Online Publishing: Author or Not?
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we can begin to develop answers to these questions, we first need to understand the difference between published and unpublished and what an author is.
Published vs. Unpublished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talking about an internet place, the concept is still much the same as a student sharing a poem with the school in an unpublished format.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).
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?
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.
- Publish - Definition Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Definition of publish from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary with audio pronunciations, thesaurus, Word of the Day, and word games.
- Author - Definition Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Definition of author from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary with audio pronunciations, thesaurus, Word of the Day, and word games.
Hub #2/30 of the March Challenge.
© 2012 Evylyn Rose