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Author , female author , from Latin auctor "creator, creator, promoter, initiator", formerly and English author , also called author since the 17th century , denotes a person who has created a linguistic work. This person has the authorship of the work (see also recognition of authorship , more authorship , original authorship ). Authors write “ literary ” works in the broadest sense , which are assigned to the genres of epic , drama and poetry or to specialist and non-fiction literature . The works can also be illustrated and contain more images than text, for example picture books , comics or photo novels .

Authors of non-literary works, such as software , author's films or music, are also referred to as authors more rarely and usually with legal implications . Inventors of modern board games ( author games : German-style games "games in German style") are called " game authors ". In the rules of zoology (animal science), the first person to describe an animal species is traditionally considered to be its actual " author ".


The understanding of authorship is subject to historical changes. In the Middle Ages , the terms author and authority referred to one another as a matter of course. Originating from the legal language, auctor referred to the author, author or administrator of a work. In contrast to modern times , the meaning of the word basically included the aspect of authority (auctoritas) : it meant authors who had acquired a high reputation and were widely recognized .

In particular, the media upheaval from orality to writing and from handwriting to book printing promoted the detachment of the author and their authority from their (reproducible and protected from falsification) work , initially in genres of theological and scientific literature . Only since the genius aesthetic of Sturm und Drang did a concept of the “autonomous, creative fictional author ruling over his work ” emerge. The 19th and 20th centuries were the heyday of this emphatic, idealized concept of the author.

Since the 1960s, criticism of the absolutization of the author's personality has been loud ( Roland Barthes : The death of the author , Michel Foucault : What is an author? ).

In parts of literary theory ( narrative theory ), a distinction is made between author and narrator : The author is the writer of the text and the narrator is the narrator of the story and is an authority created by the author.

The term author was Germanized by Philipp von Zesen through the term author .

Legal aspects

In the present day, authorship includes a right to intellectual property. Copyright (which cannot be sold) and exploitation rights serve to protect the work .

Connotations of the term

The term author or his authorship for a work that is usually in writing or its conception applies regardless of its publication or (previous) non- publication . In principle, however, the author or authorship has different meanings, not least according to their objective of an unintended or intended and actually achieved publicity of name and work.

In a non-public environment

  • Any document that remains private and thus unknown to the public usually has only very limited significance for the group of people in the author's private environment. Writer of diaries intend usually no visibility, writer of such. B. Shopping lists are in fact their originator, so calling them authors would not correspond to common usage.
  • The authorship for fonts z. B. manufactured during a regular school education as part of the lesson is subject to a certain degree of copyright protection insofar as a "copying" of it can be punished as an " underhand " according to the school examination regulations . Such documents are also thoroughly appraised, assessed and graded according to appropriate criteria. These evaluations then find their summary and relevant influence for the promotion or completion of school education in the certificates . Nevertheless, the use of the term author - unlike that of the term author - for the pupil doing his written homework and examination tasks would not correspond to the usual linguistic usage.

In a limited public environment

  • Within the academic-university environment, the theses conceived and written by students over a longer period of time experience at least a limited publicity as diploma theses and as a dissertation per se. In some cases, the then usually revised dissertations also reach a public that extends beyond this environment as popular scientific publications. The term author is then used by the critics and reviewers of such a publicly discussed work. Otherwise, however, the authors of such theses are usually not referred to as the author , but addressed with the academic degree they have achieved.
  • Another limitation is the authorship, if z. For example, an article on Wikipedia has broad publicity, but the author consciously remains anonymous and thus waives his copyrights. As a technical term, author is sometimes used here within Wikipedia, but only with conditional authorization, since the authorship of an article is not infrequently limited in time and is as good as not limited to one person.

In the public environment

  • Within Germany the following applies: a. As an initial indicator of the authorship of a written work, which is aimed at the greatest possible publicity, the submission of a deposit copy to the German National Library . This obligation applies above all to the distributors of a publication, usually a publisher, but indirectly it also applies to the author himself, who is also responsible for the content of the publication. The success of an author can be seen in the sales figures of his works and the increased reputation of his person - the latter is z. B. by the type and number of reviews and nowadays also by any invitations to talk shows. But not all authors attach importance to the fact that a sales success is associated with their proper name and therefore use pseudonyms .
  • The greater the publicity of an author and that of his works, the more z. B. also writings from the private sphere as autographs are of interest and are sometimes valued by collectors. An author such as Thomas Mann, who was already known during his lifetime, made the entries in his diaries partly with a view to their later publication.
  • For various reasons, however, a publication can also have an incorrect statement of responsibility ( see: pseudepigraphy ).


