contemporary, less denigrating, opinions, but the impact of knowing he’d ever dismissed and mischaracterized her struggles, her successes, her relentless quest to achieve her goals, is shattering… a “sucker punch.” As the title suggests, the story follows her journey as she goes from reeling at the information to attempting to make sense of it, getting beyond it rebuild her sense of self, her view of her family and childhood, and certainly her understanding of her father.

It was a story sparked by a real incident: My own father wrote journals and, many years after his death, one was brought to my attention that was particularly focused on me in a somewhat, shall we say, critical way. I had my understandable reaction, but since I’d had a fairly distant relationship with my father throughout my adult life, his retrospective critique, while hurtful, was not, for me, particularly life shattering. It was only when I brought it up in a women’s group I was in at the time that I realized just how provocatively the incident translated to others: The women in the group were collectively horrified; the variety and intensity of their responses was fascinating, most exclaiming that such an indictment from their own fathers, particularly posthumously, would have left them devastated. Suddenly this seemed like a story worthy of novel treatment! 

My enthusiasm stirred, I then took the prompt – “how would you feel if you found your father’s journal and he said you were a failure?” – to a number of others, both men and women, and accrued a panoply of replies on all sides of the spectrum. From there, so excited about the depth and variety of what I was hearing, I began to piece my story together, dug deeper to go beyond the “inciting incident” to explore issues that resonated with many of the people I spoke to: love, relationships, religion, careers, how we frame success, how we define ourselves, etc. 

At that point I had the arc, created a plot, fleshed out characters informed by my research, and became driven to write that narrative, with those characters, and the very specific ending they all led me to. It was an exciting, exhilarating, creative process…

Lining up for a book signing.
Lining up for a book signing.

… and the only way I can write a novel: relentlessly pushed by my Muse to tell that specific story. Literary fiction? Not genre? Won’t necessarily bring in the hordes,  go viral, inspire a rabid fan base? So be it. But I guarantee, whoever lines up to purchase my book, whoever clicks a buy button, whoever goes to a bookstore to find it on a shelf, will find a narrative told with passion, imbued with heart, and reflective of people and experiences that have moved me. And will, I hope, move them as well!

How do you find your stories, fellow writers?     

TO PURCHASE AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH AT AMAZON OR SMASHWORDS, CLICK LINKS.  

Reading Photographs by Tom Amandes

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Falling Into HYSTERICAL LOVE: the New Book Cover Makes Its Debut

HL front cover

When you ponder the task of writing a novel, the idea alone seems to come with certain cultural longing, the sense that everyone with a love of words has had the urge to do the same. Write a novel, that is. Some talk about it, some have tried and failed, some have worked hard and succeeded; even the phrase, “the great American novel,” is an embedded part of our national lexicon. Writing a novel seems to be an almost mystical journey, a creative vision quest filled with trials and terrors, but still, and always, a goal of profound eminence.

And it is. It really is. It’s a singularly stellar experience, a creative process I seriously love, and one I’ve had the good fortune to experience twice (so far), first with my debut novel, After the Sucker Punch, and, most recently, with the completion of my latest, soon to be released, Hysterical Lovepublication date, April 7, 2015. I’m excited to introduce the book with the colorful prelude above, the cover designed by Grace Amandes, who also created the evocative cover of After The Sucker Punch.

My publicist, Julie Schoerke of JKSCommunications enjoying an advanced read!
My publicist, Julie Schoerke of JKSCommunications, enjoying an    advanced read of Hysterical Love!

I’m sharing this with you now, so many months ahead of the pub date, because this go-around I’m working with a top-notch publicity company, JKSCommunications, whose team, led by the indefatigable Julie Schoerke, is currently rolling out a robust pre-launch campaign to get this new book properly and prominently introduced, launched, and promoted. As in indie writer, it’s exciting (even comforting) to have a team of highly skilled, warmly accessible, and incredibly enthusiastic professionals getting in the trenches with me, a place that tends to be lonely for those of us publishing on the path considered “non-traditional.” I’m delighted to have their collaboration and guidance, and certainly the shared intent to make Hysterical Love a smashing success in all the ways it can be.

Towards that end, the book is currently available as a preorder at both Amazon and Smashwords; you’re all invited to jump to the front of the line to sign up for your copy! 🙂

(And for those interested, the paperback will be set up for preorders soon…stay tuned.)

Now that you’ve met the cover, the publicity team, and the preorder links, let me tell you a bit about the storyIt is, in some ways, a bookend to After The Sucker Punch: though very different stories told from very different points of view, both involve adult children reading the written words of a father and being propelled on a journey of a personal and/or transformative nature as a result. Here’s HL‘s synopsis:

Dan McDowell, a thirty-three-year-old portrait photographer happily set to marry his beloved Jane, is stunned when a slip of the tongue about an “ex-girlfriend overlap” of years earlier throws their pending marriage into doubt and him onto the street. Or at least into the second bedroom of their next-door neighbor, Bob, where Dan is sure it won’t be long.

It’s long.

His sister, Lucy, further confuses matters with her “soul mate theory” and its suggestion that Jane might not be his… soul mate, that is. But the tipping point comes when his father is struck ill, sparking a chain of events in which Dan discovers a story written by this man he doesn’t readily understand, but who, it seems, has long harbored an unrequited love from decades earlier.

Incapable of fixing his own romantic dilemma, Dan becomes fixated on finding this woman of his father’s dreams and sets off for Oakland, California, on a mission fraught with detours and semi-hilarious peril. Along the way he meets the beautiful Fiona, herbalist and flower child, who assists in his quest, while quietly and erotically shaking up his world. When, against all odds, he finds the elusive woman from the past, the ultimate discovery of how she truly fit into his father’s life leaves him staggered, as does the reality of what’s been stirred up with Fiona.

But it’s when he returns home to yet another set of unexpected truths that he’s shaken to the core, ultimately forced to face who he is and just whom he might be able to love.

Hysterical Love offers a deft mix of humor and drama in a whip-smart narrative told from the point of view of its male protagonist, exploring themes of family, commitment, balancing creativity, facing adulthood, and digging deep to understand the beating heart of true love.

More as we go…!

PREORDERSAmazon & Smashwords

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.