To celebrate having acquired representation for my mystery novel, A Matter of Taste, Robin and I went to dinner a few weeks ago at our favorite neighborhood restaurant, Avanti. Over an apéritif of sparking rosé, Robin confessed something to me:
“I know I’m the one who’s been telling you all along to skip the whole agent thing and just self-publish,” she said. “But now that you’ve gotten one, I’ve gotta say it does change how I think about you and your book. All of a sudden it’s like you’re a ‘real author’ now.”
real authors on my bookshelf
This had been an point of contention between us. When I’d bemoan the frustration and disappointment that went along with the search for a literary agent, Robin would ask why I even needed one, when I could simply publish the book on my own and omit the middleman altogether.
“Because I want to be vetted,” I would answer. “How do I know the manuscript is even good enough for publication? I’m too close to it to be able to tell.”
We discussed this vetting issue at dinner that night, and Robin admitted that—notwithstanding what she’d previously said about not needing an agent—she was impressed by the fact that one had believed enough in the manuscript’s marketability to take it on.
“So, yeah, I get it now,” she said. “It does make a difference having an agent. The whole thing seems ‘real’ in a way that it wasn’t before. It’s a big deal—you’re starting on a second career.” And then she proceeded to lecture me about the need to set aside time every day to write.
After we got home from dinner I googled the difference between a “writer” and an “author” and found dozens of blog posts and articles on the subject. The were varying opinions as to the differences between the two terms, but ultimately most agreed on the basic definitions:
A writer is someone who is currently writing; an author is someone who has completed a particular work. So a person who has finished a novel but then never composes anything else is an author but not a writer. And someone who writes every day but never completes anything is a writer but not an author.
Which means that I already was an author as soon as I finished my book and started sending it out to agents. Nevertheless, the word “author” has come in our era to have a certain ring of prestige that the term “writer” lacks, and most people will hesitate to call themselves an author prior to a book’s actual publication.
For my part, though I may already be an author, I’m going to do my best to continue to be a writer as well—for that’s where the magic happens.