29 December 2010


In October 2009, Micheal DeVoe, a spoken word artist self-publishing his collection of poems entitled, "Something Hard to Write On," wrote an article for Peevish Penman on the difference between "a writer" and "an author." Editor of Peevish Penman, Carrie Bailey reflects on his conclusions...

1) Authors Get Paid To Write

DeVoe wrote in 2009:

That one might seem self-explanatory but it wasn’t for me. They get paid to write. I saw Jay-Z on "Real Time With Bill Maher" and Bill mentioned how Jay used to rap a lot faster in his earlier records and why he has slowed down. Jay-Z’s answer was something like . . . I had a lot more to say back then, I was writing for my whole life’s experiences and I had more to say, now each time I write an album it’s about what’s gone on since the last one less time has passed and my experiences aren’t bad anymore. I bring that up because for an author they write when they’re paid to and what they’re paid to write.

For me, I write all the time and I’m never paid for it. I’ve written short stories, poems, articles, exposes, essays, eulogies, op-ed’s, response pieces all of which are not published and sitting in the my documents folder under a Misc. sub-folder. Authors know they have this skill of writing and write because they’re paid to, where as I have a passion for writing and write because I’m inspired to. I feel like Jay-Z when he was younger I have a lot to say and I want to say it.

Bailey writes 2010:

During the past year I've gone from being new to writing to being paid to write and I've learned that these two aspects of being a writer or author, as DeVoe distinguishes, are related but not equated to each other.

"Being an author and being paid to write have minimal correlation."
The first time I was paid to write, I crafted 100 word articles on Forex trading and was paid six dollars for fifty of them. Certainly, my pride required me to learn about Forex was, which is the foreign exchange market for currency trading, by the way. But, what floored me was that many of the articles about Forex trading online mistook Forex indicators as some sort of complex machine or software, an object of mystery and intrigue. They wrote promotional pieces that told readers to go out and buy one, because it was all they needed to generate more wealth than they could manage. I turned out the Forex Indicators were equations. True, software could use them to perform tasks and produce cold hard data based recommendations, but I was writing articles about them and I was paid. All I had to do was include two keywords in the "article."

This job did not make me an author, but I did prove to myself that I could get paid to write and that changed my life more than Nirvana's "Teen Spirit" when it came out in high school. The experience taught me that the craft of writing and being paid to write were two separate, but semi-related elements.

2) Authors Are Everywhere

DeVoe Wrote in 2009:

This is literally what it means. I live in a small town in Oregon and I am sitting in a great coffee shop called the Interzone and I just asked the eleven other people here working on their laptops what they were doing, and six of them, were writers of some sort. Some were bloggers, one was working on a new novel, one was writing an article for a newspaper. I didn’t realize how prolific being a writer is. I was shocked. I then had the second truth come to me authors are everywhere, because it’s not a talent, it’s a skill. I’ve lived my life thinking writers were talented that only certain people can be writers. Turns out it’s that certain people can’t be but that number is small. You can learn how to write well.

Bailey writes 2010:

Even though I met DeVoe through an ad, that ad was run in my hometown of Corvallis, Oregon where the Interzone is located. I spent my undergraduate years inside, in front of, and all around (even hanging from the balcony next door in a friend's apartment), I even met a husband there...

Corvallis' main source of income is the University and this coffee shop DeVoe has referenced is located across the street, with Formica tables, and velvet chairs a person sinks into, it was designed to encourage people to bookmark it as a second living room.

I did and so did a the majority of writers working and living in Corvallis, Oregon, a town that often ranked as one of the highest levels of higher education for town of 50,000 (18,000 of whom are students).

So, while I agree that writers are everywhere...I'm not sure that that is important. If you're a writer and it seems that so are all your friends, it means you have the best friends possible to help each other advance your careers, NOT that the competition is too stiff in general. There are many writers, because the world requires a lot of written work. It's the foundation of communication and as people, we do a lot of that. Writers just do it best.

3) Authors Don’t Write They Get Published

Bailey in 2010:

Being published, like making money from writing, can appear misleading on the surface of the issue. Any time a writer's work is publicly distributed online or in print, it has been published. No magic number of issues sold separates a real publisher from a false publisher regardless of the form they publish in. In fact, the definition of small press is one that earns less than 49 million USD annually.

