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Online Publishing: Author or Not?

Updated on March 4, 2012
Does clicking the "Publish Now" button make you a published author?
Does clicking the "Publish Now" button make you a published author?

Fellow Hubber toys-everywhere posed the question, "Does writing on Hubpages mean one is a published author?" to the HubPages community. An interesting thought, the question has raised some equally interesting answers. However, it also raises similar questions: Is a blogger an author? Are the random, nonsense, and intelligence-lacking status updates of hundreds of thousands of social media users given the same weight as well-researched books or literary novels allowing said users to call themselves authors? Should the words of an online writer be just as important as a traditionally published author? For that matter, given the money-making agenda of many publishing outlets, should the words of traditionally published authors be scrutinized? Before we can begin to develop answers to these questions, we first need to understand the difference between published and unpublished and what an author is.

Traditionally, "published" refers specifically to print media.
Traditionally, "published" refers specifically to print media. | Source
Technology provides new publishing possibilities, resulting in confusion about what mediums the term covers.
Technology provides new publishing possibilities, resulting in confusion about what mediums the term covers. | Source

Published vs. Unpublished

The internet allows us so many ways to type up any combination of words and share them with friends, family, and even total strangers the world over. To some, publishing is a matter of getting those words out there to a larger audience. In that case, anything you post online that a large audience can see is counted as published. However, is this really the case, or simply a misunderstanding of the medium that the internet provides?

Consider for a moment a student in a school who writes a poem for a class assignment. The teacher encourages said student to share with the class. The teacher then posts a copy of the poem on a bulletin board within the school where other students, staff, and visitors to the school read it. Does that count as a published poem? General consensus: shared, yes; published, no. The internet can work the same way. A user may post a poem to a message forum that is open to the public. Members of the forum as well as strangers who happen upon the forum will see it. Although we are talking about an internet place, the concept is still much the same as a student sharing a poem with the school in an unpublished format.

So what makes something published, then? Marriam-Webster dictionary explains publishing as a way of making something known such as through a public announcement. In the case of the school and message forum examples, we have a poem that is made generally known only to a small community. Marriam-Webster goes on to explain publishing as distributing (or preparing to distribute) to the public with an emphasis placed on print media. Again, the school and forum examples are only within small communities. To be fair, with these definitions of publishing, the poem may well be considered as published within the school and within the forum. Outside of those places, however, the work is still considered as unpublished.

What Does This Mean?

Take a look again at our questions regarding publishing. Random status updates on social networking sites are not published material. Yes, they may be considered as published within the social networking sites and those sites may well have a very large community. However, the status updates do not meet the required definition of published. Some status messages may well be viewed as published when they are shared on several sites and other online sources for mass distribution to the public. In other words, exceptions do exist with the vast majority of status updates being no more than regular communication between individuals and groups.

As for the validity and quality of published versus unpublished sources, there is no difference. Whether that poem was shared online within a small community or produced throughout the world and accessible in multiple languages does not make the difference. A published poem may well excel above an unpublished one, but many talented poets never share their work with another let alone have it published. In that case, any published writing should be taken with a grain of salt and cross-referenced in the same way as unpublished writing should.

Are articles written on HubPages considered published works? On HubPages, yes. In general, that will depend upon the effort (or lack thereof) you put into promoting your articles outside of HubPages including outside of the internet. This falls back into the small community problem. For the most part, only fellow Hubbers see your Hubs. Search engine traffic brings in a few strangers, like a visitor reading the bulletin board in the school. However, if you are advertising and promoting your articles to friends, family, your local community, and elsewhere, your work is not only available but also promoted to the public and thus falls under the definition of published (excluding the emphasis placed on print, of course).

All the original and creative thinkers out there who express their thoughts to share with the world are authors.
All the original and creative thinkers out there who express their thoughts to share with the world are authors. | Source

What is an Author?

The last definition of publishing is producing the work of an author, which leads us back to the question of whether writing on HubPages makes one a published author. Looking again to Marriam-Webster, we find author defined as an originator or creator and the writer of a literary work. The second definition is very specific as to what constitutes an author and would eliminate the idea that writing articles or Hubs makes one an author. However, when we look at that first definition, anyone who writes anything original and creative is an author.

Here is where connotations come in to make it all confusing. A blogger is not called an author (unless said blogger has published books in the past). A journalist who writes interesting, informative, original, and creative news articles is not called an author. A poet is not called an author. However, in all three of these examples of writers, they have all authored something. The blogger authors blog posts. The journalist authors news articles. The poet authors poems. Although the dictionary definition of the term author most certainly applies to these individuals, the title of author most often refers to one who has published books, novels, and the like.

