When You Know You’re An Author
by Jack Remick
I’ve talked to many writers who say they knew from the day they read their first story they wanted to be…no…were destined to be authors. I’m not one of those. I came to writing late in my development as an artist. I was first a musician, then a reader, then a writer.
I like to make a distinction between “writer” and “published author”. We all write either poetry or letters, short stories or novels, journals or memoirs, sometimes we just write. But the truth of that distinction hit me at a conference where I pitched my book to an agent. She said: “It’s not a book until it has an ISBN, until then it’s a manuscript.”
That’s a big signpost on the road to being an author. Manuscript to book. It’s also a watershed in your thinking about your work because if you’re a writer who has written a novel and you want to sell it, you have to know that it’s the series that makes you an author. Yes. A writer writes a novel. An author pens a series.
In my case, I knew I was an author the day I signed the contract for my California Quartet. Four manuscripts that would turn into books with ISBNs from a publisher and be marketed as a set. In a way, this tells you that one novel sells the next one.
Here’s another way to look at it—the road from manuscript to book, from writer to author parallels, in a strange way, the metamorphosis of an insect. The manuscript starts out as an idea that morphs into a story that changes into a novel before ending up as a book on a shelf. The writer has to go through that metamorphosis as well. If you look at the project anywhere along the way, you’d never guess that the worm will turn into that glittery butterfly. We’re a lot like that—wriggling writers becoming authors. All those ideas grow and change and we change along with them.
But when do you know you’re an author?
It can’t be just that ISBN. It can’t be that series of novels searching for a readership. It has to be more than a good review. I think you know you’re an author the day the writers around you ask how you did it—and you can tell them.
A while back I was at a barbecue with Joyce Thompson who wrote Bones and other books. I met David Guterson over a plate of spicy ribs. He asked me what I was working on. I told him I’d just published a collection of short stories. He said, “So you know what it’s like.”
That’s the day you know you are an author—when you can share the pain and struggle, understand the rejection and the anguish of the metamorphosis. Yes. You’re an author when you know what it’s like.
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Genre – Women’s Fiction
Rating – PG
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