is broadly defined as "the person who originates or gives existence to anything" and that authorship determines responsibility for what is created. Narrowly defined, an author is the originator of any written work.
In copyright law, there is a necessity for little flexibility as to what constitutes authorship. The United States Copyright Office
The United States Copyright Office, a part of the Library of Congress, is the official U.S. government body that maintains records of copyright registration in the United States. It is used by copyright title searchers who are attempting to clear a chain of title for copyrighted works.The head of...
defines copyright as "a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U.S. Code) to authors of "original works of authorship". Holding the title of "author" over any "literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, [or] certain other intellectual works" give rights to this person, the owner of the copyright, exclusive right to do or authorize any production or distribution of their work. Any person or entity wishing to use intellectual property
Intellectual property is a term referring to a number of distinct types of creations of the mind for which a set of exclusive rights are recognized—and the corresponding fields of law...
held under copyright must receive permission from the copyright holder to use this work, and often will be asked to pay for the use of copyrighted material. After a fixed amount of time, the copyright expires on intellectual work and it enters the public domain, where it can be used without limit. Copyright law has been amended time and time again since the inception of the law to extend the length of this fixed period where the work is exclusively controlled by the copyright holder. However, copyright is merely the legal reassurance that one owns his/her work. Technically, someone owns their work from the time it's created. An interesting aspect of authorship emerges with copyright in that it can be passed down to another upon one's death. The person who inherits the copyright is not the author, but enjoys the same legal benefits.
Questions arise as to the application of copyright law. How does it, for example, apply to the complex issue of fan fiction
Fan fiction is a broadly-defined term for fan labor regarding stories about characters or settings written by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creator...
? If the media agency responsible for the authorized production
Manufacturing is the use of machines, tools and labor to produce goods for use or sale. The term may refer to a range of human activity, from handicraft to high tech, but is most commonly applied to industrial production, in which raw materials are transformed into finished goods on a large scale...
allows material from fans, what is the limit before legal constraints from actors, music, and other considerations, come into play? As well, how does copyright apply to fan-generated stories for books? What powers do the original authors, as well as the publishers, have in regulating or even stopping the fan fiction?
In literary theory, critics find complications in the term "author" beyond what constitutes authorship in a legal setting. In the wake of postmodern literature
The term Postmodern literature is used to describe certain characteristics of post–World War II literature and a reaction against Enlightenment ideas implicit in Modernist literature.Postmodern literature, like postmodernism as a whole, is hard to define and there is little agreement on the exact...
, critics such as Roland Barthes
Roland Gérard Barthes was a French literary theorist, philosopher, critic, and semiotician. Barthes' ideas explored a diverse range of fields and he influenced the development of schools of theory including structuralism, semiotics, existentialism, social theory, Marxism, anthropology and...
and Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault , born Paul-Michel Foucault , was a French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas...
have examined the role and relevance of authorship to the meaning or interpretation of a text.
Barthes challenges the idea that a text can be attributed to any single author. He quotes, in his essay "Death of the Author"
(1968), that "it is language which speaks, not the author". The words and language of a text itself determine and expose meaning for Barthes, and not someone possessing legal responsibility for the process of its production. Every line of written text is a mere reflection of references from any of a multitude of traditions, or, as Barthes puts it, "the text is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture"; it is never original. With this, the perspective of the author is removed from the text, and the limits formerly imposed by the idea of one authorial voice, one ultimate and universal meaning, are destroyed. The explanation and meaning of a work does not have to be sought in the one who produced it, "as if it were always in the end, through the more or less transparent allegory of the fictioni, the voice of a single person, the author 'confiding' in us". The psyche, culture, fanaticism of an author can be disregarded when interpreting a text, because the words are rich enough themselves with all of the traditions of language. To expose meanings in a written work without appealing to the celebrity of an author, their tastes, passions, vices, is, to Barthes, to allow language to speak, rather than author.
Michel Foucault argues in his essay "What is an author?"
(1969), that all authors are writers, but not all writers are authors. He states that "a private letter may have a signatory—it does not have an author". For a reader to assign the title of author upon any written work is to attribute certain standards upon the text which, for Foucault, are working in conjunction with the idea of "the author function". Foucault's author function is the idea that an author exists only as a function of a written work, a part of its structure, but not necessarily part of the interpretive process. The author's name "indicates the status of the discourse within a society and culture", and at one time was used as an anchor for interpreting a text, a practice which Barthes would argue is not a particularly relevant or valid endeavor.
Expanding upon Foucault's position, Alexander Nehamas
Alexander Nehamas is Professor of philosophy and Edmund N. Carpenter, II Class of 1943 Professor in the Humanities at Princeton University. He works on Greek philosophy, aesthetics, Nietzsche, Foucault, and literary theory....
writes that Foucault suggests "an author [...] is whoever can be understood to have produced a particular text as we interpret it", not necessarily who penned the text. It is this distinction between producing a written work and producing the interpretation or meaning in a written work that both Barthes and Foucault are interested in. Foucault warns of the risks of keeping the author's name in mind during interpretation, because it could affect the value and meaning with which one handles an interpretation.
