success is in the eye of the beholder

Answers to questions in Friday’s open q&a anon — in random order and as they come….

Meanwhile – unpublished or pre-published – is there a difference or is it just semantics?

30 responses to “success is in the eye of the beholder

  1. In my ignorance I’d have assumed ‘pre-published’ meant sold, but not yet printed; possibly an ARC or first submission draft of something.

    • In the article where this term came up, both terms were used to refer to aspiring writers.

      • That’s pretentous crap.
        “Pre-published” implies “yes, they will get published!” And all of us in the industry know that is unmitigated BS. There is not the slightest possible chance that they will all get published (assuming the real definition of “published”; i.e. the author earns money).
        (Yes, I feel quite strongly about this–can you tell? Seriously, I’m not in favor of discouraging all aspiring writers, but I think it’s much more cruel to keep puffing their hopes unrealistically. There’s nothing wrong with being a hobbyist writer, and implying that there’s something wrong with people who aren’t on the publishing track is just insidious.)

  2. If you don’t have a PNL at a reputable house I’d say you’re just plain ol’ unpublished. Pre-publishing to me sounds like pre-production of a novel that’s been given the go and you have a target date for distribution.
    In other semantic conventions, I like writer vs author as well. I think most folks (most that I know) reserve the title of author for those that have hit the shelves. What drives me cuckoo is seeing ‘aspiring writer’. What the hell is aspiring writer? Does that mean you’re not capable of writing and aspire to write a full-length novel one day? Sorry, I’m being Yoda-ish: write or do not, there is no aspire.

    • My theory is that if you write, you are a writer. So an aspiring writer is someone who wants to write someday, but hasn’t gotten around to it yet?
      As for “author,” it depends a lot of which dictionary definition you choose. Could go either way.
      Frankly, I think it’s all semantics 🙂

    • I just call myself a writer. Or a professional writer, if I need to make a distinction.
      “Author” sounds so… pretentious to me. Not when applied to somebody else (“Bob is an author”) or in the sense of “I’m the author of–“, but “I am an author!”
      And yeah, I’d go with unpublished unless there’s a book sold.

      • “Author” sounds so… pretentious to me.
        Neh! Come on eBear, Je suis l’auteur de plusieurs romans. Je ne m’associerai pas à l’auteur commun. <— now that's pretentious!

      • I think I tend to use “writer” to describe the person and “author” in relation to the book — “he’s the author of [book],” not “he’s the writer of [book].” Which is a roundabout way of saying I agree; “author” for the person sounds kind of pretentious.

  3. I’d agree with feyandstrange. And in regard to the article, technically I’m an aspiring author, but I’m also unpublished and not pre-published, so I’m not sure that definition is exclusive to either.
    Of course, technically, you could also say that I’m not an author at all, but just a writer.

    • Author always sounds like Actor, with capitals, as in ‘I am an AcTor, darling, and I always wear black polo necks and smoke Gitanes.’
      I’d call myself a writer.

  4. Unpublished, for me.
    I can write and write and write and submit, but there’s no guarantee that I will be published someday. Sometimes I say “not yet published” because it implies I’m trying, without saying that I WILL be. Pre-published sounds like what the person above me stated–someone who is not yet in print, but has the contract and what-have-you. Ultimately, in all honesty, I think “pre-published” is a little pretentious and trying to make more out of something that’s not.
    But that’s just me, and your mileage may, and can, vary.
    -Unpublished writer.

  5. I agree with the consensus — you are either published or you are not. If you’re never published at all, but are still trying to be, how can you be prepublished? Makes no sense to me.
    Teri *still a writer, not an author, but working on changing that*

  6. Personally, I find the term “prepublished” sorta embarrassing when it’s applied to aspiring pros.

  7. Unpublished or aspiring are both good terms. But pre-published seems presumptuous and tacky.

  8. In my opinion, “pre-published” is to authors what “pre-owned” is to cars. Why not just call it what it is — a used car? I call myself unpublished. “Aspiring” feels a little too desperate, but maybe that’s just me.

  9. Semantics. Pre-published always had such a pretentious sort of ring to it, it made me twitch. Taking into account of course, the fact that my first experience with the term was within RWA and used solely to refer to unpublished writers. If someone was using it to refer to an individual who has a contract but whose book hasn’t been released yet, then perhaps there is a difference.

  10. Semantics. Pre-published seems like a term used by someone who thinks unpublished would make them sound like a wannabe.

