30 September 2007

When are you...

When are you a writer? When do you get to use the title? When are you published?

These questions get asked a lot, and sadly, many of the answers I can give to them involve that amorphous "eye of the beholder" thing.

When are you a writer? Do you write? I don't mean shopping lists and e-mails to your buddies here. I mean, do you sit down and write, for some reason outside of necessity? Do you enjoy writing it? It doesn't matter if it's an essay on world peace, a poem, an article, a short story or a novel. Do you want to write? Do you want people to read it, whether or not you want to be paid for it? If you've answered 'yes' to all the questions in this paragraph, you have every right to call yourself a writer. That doesn't make you a professional writer, but it means you have the passion for writing. Having a passionate person that will never publish call herself a writer in no way diminishes me as a writer. Why would it?

When are you a professional writer? Ah...I brought it up. I should answer it. A professional writer sees writing as a career, at least as a professional pursuit, even if it's one that might never pay the rent. A professional writer learns about the market, hones his/her craft, learns the expectations and what the terms mean and applies them correctly. A professional writer has a professional bearing: doesn't submit in IM-speak, doesn't throw temper tantrums and...dare I say it...doesn't play the prima donna with publishers. A professional author accepts reasonable edits and is knowledgeable enough to know when the suggested edits are wrong and why they are.

When are you a published author? This one is more difficult. Whether or not something is published varies, depending on who you are talking to and what his/her mindset is. For instance, for the purpose of "publishing credits," this blog post is not published. If I wanted to pitch this same post as an article to a magazine, I have "published it," in that I have offered it for consumption in a public forum, and as such, I have extinguished my first rights on it. It's now a reprint.

So, what can you use as a publishing credit?

If you have published with a paying magazine or anthology, even if the payment is a small stipend and a copy or two, it's a publishing credit. If it's a well-known magazine and/or semi-pro or pro rates, that steps the credit up a notch.

If you've had work published (and paid for) in a newspaper, it's a publishing credit. If you've worked for the paper as a regular correspondent, step it up a notch.

If you've had work published with a royalty-paying press (not self/subsidy/vanity here, but we'll get back to that one), it's a publishing credit. If you've won awards, reviewed well and/or sold well, move that credit up a notch. Some people move it up a notch, if you've published with a NY conglomerate. Some will take any reputable royalty-paying press at about equal value. (NOTE: This includes indie/e-publishing.)

If you've had a work published self/subsidy/vanity, you've hit a sticky point. According to Dee Power's yearly interview with agents and editors, many do not consider self/subsidy/vanity a valid credit. Caveat... If the book is an award-winner, has won the jackpot for sales in self/subsidy/vanity or otherwise distinguishes itself as outstanding (and not just by being a good book, unfortunately), it is a publishing credit.

You see, some things people will tell you are not publishing credits will BECOME publishing credits, if they serve the purpose. Examples?

If you've written tech manuals for a company that were not "published" in the larger sense, and you go on to write a fiction book that depends on that machine or computer program to swing the plot line...or you write a non-fiction book on the same subject, those tech manuals are a writing credit, since they establish you as knowledgeable in the field you are writing about.

If you maintain a blog or newsletter (online or in print) on a subject that you're writing about, it can also show you as a consummate researcher and expert/recognized in your field.

Hoping you all get to the point where you have so many publishing credits you can pick and choose which to bother telling people about!

BTW, my latest credit of note... Fairy Dreams is currently #3 in Fantasy at Fictionwise!

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