For the challenge, I’m writing about learning to write fiction. At least, that is how I initially framed it. A more detailed answer is I’m writing about my journey to become a self-sustaining indie author by May 10, 2026. The measure of success is “can I retire to a final career as a writer of fiction on that date.” The ability to retire is where self-sustaining comes from. I want to do it as an independent author as opposed to traditional publishing. I’m not opposed to trad publishing per se, but for a variety of reasons, I do not think a trad publishing career was ever in the cards for me.
So, what is an author? It seems like an odd question. After all, an author is someone who writes things or perhaps creates more generally. God is often referred to as the author of our destiny or even of the world. That certainly goes beyond writing a book.
I also think it explains why “what is an author” is a valuable question.
I suppose the whole idea of communication is so intrinsic a part of what we do that a piece of writing which goes unread by others is like Bishop Berkeley’s tree falling where no human ear can hear it. If nobody reads it, it’s as if we hadn’t even written it.Lawrence Block, Writing the Novel from Plot to Print to Pixel
I think the thing that distinguishes the author from the writer is the author has an audience. God as the author of the world has all of us as witnesses. That is at the heart of Block’s statement. The painter without a show isn’t considered a non-painter. The musician who plays in their room for their own pleasure is still a musician.
But a writer who isn’t published isn’t an author. Perhaps this is unfair of the world. I do not think so. As a musician, I think I can hear my music in a way separate from it. As a writer, I do not think about my writing that way. I am too much in the fiction I write to ever be separate from it.
I think this is also the appeal of traditional publishing even after all the horror stories of royalty payments being an illusion, smaller and smaller advances, and being dropped if every book isn’t a breakthrough. A traditionally published author knows he has been read, even if only by his agent and his editor.
What does the independent writer have to prove he is read? Even with the loss of stigma to self-publishing in the eBook era, which derives both from the quality of the best and median indie work and the drop in trad publishing editing quality, the indie writer still does not know he has been read. He does not know he is an author.
That is why I call myself an S-list writer. While written in jest, Larry Correia’s Alphabetical List of Author Success carries an important truth. One of the best ways to distinguish authors from writers is they have brought in a certain amount of income from their writing. Traditional publishing only pays after an editor has read a book or other writing. Indie authors in Amazon Kindle Unlimited get paid by page reads. Indie authors elsewhere have to assume they have been read, but I think once you see a hundred or so copies it is safe to conclude at least one person has read you.
So, A is for author, a writer who is actively read or has been in the past. For the next twenty-nines join me to learn about my journey to becoming an author of fiction.