On Becoming an Author

Written by Emily Harstone | February 5, 2014

1au·thor

noun \ˈȯ-thər\

: 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)
(From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

I receive emails all the time asking me what it means to be an author. People ask me if self publishing makes them an author? They ask me if publication in a single literary journal makes them an author. I also receive messages on our Facebook page from writers who have published once in a literary journal, so they would like us to know that they don’t need our magazine – they already are published.

I think an author is anyone who writes on a regular basis, and publishes work at least once every year or so (longer, of course, if they are a novelist). However that is not what the emails are asking me about, they are not interested in the dictionary definition or even my personal definition, they are interested in knowing if they qualify them as an author in the professional sense of the word.

This is a complicated question. I think every writer and poet that I know asks themselves this question, unless their third bestseller just hit the market. It is hard because being a writer of any sort is very different from holding down a normal job.

Even most successful writers, people who have published bestselling novels and become poet Laureate of the United States, still have to have another job.  Most of the time that other job is teaching or being a journalist. However that job could also be a completely different field, such as health care or banking.

When you are a writer I think you earn the title of author by being regularly published, even if you are not earning a living through your work. That is fine. Your words are entering the world and affecting other people, which for me is the whole point.