Every author knows that without readers he or she isn’t really an author. Usually the distinction between an author and a writer is that the author sells what he or she writes. I suppose intention also needs to be considered because a writer may write something without any intention of publishing it while an author writes with the a potential reader is mind. The distinction is important these days when anyone with a computer and enough spare time to write a manuscript can eventually upload it and press the publish button. Technology has forever blurred the demarcation between author and writer. Although it creates a plethora of material from which a reader may choose it has also overwhelmed the public with choices.
A possible criterion for a new definition of author might be a writer who has been published (whether through a publisher or self-published) and has sold a piece of writing for the purpose of having it widely distributed to a base of fan established solely from publication of his or her writing. With this definition, personal friends and family members who purchase books based on a relationship apart from the usual reader/author connection would be excluded from the determination.
My point is that with million of books now being published each year, the vast majority of which are offered through self-publishing, the term author needs to be qualified for the sake of a reader’s understanding. With upwards of 70% of all books published fail to recover production costs – and that figure is probably going up as more and more people self-publish – the simple ability to publish a book should not make someone an author. This is not intended to dismiss the work of self-published authors. Some are highly successful. But they are successful because they do something well that has nothing to do with whether he or she has self-published. They have established a credential as an author with their readers.
It is no surprise to authors and writers alike that what we do is not an lucrative enterprise. Even for successful authors, by the time one composes, revises, edits, revises again, edits again and then submits a manuscript for publication the author has earned far less than minimum wage. But successful authors, those who have an enduring kind of brand – don’t write for the money. The readers is the focus and perhaps that is what truly makes someone an author instead of just a writer.
Authors are professional writers who create works with the intention of sharing them with their readers. That may be the best definition of what an author is. It removes the crass necessity of selling books from the equation at the point of inception for a written work and delivers something for the reader to determine its success or failure . You see, if given the choice, most true authors would prefer being read and appreciated to making any money on the transaction. These days, so few authors make a living solely from writing that it is clearly not money that com els us to write. So, that brings me to the real point of this blog post – the importance of readers.
Without a reader an author is a failure. There is a relationship created when an author convinces someone to read his or her book. In some ways it is similar to asking for a first date. If the date goes well there may be another date and another and son on until it is a serious relationship based on trust – that the author will provide for the reader’s need for a certain sort of diversion.
Readers need to escape for whatever time from whatever they are dealing with in real life. A well-conceived story offers that. You see, at some point a writer must evolve into an entertainer in order to attain the next level, authorship. Whether he or she writes fiction or non-fiction the ability to tell a story is paramount to the development. I’ve often heard other authors tell me that the highest praise they can receive from a reader is being called a storyteller.
It is the quality of the story that compels a reader to read on to the conclusion, write reviews praising a particular work and recommend the read to friends. That part of the process of building a fan base is sorely lacking in modern publishing where almost anyone can become an author without much more effort than merely writing something. Why so many authors fail to sell is that a book to succeed it doesn’t need huge launch events, blog tours or full page ads in major market newspapers – although those things may contribute to a enticing new readers to try a book. What must happen at some point in the process of building an authors reputation is for a reader to like a book enough that he or she convinces three or more people to read the book and, subsequently, those three or more people convince three or more people each to also read the book – an so on. That and only that supersedes all the hype. That creates a viral effect of popularity necessary for a book to become a best seller and its author to earn a living doing what he or she loves most, writing.
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