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Fruitbat
09-08-2011, 05:42 AM
These are terms I hear kinda tossed around: amateur, semi-professional, professional.

How would you define them or distinguish them from each other?

Allen R. Brady
09-08-2011, 06:39 AM
My definitions would be predominantly economic.

A professional earns the majority of his income by Activity X.
A semi-professional earns a significant portion of his living by Activity X, enough so that the loss of that income would have a noticeable impact on his livelihood.
An amateur earns so little income from Activity X that its loss would not materially damage him.

Susan Littlefield
09-08-2011, 07:37 AM
I think definitions depend on what venue you are in and what your perception of the terms are. I also think they are interchangeable.

quicklime
09-08-2011, 04:01 PM
i would define them economically, and I have no idea where I might draw those lines in the sand.

since there is no universal definition, i suspect others may draw them either to stroke their own egos or snub those they dislike... :tongue

NeuroFizz
09-08-2011, 04:35 PM
If we take lessons from other businesses, professional means the person is paid for his/her activity. Amateur isn't paid. I don't have a clue what a semi-professional writer would be, although I can think of a couple smart-ass answers.

Becca_H
09-08-2011, 04:51 PM
My definitions would be predominantly economic.

A professional earns the majority of his income by Activity X.
A semi-professional earns a significant portion of his living by Activity X, enough so that the loss of that income would have a noticeable impact on his livelihood.
An amateur earns so little income from Activity X that its loss would not materially damage him.

I'd go with this.

ChaosTitan
09-08-2011, 04:59 PM
If we take lessons from other businesses, professional means the person is paid for his/her activity. Amateur isn't paid. I don't have a clue what a semi-professional writer would be, although I can think of a couple smart-ass answers.

Ditto this.

However, no matter which label you would put on yourself, it's imperative that you always act as if you're a professional. Especially when it comes to your interaction with others in the publishing industry.

Mutive
09-08-2011, 09:54 PM
I think it depends. From a sense of "I'm a pro writer", or whatever, the definition means what you want it to.

However, many professional writer's organizations define what they mean quite strictly. (i.e. pro = this much per word, semi-pro that much, etc.)

In addition, certain submission opportunities also define them rather strictly (either to screen out some of the slush or to "give new voices a chance" or whatever). So there it matters, too.

These definitions are not perfectly consistent, and in this context "pro" rarely means enough to live off of.

Jamesaritchie
09-08-2011, 10:26 PM
"Professional" always means you're making money. If not enough to fully support yourself, then at least a sizable percentage of your income. "Amateur" always means you aren't.

There's nothing special about writing that separates it form any other business. Athletics may be the closest analogy. If you say amateur baseball player, semi-pro baseball player, and pro baseball player, pretty much everyone knows what you mean. I think these same standards apply to writing.

But what does it matter? The amateur baseball player may make no money at all, and the semi-pro baseball player certainly doesn't make anywhere near as much as the pro, but all three love playing the game, and would rather play baseball than do anything else imaginable.

Margarita Skies
09-08-2011, 10:42 PM
To me the level of professionalism depends on sales and name recognition. I might be wrong, but obviously, if everyone knows your name, or your pen name, and you've sold thousands or millions of copies of your work, that shows that you know what you're doing. Someone who knows what they're doing is a professional, someone who has spent years working on and polishing their works, learning more and more about their craft every day to become better every day. I am unpublished, so I consider myself an amateur. I will not be a professional until everyone knows my pen names because I am never publishing under my real name again.

AlwaysJuly
09-09-2011, 07:20 AM
I'm with the 'pros makes a living, amateurs don't' group. Semi-pro is a bit dicier to define, but I can't picture anyone ever calling themselves a "semi-professional writer", so I'm not too worried about that one.

Margarita Skies
09-09-2011, 07:24 AM
The prefix semi and the word professional don't go together. Either you're a professional or you're not. That's the bottom line. No one in this world can be 50% or 75% professional either. It has to be 100% in this case, otherwise we are all screwed up with these semi-professionals and may God help us.

Rhoda Nightingale
09-09-2011, 08:47 AM
I've only seen "semi-pro" used by places like Duotrope when describing how much a given publication pays per word. I don't think it applies to individuals.

Otherwise, I agree with quicklime. It's partly earnings-based, partly ego-based, and largely arbitrary.

Jamesaritchie
09-09-2011, 08:00 PM
The prefix semi and the word professional don't go together. Either you're a professional or you're not. That's the bottom line. No one in this world can be 50% or 75% professional either. It has to be 100% in this case, otherwise we are all screwed up with these semi-professionals and may God help us.

To the contrary, many areas have semi-professional this or that, and in writing the term semi-professional is common, both with markets, and with individuals.

And in sports, of course, semi-pro teams and semi-pro players outnumber pro teams and pro players ten to one or more.

I've also known several semi-pro photographers.

To say you must be an amateur or a professional with nothing between just doesn't fit in with the real world. If you think you must be one or the other then you've never tried earning a living at writing, or at sports.

There's a reason the term "semi-professional" has been around for a lot longer than I've been alive, and why every dictionary I know contains the word, though definitions vary a bit.