Back when I was president of the SoCal chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, some aspiring writers got upset with me for refusing to refer to them as “pre-published” instead. I think it’s a ridiculous term, a lame attempt at empowerment that makes me want to “pre-vomit.” Should we also calling aspiring screenwriters “pre-produced?” Midlist authors “pre-bestselling authors?” Are horny guys “pre-laid?”

I recently expressed that view again on Dorothyl, the mailing list for mystery fans and authors. I’m sure I’m about to get slammed again, accused of being a heart-less, successful author who is unsympathetic to the plight of struggling, unpublished writers.

And to them I say, “Hey, I was an aspiring writer for a lot of years…I wasn’t born with a book contract and a TV gig.”

The term “pre-published” is bullshit, a silly empowerment exercise that only makes whoever is using it look even more amateurish and desperate.

Writing doesn’t guarantee publication. And just because you write, that doesn’t mean you are any good at it. And as hard as it is for struggling writers to accept, you aren’t a professional writer until you’re published and paid for your work (or, in the case of screenwriters, until you’ve actually sold a screenplay).

Granted, there are a lot of professional writers who aren’t any good. I may be one of them. But the fact remains, they are authors. Those who aren’t published and paid for their work are not. They are aspiring authors/aspiring writers.

Someone who needs to call themselves “pre-published” for their self-esteem is more likely to become “self-published” than anything else…

9 thoughts on “Pre-Published”

  1. So a wannabe priest is pre-ordained? I think I’m getting the hang of this.
    I always liked the word ‘aspiring.’ It puts the focus on the writer, where it belongs — I want to do this, so I’m working toward it. ‘Pre-published’ makes it sound like the business is to blame for not noticing your genius yet.
    The whole thing is pre-posterous.

  2. So *that’s* what I should have called it in my teen years, having sex with myself. “Pre-laid.”
    Sounds like political correctness run amok. Doesn’t the term “pre-published” ASSUME that you’ll be published one day? And that just isn’t the case for many apsiring writers.

  3. Well lee, everybody knows that are was pre-blogging for awhile and then all of a sudden, well damn, a blog.LOL
    Seriously, I think it like all things, you have to travel the path, but in the time and pay your dues and with a lot of luck, maybe, just maybe, you make it. That way it is pre-destined to happen.

  4. Pre-published? I’d say I’m prepublished, but only because the book isn’t out for another 6 weeks or so. I don’t say pre-published, though. I say I have a book coming out. Sounds more impressive and, as an added bonus, less like BS.
    Prepublished to mean you haven’t been published yet. That’s a lot like a pre-owned vehicle. That’s very cute on radio ads, but we still call ’em used cars. (Yes, even a pre-owned Lexis is still a used car.)
    I suppose I shouldn’t be preoccupied with the term. After all, one can’t really be pre-occupied, either.
    Suppose you’re dropped by your publisher and your agent. You don’t get a new agent and opt not to find another publisher. Your backlist goes out of print. Does that make you post-published?
    If your books come back into print, are you republished? Or is that too conventional? Maybe we should say “off hiatus” or “neopublished.”
    And why am I channeling George Carlin this morning? He’s not dead, last I checked.
    But since I’m on the subject of Carlin, we can’t we say *%&s on broadcast television? It’s a nice word, a friendly word…

  5. To me, pre-published would be someone who has sold a book but it isn’t out yet, like Jim.
    Of course, so many people say if you write you’re a writer. Therefore, by that definition, I’m an aspiring novelist because I’ve never started any of my novels. 🙂
    It’s PC ego stroking run amok, definitely. Not the end of the world, an eye roller, but livable.

  6. I’m with you on this. I’ve written a book, have a terrific agent, and I’m confident I will be published, but I’m not there yet. I still have a few hurdles ahead. I think of a pre-published writer as someone with ARCs or galleys floating around and the publication date is set.

  7. I go to a lot of message boards. Yes, I’m a procrastinator. Turns out there’s been a recent rash of screenwriting folk referring to themselves as “Pre-Pro.” Which is a term I’ve only heard used for “Pre-Production,” as in, the stuff that happens before production begins. But, yes, these folks are deeming themselves “Pre-Pro’s,” meaning, of course, that they’re on the cusp of being a “professional” writer, as in: Paid.
    It amuses me to no end. I’m glad (or is it sad?) to see that it’s not just screenwriting.


Leave a Comment