This week’s Top 10 post concentrates on the Top 10 Things You Shouldn’t Say To An Author. I bet, if you’re an author, you’ve heard quite a few of these in your time. And now, here I am, ready to gripe about them so everybody can hear it.
Are you ready…?
Top 10 Things You Shouldn’t Say To An Author
No. 10 : “Can I buy it in the shops?”
– It seems like an innocuous comment, but where else do you think I could be selling them? I haven’t got a wooden stand in my garden with ‘Books’ pasted in big letters on a banner.
It’s difficult to explain why this particular question insults me. I think it’s because there are so many better ways it could be phrased. In fact, simply asking, “Where can I buy your book/s?” That would be much better than the above.
After all, the revised version doesn’t insinuate that I’m making paper copies, stapling them together and trying to sell them out of the back of my car. I might have made paper copies when I was five, but we’re past all that now. The original question comes across as rather judging.
Think of it this way, my book is my baby. I’ve slaved over it. I’ve mothered it and loved it. Then I’ve put my child into education (the marketplace) and your question upon learning that I have a child is, “Is s/he in a private school?” Instead of, “Is s/he at school?”
No. 9 : “Haven’t you/Why isn’t it… finished yet?”
– All writers are different. Some of us are fast and can manage to crack on with the insanity of NaNoWriMo and some of us take a more leisurely pace. There are are sprinters and then there are marathoners. So, asking why the book isn’t done, yet, does not help.
In fact, sometimes it’s irritating because we have finished a book since we last spoke to you… It’s just that we started a new one, too.
So yes, some of us write slower than others, but we don’t just spend our time writing. There are writers who have day jobs and families and generally hectic lives, all of which can manage to swallow up our precious writing time.
Don’t keep making us feel guilty because we sacrificed a few hours of scribbling simply to play with our kids or spend time with our partners or because we were so exhausted after work we blacked out on the sofa. We’re trying our best, but we’re human, too, even if our characters aren’t.
No. 8 : “You must write romance.”
– This one is getting old fast. It’s on the Top 10 Things You Shouldn’t Say To An Author because lately it seems that when I mention to people that I’m an author they assume I write romance. Obviously, the statement only really applies to me, but I feel like, as a female author, I’m being judged by my gender in regards to what I must write.
I admit that there are elements of romance in my books, but those aren’t usually the driving forces of my plots. So it irks me that I should be getting this comment so often. I’m sure other authors get similar assumptions made about them, but I feel like this is the 21st century and as such it shouldn’t be assumed that, as a woman, I write purely romance.
No. 7 : “Can I have ___ for free?”
– No. Like most artists, I’m on a pretty limited income from my work. That means I don’t have an awful lot of free stuff I can afford to give away. It’s not that I’m cranky or mean or anything of that variety. It’s simply that I take a long time to craft these things. Handing out free copies here and there whilst forcing myself out of pocket isn’t something I want to do.
Living costs money. Money equals time. Time is spent writing. Therefore, to live I need to make at least a little back from what I’m creating. I won’t pretend to you that I make millions on my books. Every little bit I do get helps, though.
No. 6 : “I don’t read.”
This one is on my Top 10 Things You Shouldn’t Say To An Author because it’s just a little bit rude. It’s the equivalent of taking somebody to a fancy restaurant for them to sit at the table and tell you they hate food. I mean, why would you do that? What do you gain from telling me you don’t read? Especially after you’ve asked me about my writing.
Because, honestly, it’s like people who are into postage stamps. If you strike up a conversation with them about their postage stamps and then, in the middle, tell them that you don’t find stamps interesting, you’re just being an arsehole. It’s impolite and it’s hurtful. And, to be honest, the stamp collector is wondering why the hell you brought up the conversation if you didn’t care for anything they were saying. It would have been better if you’d simply discussed the weather.
No. 5 : “Are you going to make it into a film?”
No. Not unless I have a sudden windfall. And, to be honest, most other authors don’t make their books into films either. That’s what film studios are for. I think that’s why I have so much trouble with this question and why it’s in the middle of the Top 10 Things You Shouldn’t Say To An Author. I’ve been asked it quite a few times, as if the people asking think I have some pot of gold somewhere funding me.
I don’t. I’m not from a rich family. I don’t have A List connections. I’m doing this mostly for the love of it. That and the fact that if I don’t write, I haemorrhage story ideas in my dreams.
No. 4 : “Is that like Twilight?”
– The only novel this question applies to is 50 Shades seeing as it was a Twilight fanfic. Not all fantasy is Twilight (& all romance certainly isn’t 50 Shades).
Please stop judging fantasy as sparkly vampires and topless werewolves, you make my characters vomit.
No. 3 : “How much do you earn?” (or some variant)
– I think we’ve covered the answer to this in previous Top 10 Things You Shouldn’t Say To An Author points. As with number six on the list, however, I consider this a pretty rude question. I mean, is that really one of the first things you ask people about their jobs?
If you do, then I’m not sure you should be. It’s a pretty personal and invasive question. Just assume that, if I’m not slathering myself in caviar and encrusting my dresses with real diamonds, I’m probably not a millionaire, yet.
No. 2 : When you/your work is likened to JK Rowling/Harry Potter.
– This is souring my relationship with Harry Potter. Seriously.
If people aren’t wondering that my fantasy novel is Twilight-esque, they’re comparing my talents and my books to Harry Potter. Not because my books are anything like Harry Potter or JK Rowling’s work, but because she’s the most famous author out there at the minute.
Once upon a time, the comparison wouldn’t have made the Top 10 Things You Shouldn’t Say To An Author list, but I’ve heard it so many times now that it really isn’t even remotely flattering.
“Maybe you’ll be famous like JK Rowling one day.”
“You just need to write the next Harry Potter.”
“That’s how JK Rowling started out!”
I know. Please stop.
No. 1 : “What’s your book about?”
– If you want the answer to this question, you should really just read the book. I hate this question with a passion. And I know I probably shouldn’t, but I do.
It’s taken me however long to write the 60kish words, edit them, then re-edit them, then finalise, and publish. You want me to sum that up in a short couple of sentences in this conversation whilst I’m shopping or working or living my day to day life? I’ll make a hash of it. Of course I will.
Speaking is not my forte. It’s the written word I love. Calm, calculated and composed. Not sudden and in your face, waiting desperately for a response.
Now, I get that agents and publishers ask this question, but you expect them to. It’s their job. You’re usually prepared with something you’ve rehearsed down to the last word, because they’re not asking you when you’re in a situation that doesn’t usually involve book talk.
Not to mention, I’m not one of those people in the world who’s gifted in the art of selling themselves. I’m just not and I never have been. Instead, I cringe and die inside of self-doubt.
So, if you want to find out about my books, check them out. Do it. Grab a copy. And then ask me about them. You’ll bolster any author by doing so. Not to mention, spoilers occur less easily when you’re asking more specific questions.
Have Your Say
Are you an author? Do you agree with the Top 10 Things You Shouldn’t Say To An Author? Or do you think there are more things that should have been on the list? Tell me your favourites!
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