Do you consider ALL Hubbers to be published authors?

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Going back to our questions about authors, we now have some answers. A blogger is an author by definition, but not generally referred to as such. Users who post status updates are not authors unless their updates are original and creative (which means that comparatively few users are authors). Can writers on HubPages be authors? Yes, but only if their Hubs are original and creative. Although there are checks in place to ensure there is no duplicate content in Hubs, originality and creativity are still fairly lacking. Take for example Hubs on Wiccan Sabbats. The Hubs may be original in that they offer different celebration ideas and the like and are not plagiarized copies. However, they are all about Wiccan Sabbats and usually all provide the exact same information in different ways. Some may be truly original, but most are just the usual.

The Final Answer

Whether on HubPages or any other online article writing medium, writing does not make one a published author. Writing for Hubpages makes one a writer. What sets the difference between just a writer and an author will depend upon the actions of the writer and how he or she creates and promotes his or her writing. Are some of us writers here on HubPages published authors? Absolutely. However, many of us are still just internet article writers. Whether you are a writer or a published author does not make you better or less than anyone else. Take pride in the fact that you are doing something you love and sharing it with the world. Ultimately, that is what will stand out the most.

Hub #2/30 of the March Challenge.

© 2012 Evylyn Rose


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    • Evylyn Rose profile image

      Evylyn Rose 5 years ago from Colorado, USA

      eric, glad I could provide a little inspiration. Be sure to share! I think one of the reasons behind using the term "author" without qualifications has become so rampant is more of retaliation against all those who receive the title of author who are not credible sources of information. It's a form of rebellion against the many publishing companies who are out there and putting writers whose work is questionable at best (and often riddled with typos and grammatical errors despite the use of paid editors) at the top for the sole purpose of selling and making more money. Publishing houses are businesses and have every right to do what is necessary to keep the businesses running, but their priorities are leaving many to lose respect for them.

      I disagree that this is a valid reason for using the title of author so loosely (thus my reason for writing this hub), but I do understand where such individuals are coming from. I would definitely enjoy to read a proposal for updating the titles and the differences between "author" and "writer." :)

    • profile image

      ericsomething 5 years ago

      Evylyn Rose, this is interesting stuff. I've been a journalist for many years, made my living at it, and didn't consider myself an author then. Nor do I now, even though I write a lot of online stuff. Now if I wrote an actual book -- even a compilation of my old material, then that may make me an author.

      Self-publishing and simple-to-use ebook tools may mean the "author" title is due for an update, but that's another subject for another day.

      "Author" is a title that carries qualifications. "Writer" is more of a state of mind -- you become a writer when you can declare yourself one without giggling. Shoot, you just gave me something to write about.

    • Evylyn Rose profile image

      Evylyn Rose 5 years ago from Colorado, USA

      Great comment,najordan! One does not have to be considered a published author to be a fantastic writer! So long as you enjoy what you're doing, continue to improve, and put your passion into it, that is what really matters. :) Thanks for sharing.

    • najordan89 profile image

      najordan89 5 years ago from Oklahoma

      Interesting article. Personally, I wouldn't consider any of my hubs enough to make me a published author, but that doesn't mean that I don't carefully think and articulate what goes into one of my hubs. I think hubpages is definitely a good place to get started by simply sharing your hubs.

      Saying all this feels weird though since I do have a short story of mine published in an online journal. However, hubpages makes me give more thought about my audience and who I wish to target.

    • Evylyn Rose profile image

      Evylyn Rose 5 years ago from Colorado, USA

      I can certainly understand that. I decided when I was 13 years old that I wanted to be a writer. It felt so right and so natural and was a positive way for me to share my passions with the world with the added bonus of helping others by touching their lives. However, the moment I mentioned this to my parents, their only "support" was to say "You know, writers don't make much money." I put off my dream because I had so little support and by the time I had others supporting me, I was convinced I needed to do whatever it took to make more money. Yes, the average writer does not make much money (and many of the greats are truly appreciated only after their deaths). However, I find that if it is your calling and your dream, the Universe will bring opportunities your way to ensure your needs are met.

