Are you a writer or an author?





I always thought the words were interchangeable.  Apparently not.

I watched the African-American Publishing Panel discussion from the Harlem Book Fair  on Book TV last Saturday night.  The panelists were Carol Mackey (Editor-in-Chief, Black Expressions Book Club),  Zane  (Author and Publisher, Strebor Books) and  Charmaine Parker (Publishing Director, Strebor Books).

All of these panelists share a working relationship and  either write, publish or sell books by African-American authors. Charmaine Parker is Zane’s older sister.

But Zane is the star.  She sells a lot of books, hers and those of other writers.  She established her own publishing house, which is now an imprint of Simon & Schuster.  She is one savvy person when it comes to the book business.

Here’s how Zane’s Amazon Author Page describes her:

Zane is the author of Addicted, The Sex Chronicles, Gettin’ Buck Wild, The Heat Seekers, The Sisters of APF, Shame on It All, Nervous, Skyscraper, Afterburn, and Love Is Never Painless and is also the editor of Chocolate Flava and Caramel Flava. She is the publisher of Strebor Books, an imprint of Atria Books/Simon & Schuster, and lives in the Washington, D.C., area with her family. Visit her website at

In the middle of the panel discussion,  Zane brought up the issue of the difference between a writer and an author.  All three of the panelists were of the same mind:  A writer is a person who sits somewhere and writes books.  Whereas, an author is a person who knows how to present herself to people who are looking to buy books. Zane used several examples about events she attended where she had to instruct her writers about how to act like authors.

In East Texas, we would say that an author is a person who knows how to work the room, a person who can connect to people.  As Zane explained the process, it is all about accessibility.  An author on a high horse isn’t likely to sell many books.

And she wants her authors to sell books.

That’s where they left the discussion.  They focused on working the room.

But how does an author work a digital room?

That’s the sixty-four thousand dollar question for eBook authors.   You can’t shake hands in cyberspace, slap someone on the back, read body language.  I truly believe this “cutoff-ness” from potential readers is the main thing that makes selling digital books tough.

So, how does an independent writer make the transition to author?  How does he or she connect with readers to the extent that they feel like they have been in a room together, like they know and trust each other?

Whoever figures that one out will sell a lot of books.




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  • Caleb Pirtle

    As they do say in East Texas. I do know how to work the room. I’m just looking for rooms.

  • Rooms? The heart knows nothing of space or time or dimensional properties. If you write from that place within you that seeks solace of like-minded souls, connection will be made and trust will build over time. Face to face in the physical is not required. I’ve always thought that all I needed in this wide world was one room with a computer, tall ceiling preferred, stars on my walls, and a ladder to God, these words.

  • I used to think that I was a writer until I got published, then I would be an author. I wrote all kinds of stuff. Ad copy. Instruction manuals. How to guides. But, writing a book? That was for authors. However, I think I’m beginning to see what they (the panel in your posting) is talking about. Especially now that “anyone” can be published. I guess what they’re saying is that a writer is an author when they “connect” to the readers. That said, I suppose I was an “author” when someone purchased something because of the ad copy I wrote or they successfully used a product following the instructions I wrote. I must admit, my writing earned a helluva lot more in those days.

  • John Crawley

    The greatest calling in the world is to be a writer. To be an author only means you have been published. To write is to succumb to the muse within and obey its command to write, write and write.

  • Ashley Zacharias

    I prefer the published/unpublished to distinguish authors from writers. I wouldn’t say that J.D.Salinger or Harper Lee weren’t real authors because they didn’t present themselves to the public and “work rooms”.

  • Christina Carson

    Whatever a writer is versus an author, it will be a personal take since no where has that distinction been marked in stone. To me selling/presenting is not inherent to either,merely a necessary sideline..

  • David Atkinson

    I’ve got to agree with Christina on that one. I am of the belief that a writer produces more than one type of work eg. poetry, non-fiction etc whereas an author is bound in books. The selling is to do with a whole different skill that has nothing to do with the art of writing but with the marketing of anything.

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