Authors in the European-speaking area mostly train themselves through self-study . Courses and workshops are occasionally offered for this purpose at universities and technical colleges. Qualification opportunities are also offered in compact seminars (e.g. by the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels or the Association of German Writers ) or part-time courses.

At the University of Applied Arts Vienna , the University of Hildesheim and, since 1995, at the University of Leipzig ( German Literature Institute Leipzig ), there is also a degree in writing and a degree in writing, based on the American model. Guest auditors can also attend these seminars. In addition, numerous writing workshops , such as B. the Young Literature Forum Hessen-Thuringia or the Marburg Summer Academy , prospective authors interactive training or coaching by established writers.

Quite a few also find another approach to authorship by studying journalism .

Publication possibilities of the authors

Since the introduction of personal computers , it has been relatively easy for authors to create a manuscript as a digital data record, which in turn can be used as a print template for publishers or for self-publications.

In publishers

An author usually seeks publication through publishers . The publisher takes on the correction , production ( layout , printing , ISBN registration, deposit copies, etc.) and distribution for the author . In return, the author assigns the right of exploitation (in full or in part) to the publisher. The author receives remuneration and / or royalties from the publisher for his work.

If a publisher has agreed to publish it, the author is often asked to revise the work together with an editor and have it examined ( peer review ). As soon as an author has worked successfully for a publisher, it will be much easier for the author to present future works to “his” publisher as early as the idea phase and to develop them together with the editor. Particularly successful authors ( bestsellers ) are then asked by the publisher to create new works. This in turn can be the basis for negotiating a correspondingly better remuneration for the author.

Non-fiction authors usually first create a concept for their work. This contains a rough overview of the topic, references to comparable works and a table of contents that is as fully developed as possible with which the desired number of pages can then be determined. Since the future publisher often has its own ideas of the (content) structure and the target group-oriented design of a work, changes can still be taken into account, since the finished work does not have to exist when the contract is concluded, but this is only created as a commissioned work by the author. This procedure is used here by new as well as renowned authors.

The influence on the content is, of course, also seen as a disadvantage, as the university lecturer and author Martin Crusius put it in his diaries as early as 1593 .

Most publishers are very reluctant to accept manuscripts or ideas from as yet unknown authors. This behavior is mostly due to the quality, as the publishers often receive several hundred such texts per week and only select one of them for publication per year if they expect it to be a mercantile success.

In self-publishing or as self-publication

An author as a self-publisher takes on an entrepreneurial risk, which, however, has been reduced considerably since the introduction of the book-on-demand and e-book forms of publication . So the author can for his own publications the manufacturing process and sales-relevant things such. B. now delegate the inclusion in the directory of available books relatively inexpensive to self-publishing platforms . In addition, with this type of production, he no longer has to manage an edition of a title that he has printed and paid for in advance and is therefore not in danger of “being left with”. However, the author of a self-publication must in any case also take care of the marketing and advertising of his works himself - or hire someone else to do this for at times greatly inflated fees.

As before, a publication (alone) in this way rarely helps to increase the reputation or recognition of an author - especially not as a so-called " vanity publisher ". In Germany, for example, authors who have only self-published or self -published book titles are not included in the Association of German Writers or in the author database of the Friedrich Bödecker Circle . In addition, the difference to a professional author also has an impact in front of German tax offices if a hobby author u. a. Publication costs totaling several thousand euros cannot be deducted from tax as losses or advertising expenses , since he “could not have achieved a total profit with his writing activity” and “the willingness to take on not inconsiderable printing costs suggests that primarily private interests and inclinations are the cause of the activity have been ".

Since, however, in the meantime, in general, many book titles are taken out of the publisher's range after just one year, so that they are out of print and no longer available in bookshops, well-known authors are increasingly forced to create self-publications - especially those who earn part of their income from readings and then no longer refer to available copies of their books and sell them. (See for example the label Edition Gegenwind , under which an author community publishes its out-of-print titles itself.) In addition, there are now authors who deliberately publish as hybrid authors either partially or exclusively self-publications, e.g. B. to be able to bypass any unpopular requirements of a publisher regarding content and presentation.

