The difference between a writer and an author has been hotly debated for decades. While it can seem confusing, the answer is a little bit of both. The dictionary Merriam-Webster defines author as a person who has written something and published it. In other words, an author has written a book or article that has been printed and sold. However, it’s important to note that the same word can be used as a verb: to author means to write.
Writing is a very versatile skill that can be used in almost any field or industry. Some writers specialize in creating fiction or nonfiction books while others create journal entries, blogs, short stories, or even a script for a film. It all depends on what the individual writes and how they write it. Despite the wide range of writing genres, the term “writer” is often used interchangeably with “author,” as they both refer to someone who has created a piece of literary work.
In his famous lecture entitled “What is an author?”, French philosopher Michel Foucault discussed the social conditions of specific discursive practices, which are the circumstances at work in different kinds of writing. The concept of the author, he said, emerged out of these conditions. This led to the author function becoming a characteristic of certain kinds of writing, while not extending to others such as letter writing or other forms of communication.
Foucault further explained how we tend to classify writing according to the author function. In doing so, we lower the author to a position of primitive status, whereby his or her work is a sort of pre-existing meaning-maker. As a result, the writer himself or herself disappears into the writing process, which is no longer viewed as an activity requiring creativity and the production of a meaningful self-image.
Aside from being a noun and a verb, the term author can also be used as an adjective. For instance, people may describe an author as “famous,” “intelligent,” or “funny.” These adjectives all relate to the author’s level of success in their field.
It is also interesting to note that the term “author” is often used in a sense that suggests that he or she is a person who has an expert knowledge of a particular subject. This is why it is sometimes used in academic fields such as law or medicine. It is important to note that not all authors have expertise in their chosen subjects, and some writers actually hire professional writers to author their works for them. This is most common when working under a contract (such as writing a city tour guide for a municipality that owns the copyright of the finished product) or when using intellectual property owned by another party (such as a sequel to an already popular media franchise). In these cases, a ghostwriter is usually employed. It is also possible for a person to be considered an author without publishing or selling their work, such as when they create something and give it away for free.