      I hope you continue to push forward with your dream. You don't have to have a lot of money (or any money at all!) to be truly successful in life. :) And no worries on the language. Just keep improving on your English skills and one day no one will notice that you are not a native speaker. ;)

    • mistersun profile image

      mistersun 5 years ago from Jedda

      Most people here feel shy to show his profession as a writer if they can't make much money. Most people think that become a writer can't make much money. They think that writing is not profession, but only a hobby, except a journalist.

      I have wondered to be a writer since I was child, but people around judged that reading many books and writing can't make me able to make money.

      As a child, I felt that I was forced by people around to study in school to get diploma and then would be hired in a company or many else.

      So, my friends who were creative: able to paint well or wrote good poems or stories, hard to improve their skill.



      *I am sorry if my language is hard to understand, I am not an Engish native speaker

    • Evylyn Rose profile image

      Evylyn Rose 5 years ago from Colorado, USA

      Thanks for the comment, mistersun. That's an interesting story. Were they laughing because of his profession? Or because the books he was buying implied he did something else?

    • mistersun profile image

      mistersun 5 years ago from Jedda

      This is a very interesting discussion. I believe that an originals article published on the website or on the print media is a published work.

      I have story from my friend in writer association.

      One day, my friend came to a popular book store in my town, Jember. He was a blogger and had published some articles on print media. When he got to the cashier to pay for books he had bought, there's someone asked him after had look to the title of the books, "What's your profession?" He said, "I am a writer."

      He looked the cashier and some people around would laugh.

    • Evylyn Rose profile image

      Evylyn Rose 5 years ago from Colorado, USA

      Ruby, thanks for the comment. I definitely think the focus should be on our writing first and foremost. That is far more important than the titles and labels anyway. Some of the greatest writers in history did not become recognized and presented with labels of recognition until after their death. ;)

      anndavis, unfortunately, we agree as Hubbers to keep our hubs completely original. We can publish and unpublished hubs to suit our other writing ventures. When she chose to publish elsewhere writing that she previously published on HubPages, she had to, by the TOS she agreed to, unpublish it here. I think it's messed up that doing so would cause her score to go down, but there are other factors involved aside from having unpublished those hubs. At least now she has considerably more freedom with her published work to share it wherever and with anyone she chooses.

    • anndavis25 profile image

      anndavis25 5 years ago from Clearwater, Fl.

      I have read on another hubbers page that wrote a book and enclosed some of the hubs written on here. She was instructed that they had to be deleted. So she deleted them, and her score went way down after that.

    • Evylyn Rose profile image

      Evylyn Rose 5 years ago from Colorado, USA

      AEvans, by definition a poet is an author, but by title they are a poet. ;) Thanks for the comment!

      DzyMsLizzy, wonderful comment! When we take connotations into consideration there are so many, many meanings behind our words. As for the self-publishing becoming easier, I am happy to finally call myself a published author for having self-published a novel. It may be print-on-demand and not readily available in stores, but it can be ordered and I promote it at every opportunity. :) As demand for e-books become more popular, I believe self-publishing even in only that format should count.

      homesteadbound, I was the same way without giving it a whole lot of attention until the question came up. When I saw many of the answers, I felt we needed a more in-depth response. Thanks for the comment. :)

      prairieprincess, thanks for the comment. Glad you liked it. :)

      pandula77, no, technically he is not (the word "technically" means "exact" or "according to facts"). The only answers that state that just posting something online makes one a "published author" comes into play only through connotations. Technically, such an act alone does not define one as a published author. It is a form of communication in place of face-to-face discussions. :) Thanks for the comment!

      Wrath, the well-written portion was not the main point. In fact, I pointed out that some unpublished authors may produce work superior to that of published authors. ;) Yes, the term publishing refers to other mediums aside from print media (as mentioned in this hub). In the case of web publishing, I have been a published author for 9 years because I run a website that I do the coding and material myself (with few exceptions) and market to anyone searching the net for the information. But website and internet publishing is a different category of publishing from what is often questioned in the term "published author".