Compensation and royalties

In January 2005, fiction publishers and the Association of German Writers agreed that ten percent of the net price of each hardcover copy sold should in future go to the author of a book as a fee . For paperbacks are regulated separately, at up to 20,000 copies sold are to receive five percent of the authors. However, these regulations are only recommended in nature; in practice, lower royalties are also common. 60 percent of the proceeds from the exploitation of ancillary rights that are not related to books go to the author, half of that from other ancillary rights. Non-fiction authors often negotiate their fees with the publisher as part of the conception phase before starting writing. Around twelve percent is common with successful authors , but by no means binding. Often a guarantee fee is also agreed, which is paid to the author upon conclusion of the contract or up to the submission date or after the manuscript has been submitted and which is then offset against royalties that may arise later . As a result, the author is not dependent on the book's commercial success, but still benefits from good sales figures.

Collecting society

The collecting society for authors in various fields ( journalists , writers , screenwriters) is VG Wort . Similar to GEMA for pieces of music, it utilizes the royalties for the authors resulting from the performance, broadcast, copying and publication and distributes the resulting amounts to the authors once a year.

Counting authors

In scientific publications in particular , it is increasingly common for a work to have several authors and co-authors . In order to count the number of publications of a person in a comparable way, there are different counting methods in bibliometrics :

  • Normal counting method (a publication counts for each author regardless of the number of authors)
  • Fractional counting (proportional distribution of the authorship, for example one third each with three authors)
  • Logarithmic counting (the proportion decreases in the order given by the authors)
  • Other weighting (for example only the first two authors)

Collective authorship

In the previous period of minor importance, multiple authorship experiences a considerable increase with the spread of the Internet .

See also


  • Heinrich Bosse: Authorship is mastery of the works. About the origin of copyright law from the spirit of the Goethe era. Paderborn 1981, ISBN 978-3-8252-1147-9 .
  • Michel Foucault : What is an author? (First French 1969) In: Ders: Writings on literature . 1988 pp. 7-31.
  • Oliver Gorus: Successful as a non-fiction author. From the book idea to marketing. 2nd, completely revised new edition. Gabal Verlag, Offenbach 2011, ISBN 978-3-86936-179-6 .
  • Alexandra Grüttner-Wilke: Author picture Author training Author training . libri virides 9. Verlag Traugott Bautz, Nordhausen 2011. ISBN 978-3-88309-707-7 .
  • Felix Philipp Ingold: “In the name of the author” (works for art and literature) . Wilhelm Fink Verlag, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-7705-3984-2 .
  • Felix Philipp Ingold (with André Blum, Jan Martinek): The authors' motivation . In: Werner Creutzfeldt (inter alia): Medical Journalism . Georg Thieme Verlag, Stuttgart / New York 1997. ISBN 3-13-104811-5 .
  • Fotis Jannidis u. a. (Ed.): Texts on the theory of authorship . Reclam, Stuttgart 2000 (contains texts by, inter alia, Freud, Sartre, Booth, Barthes, Foucault , Eco); ISBN 3-15-018058-9
  • Helmut Kreuzer : The author . In: LiLi , 42 (1981).
  • Meinolf Schumacher : Introduction to the German literature of the Middle Ages . WBG, Darmstadt 2010, pp. 48–54: "Poetry by poets: author humility and author pride".
  • Hans Peter Schwarz (ed.): Authorship in the arts. Concepts - Practices - Media . (= Zürcher Jahrbuch der Künste, Volume 3), Zurich 2007.
  • Sandra Uschtrin: Handbook for Authors. 7th edition. Uschtrin Verlag, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-932522-14-7 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Author  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Author  - Quotes
Wikisource: Authors  - Sources and Full Texts

Individual evidence

  1. Hans Widmann : Author trouble of a scholar in the 16th century. In: Börsenblatt for the German book trade - Frankfurt edition. No. 89, (November 5) 1968, pp. 2929–2940, especially pp. 2929–2931 (“It is a misery that we have to go by the publishers” from Diarium ).
  2. Applications for inclusion in the FBK author database , online on the Friedrich-Bödecker-Kreis website
  3. Hobby author cannot deduct losses for tax purposes. ( Memento of January 30, 2015 in the Internet Archive ), referring to a final judgment of the Rhineland-Palatinate Finance Court of August 14, 2013 (file number 2 K 1409/12) In: Client circular 07/2014 , Märkische Revision GmbH (auditing company) , P. 10 of 23.
  4. ino / dpa : Hope for “discovery” is not enough - amateur author doesn't get any money from the tax office. , October 8, 2013.
  5. Collective authorship - project of a working group for guest auditor and senior citizens' studies,
  6. ^ Concepts of collective authorship.