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The terms “writer” and “author” tend to be used interchangeably. Even experienced writers and published authors may not know the difference between the two. Though the difference between a writer and an author is subtle, it’s an important distinction for anyone from freelance writers to New York Times bestselling authors to understand.

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What Is a Writer?

Simply put, a writer is a person who engages in the process of writing. If you spend your days writing books, novellas, or short stories—you are a writer. If your writing routine consists of waking up in the morning and jotting down an entry in your journal or outlining your next story—you are a writer. A writer doesn’t even have to write their own original ideas; if you’re a journalist, ghostwriter, blogger, or screenwriter, the subject matter and central idea of your piece of writing may come from someone else—but you’re still a writer. Anyone who engages in the writing process, regardless of whether or not their work is published, is technically a writer.

What Is an Author?

An author is someone whose written work has been published. In addition to producing published work, people who write are considered authors when they originate the ideas and content of their written work. For this reason, most authors are writers, but not all writers are considered to be authors.

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What Is the Difference Between a Writer and an Author?

It might seem that the difference between a writer and author has something to do with the amount of time you spend writing, whether you’re a nonfiction or fiction writer, or whether you give yourself a pen name. This is not the case. The primary difference between a writer and an author has to do with whether or not your work is published.

If you’ve written dozens of science fiction novels, children’s books, and various literary pieces—but none of them have ever been published—you are technically a writer. However, if your next book is distributed by the publishing industry, that act of publishing makes you an author. In the era of self-publishing, it’s easier than ever to be considered an author without ever having to interact with traditional publishing companies.

Want to Learn More About Writing?

Become a better writer with the Masterclass Annual Membership. Gain access to exclusive video lessons taught by literary masters, including Neil Gaiman, David Baldacci, Joyce Carol Oates, Dan Brown, Margaret Atwood, David Sedaris, and more.

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