      Writing for HubPages (which IS the main point of this hub) is simply authoring the information. If HubPages were to act as more of publisher by promoting the individual hubs, we could say our articles are published, but it does not. The only place I have come across where HubPages advertises (the site as a whole) is through job sites advertising to other writers. As such, we are only publishing within a limited community of writers and not to the public by default. It is up to each individual to promote their work outside of this community. :) Thanks for the great points!

      one2get2no, thanks for the comment! :)

      Tom, fantastic points! Given the changes in culture and technology, I personally like the idea that being a published author no longer has to be elite. How many absolutely amazing writers were refused the status of published author all because they did not personally know the right crowd or publishers did not want to take the chance on them? I see no problem with published authors no longer being some sort of elite club, but I also hate the idea of people calling themselves something they are not. For example, I served in the Army and have the title "soldier" but there are pop stars and teens who are referring to themselves as "soldiers" even though they have no military background whatsoever. This is not to diminish what they have gone through in life and/or what they do for their communities, but they are not soldiers. It's easier and easier to become a published author today, but not everyone who has ever written something and posted it online is a published author.

      sofs, great question! As I mentioned to DzyMsLizzy, I think the e-book format should count. Of course, I am speaking specifically of publishing an e-book and not the old "e-books" which were nothing more than PDF files that could be downloaded from any old website. Those would fall under the category Wrath mentioned. It would still count as publishing, but there should remain a distinction between the types of publishing. ;)

    • Ruby H Rose profile image

      Maree Michael Martin 5 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

      Yes, the debate goes on! Wow, this is a great article relating the two. Thumbs up all the way. Yes, we just keep writing, and not let the labels of the world detour us from what we want to do!

    • sofs profile image

      sofs 5 years ago

      Interesting hub! Very clearly presented. Enjoyed reading just my poetry, online articles and blogs will never make me a published writer... what about E books? Do you have something to say about that? Thanks for sharing. Have a wonderful time in the challenge!

    • Tom Koecke profile image

      Tom Koecke 5 years ago from Tacoma, Washington

      Very interesting and well presented hub. I not only appreciate how you logically presented your argument, but also that you took the time to make sure there were no spelling errors and awkward sentences.

      If simply writing an article on the internet makes one a published author, then the term published author means little. I once heard an economist say that at one time only 10% of all people had stock market investments, which made the investment elite. Today, more than 50% of the people have some sort of stock market investment, so more than 50% of the people are elite.

      Of course, he applied the word incorrectly. By definition, 50% of the people doing something that once was considered elite cannot make them elite also. It makes the action common.

      Similarly, if everyone is special, then special loses its meaning.

      If there is something elite or special about being a published author, then its meaning must be limited somehow to include only those who meet a higher definition of the term. Otherwise, being a published author becomes synonymous with having access to a computer.

    • one2get2no profile image

      Philip Cooper 5 years ago from Olney

      Interesting thoughts here....I tend to believe that an originals article published on the net or not is a published work. Good hub though and I'm voting this up and sharing it.

    • Wrath Warbone profile image

      Terry Chestnutt 5 years ago from Cleveland, Ohio

      I don't think something has to be extremely well written to be called published, if that is your sticking point. There are also private publications. George Harrison's autobiography is a good example. It was private for a few years before offered to the public as a mass produced item. That is why it originally sold for $400 a copy. It was what they call a limited printing. Whoever considers himself published is worthy of courtesy, in my opinion. Internet Marketers are also referred to as Internet Publishers and Web Publishers, if they have a web site. I would not demean them as if it were up to me or some rich publishing house. No offense intended.

    • pandula77 profile image

      Dr Pandula 5 years ago from Norway

      An interesting observations indeed Evylyn. I also think that a person writing articles to the net does not necessarily make him or her a published author. However, technically, he is. But, in order to obtain recognition, mere writing of articles should not be enough!

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 5 years ago from Canada

      I agree with HSB -- this is a very interesting discussion. It seems like a question that could be argued for a long time but I enjoyed your take on it.

    • homesteadbound profile image

      Cindy Murdoch 5 years ago from Texas

      This was truly interesting. I had thought about some of these things, but never to the depth to which you presented them. Thanks so much.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Ah--I had a college creative writing professor who stuck to the print model, but with a rather wide application. He stated that even if you self-published, at home, via your own computer, 5 copies of your original work to hand to selected individuals, then yes, you were a "published author."

      By that definition, I'm a published author, as I desktop-published a collection of poems taken from my dad's stories of his youth. The work was distributed only to family members, as they were the limited audience who would appreciate that body of work.

      For myself, I don't agree with that professor--I don't consider myself a Published Author. (I'm working on it.) Meanwhile, I'm "just a writer."

      However, the publishing industry is changing rapidly, what with "e-books" gradually taking the place of print books, making it very easy to self-publish for wide distribution.

      The definition is about to change... ;-)

      Great article--voted up!

    • AEvans profile image

      Julianna 5 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

      Thank you for the clarity of published versus non-published so if an poet is not considered an author then what are they considered? This could be another hub. Very well researched and well written! Voted up and shared! :)