I’m sure any writer reading this might already know what I’m talking about. It’s those well intentioned questions non-writers ask us that turn our insides into puddles of flaming hot lava. I know those who ask me these kinds of questions mean well. And before I continue, let me say just how much I appreciate the support. I really do. But for the love of GOD! Please stop asking me these questions!
Question #1 – How is the book coming?
I’m never quite sure how to answer this one. I usually say, “Good,” and my stomach does a flip-flop. When writing a novel, it’s almost impossible to judge progress in the first draft phase. More than half of it could end up in the trash by the 2nd draft. So if I say, “Great!” Then I am setting myself up for disappointment.
The God’s honest truth is, I have no damn clue how the book is going. I’m not building a shed. It won’t be finished by the end of the week, or the end of next week, or the week after that. I have no idea when it will be done or how many drafts it will take. I JUST DON’T KNOW! I know I write every day! I know my keyboard is soaked in tears! I know I feel like half the stuff I’ve written is crap and maybe I’ve accidentally inserted a line from Dr. Phil while I was watching it AND WRITING –‘Just ’cause you put kittens in the oven, don’t make ’em biscuits.’
Asking me how the book is coming feels akin to someone standing outside the bathroom door and going “So how’s it coming?”
It’s shit! It’s coming like shit at the moment.
So the simple answer to this questions is: I DON’T KNOW HOW THE BOOK IS COMING. BUT THANK YOU FOR ASKING. When I have something exciting to report, trust me, the whole entire fucking world will know about it.
Question #2 – Can I read it yet?
The short answer to this is: NO! Asking me to read it before it’s ready is like asking to watch a surgery in progress. Writers get really excited when they feel like their draft is readable. We WANT people to read our stuff. We love that people care enough to want to read our stuff. But there are many, many stages to writing. This is a long, uphill battle. It takes a long, long time. So you can rest assured that when we get to the top of that hill, holding a readable manuscript in our hands, we are NOT going to refuse to let others read it. We WANT you to read it….WHEN IT’S READY! Trust me, we’ll let you know!
**I also warn new writers to be careful who you send your manuscript to. I know for a fact that mine was sent out to others without my authorization! Never underestimate the excitement of those you trust.
Questions #3- You HAVE to send me a copy!
Ummm. No. No I don’t. I have a lot less compassion for those who ask this question. Saying I HAVE to give you a copy is like me walking over to Joe the Roofer’s house and saying, “You HAVE to do my roof…for free.” No…no he doesn’t. If you wouldn’t tell your roofer friend he has to work for free, why are you telling me that I have to?
I think if people realized how much work went into writing a novel, they wouldn’t say this…I hope. Selling books is how I get PAID for the WORK I’ve done in WRITING this novel. Some authors don’t even get free copies of their books, others get a discounted rate. So are they supposed to pay for you to have a copy? No. No. No.
The simple answer is: NO. I won’t be sending every person on my Facebook friends list a copy of my book. I might have giveaways, I might send some copies to certain friends and family, but no, John Smith, who sat behind me in 9th grade English, I cannot send you a copy.
Question #4 – How many books have you sold?
I find this question a little uncomfortable. It feels the same as being asked how much my salary is or how much I earn an hour. It’s not hard to figure out that, on average, authors make somewhere between $1 to $3 per book (not including any kind of royalty advance). So if I say I’ve sold 100 books or 100,000, you’ll either think I’m broke as hell or rich (depending on how you define rich). Unless the author is a New York Times Bestselling author, who’s sold millions of copies, asking this question is a bad idea and will almost certainly make the author cringe inside.
A more appropriate question might be, “How well is your book selling?” This gives the author a wide range of answers to choose from. They can say how many books they’ve sold, they can tell you whether they’ve made any kind of best seller list, or they can simply say “Good” or “Not great.”
So before you go asking a writer for the details of their tax return, maybe consider how you’d feel if you were asked how much you make in a year?
I’m sure there are many more questions writers get asked that makes their skin crawl. These are the 4 that have affected me. As I said earlier, I am grateful for the support and people that believe in me. But I’m telling you with the utmost certainty that if you ask me any of these four questions one more time, my eye might begin to twitch.