Self-Publishers Shouldn’t Be Called Authors, according to Michael Kozlowski.

Russell Brooks writing Jam Run on index cards

The following is a response to Michael Kozlowki’s Op-Ed which can be read HERE. I strongly suggest that you read it before reading my post.

Dear Michael,

Let me see if I understand your logic. Based on your Op-Ed, it appears that you’ve redefined the definition of the author as being a status rather than an occupation. In other words, you’re arguing that someone who—before uploading their novel to Amazon Kindle—had their manuscript professionally edited and formatted; had the subject matter fact-checked by industry professionals; then later had the cover image professionally designed; and who owns all the legal rights to their novel; then unless the person earns a living from the sales of said novel, then they cannot be considered as a genuine author.

You wrote: “If you can earn your living from your writing, you are a professional author, anyone else is just a plain old writer.” Please explain this. Let’s say for argument’s sake that someone writes and completes a novel. Said person then uploads it to Amazon Kindle. They don’t initially sell enough copies to earn a living. However, right before word of mouth spreads and sales increase at an exponential rate, the aforementioned person dies tragically. By the end of the year, the book earns over $100,000 in royalties in the deceased’s name and the novel continues to sell extremely well several years later. According to your arguments, the deceased isn’t a genuine author. After all, how can one make a living off of a novel when they’re dead?

It was discovered about a year ago that Pastor Mark Driscoll used a marketing company to manipulate his way onto the NYT Bestsellers List. How did he do it? According to an article by Warren Cole Smith, his church paid $25,000 to ResultSource Inc. to coordinate a nationwide network of book buyers who would purchase his first book, Real Marriage, at locations likely to generate reportable sales for various best-seller lists, including the New York Times list. His megachurch, Mars Hill, also paid for the purchase of at least 11,000 books ranging in price from $18.62 to $20.70, depending on whether the books were purchased individually or in bulk. The contract called for 6,000 of the books to be bought by individuals, whose names were supplied by the church. Another 5,000 books were bought in bulk ( For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the profits from this venture were high enough to be considered as a living income by North American standards. Based on your arguments, only this would define Driscoll as an author.

It’s funny how you mentioned Snooki to argue your point. According to what you stated in the video, she’s a real author due to her being able to make a living from selling her books—even though she admitted that she had a co-writer. If you were really knowledgeable about how the publishing industry works, then you would know that the real reason why her books are selling is because of her established Jersey Shore fanbase. This is why celebrities have an easier time getting book deals from publishers as opposed to the average person. For example, HarperCollins didn’t hesitate to publish Sarah Palin’s first book. One cannot argue that they worked with her because of her outstanding writing skills since it’s public knowledge her book was ghostwritten. But more importantly, according to Rupert Murdoch biographer, Michael Wolff, “HarperCollins does not really believe Sarah Palin has written a valuable book—or even that it is really a book, not in the way that HarperCollins has historically understood books, or in the way that people have counted on HarperCollins to have understood a book.” ( those facts, then it’s safe to argue that if some young woman named Nicole Polizzi had written the same books before gaining her celebrity status as Snooki, her first book wouldn’t have even have sold 0.1% of the number of copies it has sold to date. But then again, based on your arguments, both Palin and Snooki are real authors.

According to your Op-Ed—and considering that your own self-published books on Amazon aren’t on any bestseller’s list—in my opinion, you come across as someone who’s frustrated at not achieving the same success as other authors. Thus, you are using this post as a means of elevating yourself by tearing down others. I can imagine how frustrating it must be for you to acknowledge the fact that other authors have gained exposure from the novels they wrote. You, on the other hand, resorted to writing an emotional and inflammatory rant in order to draw attention to yourself.

One last thing. It’s important to mention that if you really believe everything you wrote, then—based on your arguments—technically, you couldn’t call the man and woman who (allegedly) raised you, your real parents. After all, they never made a living from raising you, did they?

So who are you? Are you an author or just a writer?

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