In many circles, these terms are thrown around, used interchangeably to describe those who pour their hearts and souls out onto the page. But for many of those composers, myself included, these terms are different and in some cases mutually exclusive. Removing the work for hire and ghost writing angle and author cannot exist without the writer. However, the writer can exist without the author.
Writers will exist whether or not they opt to pursue the distribution of their work. It is the process itself that drives them to continue to put pen to paper. Even if in the back of their mind that desire to have their work revealed to the masses is planted, the decision to walk that path will not deter their desire to continue to compose that which is close to their heart. The stories must be put into some tangible format either through the written word or oral tradition.
The warning is this: being an author is being in business. It is committing yourself to not only producing the works that speak to your heart and your readers but also committing the time to work on the business side. Whether you opt to hire an agent, find a publisher, or publish on your own, authors will pursue the goal of getting their works in the hands of readers with some sort of return expected. That return is not always monetary. Exposure is a return as well.
So before you choose the label of author, examine your motivation. Seek within yourself to determine if being an author is your true calling. Even if the answer is “no” today, it may be different tomorrow. And if the answer is “yes” today, as a human being with free will you can always take a step back when the business gets to be too much and verify if that yes should continue to be a yes. You may have made commitments that you are required to complete and that is something that you will need to address, but in the end, it is your decision as a creator of works that will keep your heart and spirit moving you down your chosen path.