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Are Self-Published Authors Real Authors?

Recently, I saw a question on Maryland Writers’ Association’s Facebook page asking something that should never have to be asked. Not because it's so horrific, only stupid.

It revolved around one of the most ridiculous prejudices in the literary world…

Are self-published authors real authors?

In full disclosure, in case you’re not a regular reader here, I am a self-published author. But my designation of the question as a ridiculous prejudice has nothing to do with my pride or delicate feelings.

Instead, it's about vocabulary and common sense.

I’ll support those statements down below, while simultaneously insulting self-published authors and traditionally published authors alike.

Hold on, writers. It’s about to get real.


First off, here’s the full post that started it all, as written by MWA member Scott F.

Question: Do you view self-published writers to be actual “authors”? I self-publish my writing because I prefer the control I have that I wouldn’t if there were an editor and publishing house publishing things. However, I recently attended a writer’s conference where they made it clear you weren’t really an “author” if you self-published. What say the MWA gang?

While the MWA gang had a variety of answers, here’s the reality: Yes. Self-published authors are real authors. And it’s very silly to say otherwise.

As proof, here’s the definition (since you apparently have to pay to use The Oxford English Dictionary online):


  1. a person who writes a novel, poem, essay, etc.; the composer of a literary work, as distinguished from a compiler, translator, editor, or copyist.

  2. the literary production or productions of a writer: to find a passage in an author.

  3. the maker of anything; creator; originator: the author of a new tax plan.

  4. Computers. the writer of a software program, especially a hypertext or multimedia application.

verb (used with object)

  1. to write; be the author of: He authored a history of the Civil War.

  2. to originate; create a design for: She authored a new system for teaching chemistry.

There you go. That’s the full description. I left nothing out, even the entries that weren’t relevant.

Did you see anything in there about having to be traditionally published in order to be a real author? For that matter, did you see anything in there about publishing at all?

Nope. You didn’t. And neither did I.

It’s just not there.

By now, it’s clear there’s a major stigma to being self-published. And where there are stigmas, there’s bound to be misinformation, such as this response to the previously cited post:

I think it depends on a few things: success, the amount of editing and resources put into it, etc. I will say, having worked for an agent and also knowing people who do book reviews for publications like The Washington Post – most reputable publications and book blogs will NOT review self-published books, and most agents do not look fondly upon self-published authors. But there are exceptions.

Back to that stigma against self-published authors for a moment, I actually understand it. Too many self-published books are badly written and/or badly edited.

It’s true that many traditionally published books can be badly written and/or badly edited as well. Yet those examples still have some sort of polished professionalism to them. In short, it’s clear they had an editor.

Even so, the status of author isn’t defined by editing. Or resources. Or whether The Washington Post will review one’s work. Or if the traditional publishing world accepts you.

It’s defined by whether you wrote something. If you wrote a story, you’re an author. If you published a story, you’re a published author.

It’s only in question what kind of reception you’ll get in the process.

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