Read this answer to the Yahoo Question:

How much does one make on average from a self published novel?

I wish to correct the person that says that a first time published author gets paid anything as none of them ever do, and very often they won't get any advance payments on their second book either as they are an unknown factor for the publisher. Self publishing will never earn you any real returns because they leave the promo work to you, and unless you have a nice bank account to push your work yourself, plus the required knowledge and skills you don't have a snowball's chance in hell.

Vanity press publishing as it is better known is just that, to fill your personal ego and vanity, nothing more, nothing less.


A reputable book publishing house manager, me.
Yes, that's what he claimed, but its almost absurd to entertain his statements, because A) book publishing houses all had to start somewhere and B) "real money" being less than 49 million USD is a definition that offends the majority of the world's population. The money I require to support my family is much less and I still think it is real. So, while no, in the beginning publishing with small presses and small publications with limited circulation won't allow you to quit your day job, they will potentially supplement your income. And that's not so bad... it's a start, which is what every writer needs...a start.
Being published represents a relationship between someone who accepted your work and a set of people who read your work. All successful authors had to start somewhere.

4) Authors Make A Living Not A Point

DeVoe wrote in 2009:

This is the last point. Authors get paid to write and write what they’re paid to write. Pay an author to write a print ad for a beer company one day, and then MADD hires him to write press releases about their new anti drinking campaign and you have yourself an author. Authors are willing to write whatever it takes to pay the rent. I’m sure I’d be susceptible to this temptation as well for a big enough paycheck.

Carrie Bailey writes in 2010: 

I believe when we honestly examine the word "author," we find a sort of mysterious power behind the word. Partially, this is why I produced the anthology, The Handbook of the Writer Secret Society. This power is the power of self-definition. Again, there is no magic point at which a word becomes truth, it remains opinion in the eyes of the masses indefinitely.

I strongly feel that while everyone should call themselves a writer, the very moment they have the inclination to do so, I also feel that as a group of individuals engaged in a craft, a trade, complete with tradition, and unspoken rules, we should reserve the term "author" for a certain level of achievement.

For myself, it will not be as related to the money I make from writing, but when I feel that I have become a master of my craft with numerous masterpieces to back that claim up. But what a person calls themselves is a decision that everyone has to make for themselves and they can only then, do their best to find those who agree...writer or author.


  1. It's just another false distinction. I prefer using the word author about myself, but that's just me.

    Perhaps authors write stories and writers may write anything, like ads and stuff.

    Pretty much like a drummer and percussionist.

    I write articles and all kinds of stuff, too, though, so I guess I'm both an author and writer...

  2. I'm more than anything a Storyteller, but that isn't everything I am, far from it.

  3. I love the difference between each of you and your take on 'writer' and 'author'. I remember his article and thought it was an interesting take on the definition of the two words.

    I've always called myself a writer because I wasn't published. Once I was published, I could call myself an author.

    But now I believe that if you write, you're an author. If you call yourself an author, then you ARE an author and you'll be more prone to actually writing.

    I especially love the part of this piece where it talks about writers being everywhere. The funny thing is, I have a couple writer friends, but that's ONLY because I've found them through a WRITING forum. If I hadn't found them through that medium, then I would have NO writing friends and wouldn't know anyone who wrote.

    So..it's all a matter of perception.

  4. I'm a person. Sometimes I write things and share them online. I take payment in the form of clicks and comments. Never thought much about words to call myself. And now that I think about it, it seems a weird and alien concept. I am me. Sometimes I am the universe and sometimes I am nothing, but I am always me.

    I don't know about dictionary definitions, but don't the words writer and author mean pretty much the same thing? The word for a producer of a written work that you use if you don't know their real name or username or whatever? That's how I use the words - randomly choose which one to use each time. Probably has something to do with which sounds better in the sentence I'm currently writing.

    Gotta say - money means nothing to me. I have enough to pay for shelter and food and books and a computer and an internet connection, and beyond that I don't see how it makes a difference to anything or has to do with what words people want to call themselves.

  5. @Misty Well, I think that for the purposes of definition, yes, writer and author do mean the same thing, but the connotation is different.