Literary critics Barthes and Foucault suggest that readers should not rely on or look for the notion of one overarching voice when interpreting a written work, because of the complications inherent with a writer's title of "author." They warn of the dangers interpretations could suffer from when associating the subject of inherently meaningful words and language with the personality of one authorial voice. Instead, readers should allow a text to be interpreted in terms of the language as "author."
Relationship between author and publisher
The publisher of a work might receive a percentage calculated on a wholesale or a specific price and or a fixed amount on each book that is sold. Publishers, at times, reduced the risk of this type of arrangement, by agreeing only to pay this after a certain amount of copies had sold. In Canada this practice occurred during the 1890s, but was not commonplace until the 1920s.
- Commissioned: Publishers made publication arrangements, and authors covered all expenses (today the practice of authors paying for their publications is often called vanity publishing, and is looked down upon by many publishers, even though it may have been a common and accepted practice in the past). Publishers would receive a percentage on the sale of every copy of a book, and the author would receive the rest of the money made.
Relationship between author and editor
The relationship between the author and the editor, often the author’s only liaison to the publishing company, is often characterized as the site of tension. For the author to reach his or her audience, the work usually must attract the attention of the editor. The idea of the author as the sole meaning-maker of necessity changes to include the influences of the editor and the publisher in order to engage the audience in writing as a social act.
Pierre Bourdieu was a French sociologist, anthropologist, and philosopher.Starting from the role of economic capital for social positioning, Bourdieu pioneered investigative frameworks and terminologies such as cultural, social, and symbolic capital, and the concepts of habitus, field or location,...
’s essay “The Field of Cultural Production” depicts the publishing industry as a “space of literary or artistic position-takings,” also called the “field of struggles,” which is defined by the tension and movement inherent among the various positions in the field. Bourdieu claims that the “field of position-takings [...] is not the product of coherence-seeking intention or objective consensus,” meaning that an industry characterized by position-takings is not one of harmony and neutrality. In particular for the writer, their authorship in their work makes their work part of their identity, and there is much at stake personally over the negotiation of authority over that identity. However, it is the editor who has “the power to impose the dominant definition of the writer and therefore to delimit the population of those entitled to take part in the struggle to define the writer”. As “cultural investors,” publishers rely on the editor position to identify a good investment in “cultural capital” which may grow to yield economic capital across all positions.
According to the studies of James Curran, the system of shared values among editors in Britain has generated a pressure among authors to write to fit the editors’ expectations, removing the focus from the reader-audience and putting a strain on the relationship between authors and editors and on writing as a social act. Even the book review by the editors has more significance than the readership’s reception.
Good relationships between authors and editors are largely found to be the product of an awareness of writing as a social act, and an effort to create a balance wherein the authority over the text is negotiated among all of the positions in the industry, so that the meaning is effectively carried from the meaning-maker to the readership.
A standard contract for an author will usually include provision for payment in the form of an advance and royalties. An advance is a lump sum paid in advance of publication. An advance must be earned out before royalties are payable. And advance may be paid in two lump sums: the first payment on contract signing, and the second on delivery of the completed manuscript or on publication.
An author's contract may specify, for example, that they will earn 10% of the retail price of each book sold. Some contracts specify a scale of royalties payable (for example, where royalties start at 10% for the first 10,000 sales, but then increase to a higher percentage rate at higher sale thresholds).
An author's book must earn out their advance before any further royalties are paid. For example, if an author is paid a modest advance of $2000.00, and their royalty rate is 10% of a book priced at $20.00 - that is, $2.00 per book - the book will need to sell 1000 copies before any further payment will be made. Publishers typically withhold payment of a percentage of royalties earned against returns.
In some countries, authors also earn income from a government scheme such as the ELR (Educational Lending Right) and PLR (Public Lending Right) schemes in Australia. Under these schemes, authors are paid a fee for the number of copies of their books in educational and/or public libraries.
These days, many authors supplement their income from book sales with public speaking engagements, school visits, residencies, grants, and teaching positions.
Ghostwriters, technical writers, and textbooks writers are typically paid in a different way: usually a set fee or a per word rate rather than on a percentage of sales.
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....
A writer is a person who produces literature, such as novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, poetry, or other literary art. Skilled writers are able to use language to portray ideas and images....
- Lists of writers
- Lists of poets
- List of novelists
- Professional writing
Professional writing involves the use of clear language to convey information in a way that is easily understood by the intended audience. Individuals who can use language well may be employed as full-time professional writers in a variety of communications-related occupations, such as journalist,...
- Academic authorship
Academic authorship of journal articles, books and other original works is a means by which academics communicate the results of their scholarly work, establish priority for their discoveries, and build their reputation among their peers. Authorship is a primary basis on which many academics are...
A ghostwriter is a professional writer who is paid to write books, articles, stories, reports, or other texts that are officially credited to another person. Celebrities, executives, and political leaders often hire ghostwriters to draft or edit autobiographies, magazine articles, or other written...
- Lead author
The lead author is the first named author of a publication - i.e. a research article or audit. The lead author is typically the person who carried out the majority of the research, and wrote and edited most of the manuscript...
A system for fast authorship
by Daniel Hall