Let us begin this discussion by talking about one of the questions we come across very often:
‘What is the difference between a writer and an author?’
If you search for Indian Writing in Google, the results might further confuse you, because the responses feature some of the most prominent Indian authors. This further leads us to question it all again, albeit a bit differently, ‘Is there any difference between a writer and author, at all?
In the words of American fantasy and science fiction author A. Lee Martinez, “Those who write are writers.” And there cannot be a better suited explanation of that term. Taking it forward with the same simplicity, an author is someone whose writing has been published. Is that all? Well, no. There are many types of writers and authors and in all honesty, many a times, the thin line of demarcation between too is actually blurry.
Let’s talk about the similarities first. Both are writers, to start with. Both can be writing on topics/themes, which are not entirely their own. Both express their ideas or thoughts through the written word.
Now, let’s try to look at the differences. While anyone who writes is a writer, an author is someone whose work has been published and has been credited for the same, officially. A writer can be writing for someone else and many never be credited for his/her work. An author owns the copyright to the work produced, while a writer may or may not own the copyright depending on the nature of the work. The ultimate goal of an author is to have book to their credit, while for a writer it need not be a book always.
It won’t be wrong to conclude, an author is a subset of a writer. This brings us back to our main question – then what is the difference between them. Let’s try to decode this by first talking about their types.
Types of Writers
In this category of writers itself there are multiple sub-categories which co-exist. Some are as follows:
- Hobby writers – Their blogs are largely personal and tend to be more like an online journal of their life and other areas of interest. Some aspiring authors also fall into the category as it helps form a reader base and also helps in the habit of writing daily before finally writing a book. These blogs need not have monetization as a goal. They are purely to have an online platform of their own to share their thoughts/ writings and other such things.
- Subject Matter Experts – These blogs are full of content on a subject where the writer is an expert on. For e.g. a Chartered Accountant has a blog where they share tips about investments, tax planning and other financial matters. Such blogs can be monetized and hold a lot of value is adding to the writer’s branding credentials.
Sumit Bansal started as a blogger specializing in Microsoft Excel at Excel Spreadsheets. Trumpexcel has become amongst the best Excel blogs in the world and enabled Sumit to quit his full-time job at IBM and live a life of freedom he always wanted.
(#ICYMI – Sumit Bansal leads the Blogging Workshop at the Himalayan Writing Retreat where he simplifies the art of effective blogging and decodes the secret of creating a blog which can be monetized successfully)
Archana Doshi – She started a Food blogger and today she is a successful entrepreneur in cooking business where she takes cooking classes and collaborates with brands and famous chefs to discover new creations.
- Domain specialists– This is different than the one above in the sense that these blogs have a broad category while the Subject Matter Experts’ blogs are usually about a narrower niche.
So, say for e.g. I have a tech blog – Tech is a domain specialization. But I am an expert at UNIX and that makes me a Subject Matter Expert in UNIX. Now I have the choice of either blogging on Tech at large or only on UNIX. When I choose the latter, my blog falls in the second category and if I chose the former, it falls in this category. Some domain specialists in India are:
- Business Blog writers – The Himalayan Writing Retreat’s blog is a perfect example of Business Blog Writing where the blog might not the primary source of income but is a value add to the current business (In this case, of writing workshops) by providing supplementary information.
Copywriters are specialists in writing logical and convincing information on a range of topics. They are able to simplify complex information to educate the reader and induce him to take action. Copywriters write website copy, articles for blogs and printed media and even, sales collateral.
They specialize in generating content in any form. Starting from social media posts to designing quizzes and contests, they seem to do it all. They are a whiz when it comes to mastering the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and are also absolutely hands on about what is trending on the internet including different social media sites. You can read more about them and understand how they work from our blogpost on Seven ways to earn money as writers.
Though not much different from a content writer, they usually specialize in a specific category like and write for various platforms instead of their own blogs. Some of the types of creative writers are:
- Fashion Writers
- Academic writers
- Health Writers
- Gender Studies Writers
- Travel Writers
- Food Writers
- Literary Writers
- Longform Writers
The plausible list of the types of creative writers can actually run into pages and as is evident from their titles, their niche is predominantly evident in their body of work. Some of them might also specialize in more than one category.
This is a unique type of writer. They write articles, papers and at times even books but the original idea is not theirs. They are never credited for their work officially. The ideas/ outlines can be originally from the client or from the agency they work for. Ghost writers do have impeccable research skills along with strong writing skills which makes them sought-after in the industry. Many prominent PR firms also hire them to create content which is later published in names of different celebrities and brands.
Journalists are also essentially writers who investigate on current issues and events before sharing a reportage on them for the readers. They can be further categorized based on their specialization like entertainment, health, international news affairs, finance etc.
While India has had many a prominent journalist, some of the names that immediately come to mind are that of Ravish Kumar, who won Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2019 while another prominent journalist is Barkha Dutt who came into limelight after her reports on the Kargil war in 1999.
They are perhaps the most famous type of writer after an author. Though many might not know, they are vital for effective communication in any media and not just for cinema, TV and radio. They ensure the message is communicated effectively through the medium chosen by them which can be podcasts, advertisements, movies, short films etc.
Technical writers straddle two areas – one, of technology and two, of explaining it to the non-technical reader. Their expertise makes them understand the technology of the product in depth, and their fluency with words helps them explain it’s working simply and well. Technical writers write guides, FAQs and manuals.
Type of Authors
Coming to authors, the various type of authors is pretty evident the moment you walk into any bookstore where books are arranged as per genre with the top most shelf usually displaying the bestsellers of that category. So, you have a romance author, a mystery author, mythology author etc. This is irrespective of the language they write in and the mode of publishing chosen by them. However, essentially authors are of four types:
This is by far the largest category under which the works of some of the best-selling authors can also be featured. Any writer whose book is fictitious and essentially tells a story falls in this category.
Authors whose books which are a collection of essays on different topics, travelogues, cookery books etc. are non-fiction authors.
Again, here it is important to note that non-fiction authors may or may not keep writing books all their lives. They could be experts who are sharing their knowledge or expertise through one book or end up keep writing more than one.
Non-fiction Author in collaboration
Being an expert in your field means being able to show the lesser known aspects of your field/ industry to the world. Such experts are also hired to write books by publishing companies or celebrities to further add to their cause or idea. Like a prominent actress hiring a famous entertainment journalist to write her memoir, or the CEO of a hugely successful start-up being asked to write a book based on the lessons and/or the journey by the publishing house.
There are two major differences here. One, they might just end up writing only one book and are not essentially authors who will keep writing all their lives. And two, they are credited as the author of the book despite writing it on somebody else’s idea.
Poets who have published their poems are also considered as authors.
It interesting to note that we have a lot of Indian writers who fall in all of these categories having experimented with genres and different styles of writing successfully.
Manjula Padmanabhan who is a playwright, children’s book writer and fiction writer. While Arundhati Roy also has dabbled in essays and fiction novels. Shashi Tharoor has written both fiction and non-fiction with equal elan along with Ruskin Bond.
To conclude, writing is an art and anybody who dabbles in it is a writer. The forms might vary but at the core of it remains the love for the written word.
In the famous words of the NY times best-selling author Katherine Neville,