  11. Prepublished seems like as good a short-hand for ‘I’ve sold a book, the rest is pretty much up to the editor, copy editor, book designer, marketing team… etc’ as anyone’s likely to coin. I’ve known a few writers going through the nervous anticipation between unpublished and published, and it can be at least as long as pregnancy and as worrisome.
    On reflection, I might use prepublished myself if I get to that point, because I could, I think, manage a smile and possibly even try for that joke comparison with pregnancy, where I’d feel uncomfortable with claiming to be published — plenty of writers discover the hard way that sold doesn’t equal out-in-print-published. And I wouldn’t want to say I was unpublished because I’d want to be included in the sorts of conversations people are more likely to have with people who’re published. But I’d have serious trouble blurting out ‘my book should be out in Fall 2008’ to everyone I meet, before they’ve shown any interest in knowing that much about me. (I’m from Yorkshire, so my cultural comfort levels may be somewhat different — the answer for me might well be not mixing with other writerfolk until the safe delivery of my book to the shops :o) ).
    Which I guess is a long explanation for — I think it’d be nice if the two terms kept distinct meanings.
    But I doubt they will.
    Kat (edited because I managed to use the wrong icon)

  12. Believe me, I know from pretentious, and even I would cringe at being called “pre-published.”

  13. I’ve always felt pre-published was pretentious, a label that implied you were somehow too good to be merely unpublished.
    When I was unpublished I told people I was an unpublished writer, trying to break into the business. I didn’t need a special label to make me feel better about myself.

  14. I’ll agree with (pretty much) everyone else — it’s just semantics. “Prepublished” has the implication that publication is just ’round the corner, but I think it refers to the same real-world situation as “unpublished.” (And I also agree that I’d avoid using “pre,” though I’d never heard the phrase until reading this post.)

    • (Though I’ll note that in linguistics, “semantics” refers to the logical meaning of a word and its reflection in the real world, roughly, so I want to say instead “It’s just pragmatics.” But I digress.)

  15. is pre-published a real word with a real meaning? it sounds like a rather crusty and dry crumb of comfort. Maybe it’s to distance the idea from unpublished implying unpublishable 😉

  16. I didn’t quit aspiring when I started having short stories published. Should I manage to get novels published, I think still aspiring will be a good idea then, too. Some of the worst things that happen to writers’ books happen because they have stopped aspiring.
    Pre-published is either pretentious or confusing (on the “does it imply a contract?” question) or possibly both.
    So I’m a published short story writer and an unpublished novelist. Pre-publishing can be left to others, and when I stop aspiring, I’ll be dead.

    • Semantica
      I think of it this way… Write is a verb. If you’re doing the verb, then you’re a writer. If you’ve done the verb to completion, then you have authored something, making you an author. If you’re an aspiring author, I would say you’re aspiring to finish something someday, more power to you.
      Calling yourself prepublished sounds to me like you’re saying “yes, someday I’m going to write a book that will be immediately picked up and published with no work on my part.” Where as aspiring writer sounds like you’ve thought about writing, but haven’t done more than start a blog with “writer” somewhere in the title. Such as “Dreams and whimsies of an aspiring, prepublished writer.” (barf)

  17. Unpublished reflects a state of reality — and can be modified by such phrases as “unpublished in novel-length fiction” or “unpublished in the romance genre”.
    Prepublished reflects a state of wishfulfillment — someday I will be published yet am not now, but I’m getting ready for when it happens. When wish fulfillment coincides with reality (you have sold a book but it won’t be out for another 2 years) it’s an annoying but apt term. When wish fulfillment has no connection to reality (you believe you’ll be published — someday — but no editor/agent/publishing professional has given you a hard and fast expectation of when that day will arrive) it’s pretentious, arrogant, and most likely damaging, in that you need to negotiate your eventual book sales in a shared bit of common reality, and using terms that accurately reflect reality is necessary.

  18. To me, ‘prepublished’ doesn’t sound so much arrogant, as rather sad. It’s a mantra chanted to the mirror every morning — “I’m a great writer. I have talent. I’m not unpublished. I’m prepublished!” They write it on a post-it note for the edge of the computer.
    The power of positive thinking. Cotton candy minds. Mishy-mushy words.

  19. I wouldn’t concern myself with the details. Call yourself a writer. If someone wants details on whether you’re paid enough or published, to paraphrase a screenwriter, I’d tell them my career is a writer and my day job is whatever it is.
    It’s damaging to psyche to not call yourself a writer or an artist or painter b/c you’re not making bucks at it. It will hold you back if you let yourself fall into that trap.
    A better question would be: how do I become a great writer? If you make that your dominant thought, you will make advances over time. I believe Shakespeare and other great writers had this as their dominant thought or they would have never ascended to Olympian Heights.

    • Wonderful way to look at it.
      It might all be semantics, but labels do have an impact on your psyche and on the attitudes of those around you. Choose the one that does you the most good then move on to making yourself a better writer. It is too easy to get caught up on the how-to-get-published details and forget that the writing is the key. Yes, it is a business, but the business is all about the writing.
      I am a writer. The day I started defining myself that way, things in my life began to shift.

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