From The Bookseller:
At what point does a writer earn the right to declare they are A Writer without a self-deprecating smirk? When does a website of online fan fiction, run as a passion project, become part of The Publishing Industry? How many copies of your ebook do you have to sell before your mate, who sorted the cover, is A Bona Fide Book Designer?
The line between amateurs and professionals in the publishing world is increasingly blurry – and increasingly important to interrogate. As Dr Erika Fulop, a lecturer at Lancaster University who is studying the topic, told me: “we still live by the inherited dichotomy of amateur versus professional, despite a quickly changing literary ecosystem where its sense changes and its usefulness becomes questionable. It is important that we are aware of what would be best for us as authors, readers and critics. We have a role to play in what it becomes.”
. . . .
The first criteria mentioned when it came to defining the difference between amateur and professional was, unsurprisingly, cash. If you’re earning from your writing, then surely you’re a pro? But it quickly became clear that even this idea is fraught. The average earnings of a European author are £12,500 per year – a sum less than the UK’s full-time annual minimum wage. So if you can’t make a living off your earnings, are you really a pro?
The answer is, of course, yes. Throughout history, one-trick writers have always been incredibly rare beasts. With portfolio careers becoming the norm, people who make money from publishing – however little, in whatever medium – should not feel, just because they earn most of their crust from copywriting, shelf stacking or circus performing, that they are any less of an author than a white, middle-class, late-middle-aged man able to pursue his ‘vocation’ in a Highbury attic without the distraction of other, grubbier work. Yet there is still a surprising amount of shame around the truth that the career of a professional writer is necessarily diverse.
I’d argue, too, that you can certainly be professional without (yet) being paid. There’s an interesting parallel here with the startup world. In the tech industry, people who spend untold, unpaid hours labouring to bring their brilliant idea to the world are lauded as bold entrepreneurs, not sneered at as irresponsible amateurs. So aspiring writers looking to breed a bit of self-worth might do well to think of themselves as founders bootstrapping their own micro-startup.
Link to the rest at The Bookseller
PG may be completely out of touch and entirely missing the point, but he wonders why intelligent people spend what is apparently a lot of time discussing possible answers to the question in the title of the OP and this post.
PG says writers can label themselves any way they want to and suggests a label is, first and foremost, a marketing tool for a writer.
To assist in your marketing, PG hereby awards each visitor to The Passive Voice the Grand Prize for keen perspicacity and unmatched acumen as evidenced by their presence here.
There, now you are a prize-winning author. Or a prize-winning individual.
Go tell the world.