Wednesday, August 1, 2012


SO, let’s talk about non-writers, shall we?  Every writer knows exactly what I’m talking about. Those people in your life who have no clue what you do but they’re pretty sure they know what you do and feel the need to make comments or ask totally ridiculous questions?   A fellow author, the lovely and talented Jean Joachim, posted a youtube video about stupid things non-writers say. Take a look:

Sadly, this video is way too real.  I can’t count the times I’ve heard every single one of those comments and usually family members are the worst offenders.  In a way, that's almost funny.  I have relatives that have yet to buy one of my books.  After years on the shelf under four different names and they still haven’t bought a lousy book?  Yet when I see certain offenders who shall remain nameless the first words out of their mouth are “where can I find your books?”.   Ah, let me see…Amazon? Barnes & Noble? Most book stores and if they don’t have one just give them the ISBN number and they’ll order it! Here, let me get you the ISBN number!  How hard is that? If they really don’t want to spend the money I know for a fact that their library has numerous copies.  The reality is they just don’t want to read it for whatever reason. 

So, what is it about family and friends that can’t seem to fathom what we, as writers, do for a living? In all honesty, it drives me nuts and I have given up even trying to figure it out.  I enjoy writing, is that so hard to understand? I know hundreds of other people, male and female, just like me. So, instead of trying to delve into the mind of non-writers, I think we should, once and for all, just answer their questions and comments open and honestly.

“You write Young Adult books? Isn’t that like porn for teenagers?” Ah, no, it’s not.  Young Adult books are written using as very different technicque as opposed to Romantic Suspense or Mystery/Thriller or Historical Fiction or Romance. There are literally hundreds of genres and every single one of them has its own unique development.

“Do you know JK Rowling?”  No, the majority of us don’t know her, at least not to my knowledge!! Nor do we make her paycheck and probably we never will, but we’re happy with what we do make because it means that our stories are getting out there. 

“You know what you should really do? Make a movie out of your book.”  Sure, give me five million for a minimal decent docudrama project and that might happen…maybe. People need to understand that books being made into movies are actually pretty rare events.  Studios aren’t willing to option if they haven’t seen a mammoth fan trend – such as with Twilight or the Hunger Games. Summit knew the audience was already there and already stoked. Easy sell.  Three or four books for the series, movies to match.  Money in the bank.  Madeline Baker has close to one hundred books that could all be made into movies but although her fan base is mammoth itself, it’s not mammoth enough to lure optioning offers from major studios…which is really a shame because Cheyenne Surrender would make an awesome movie. So would Kathleen Eagle’s This Time Forever…or Katherine Woodiwiss’ Ashes In The Wind – see a pattern here? The reality is that almost every writer I know would love for their story to be made into a movie but the statistics are just not in our favor so quit suggesting it, we don’t freaking want to hear it.

“I’ll just download it online”.  I love this one.  Do they not understand that we can check? That we know if a book has been uploaded for Kindle or Nook? Evidently not because it’s one a lot of us hear often.  Newsflash:  If you tell somebody that you’re going to download it? They’re going to check to make sure you did so you probably should go ahead and keep your promise.

“How much did it cost you to get published?” NOTHING.  My first twenty or so books were all mainstream. Now, with the advent of free self-publishing, writers who couldn’t get past the slush pile are actually getting their books out there and some of them are excellent pieces of work. Yes, some are drivel. But, so is some of what mainstream has published.  I have a book, published in 1993, that I use when I speak on writing. It was published by a major house, the editor was well-known, worked there until she passed away a few years ago, she touted this book and the author – who turned out to be a one-hit non-wonder who never wrote another book and I can understand why. IT STUNK.  It, by far, was the worst book I’d ever seen – the plot was boring, the characters one-dimensional and abysmal, set in the Appalachians the spelling to indicate the accent was thisclose to being racist stereotyping.  It’s a wonder it ever sold at all.  Several of us used to joke that the editor had to have been drinking on the job that day.  Once upon a time Vanity Publishing cost good people money to publish their book.  Vanity Presses are quickly going the way of the Dinosaur given SmashWords and CreateSpace an numerous other Self Pub locations that don't charge a dime.  Do not ever ask an author this question. It’s rude, it’s obnoxious and I can guarantee – if they’ve been around a while, they’re freaking tired of hearing it.

“Teenagers need books that are educational.”  They have those. They’re called textbooks. They use them in a place called school?  Fiction is written for entertainment. If we can slip a little educational item in there regarding history or social issues? That's a great thing, but not necessary.  Entertainment does not always have to be educational.

“Is your book like Twilight?”  Twilight, in my opinion, was an okay book. I’ve read worse.  Was it the best book ever written? No. Nor will all books be like Twilight. Books are individual creations by individual writers.  I got to hear a fellow author answer this one recently.  She said:  No.  I can write. Thanks.  Some authors actually find it offensive to have their works compared to another author’s. Just something to chew on.

“Is your book like Harry Potter?” No. Not everybody writes about witches, warlocks and sparkly vegetarian vampires.  Alas, this was one series I never read. I started, could just never get into the books.  They just didn't interest me as they did countless others.  The movies were slightly more interesting...but only because there was Alan Rickman in a black wig, just sayin...

“Is your book like the Bible?” What the hell kind of question is that? The Bible is not a work of fiction, at least not to a majority of the population. I write fiction. Thousands of other people write fiction.  Fiction is pretend.  And if we had to write fiction comparable to the Bible we’d be writing Roman era stuff. No thank you!  The farthest you’ll catch this writer back in history is 1880. 

“I’ve got a really great idea – you and JK Rowling should write a book together.”  Sorry. I don’t write young adult stuff, nor do I write about witches…ghosts, yes, witches, no interest.  Writers, even if they know each other, do not always work well together. Most writers, by nature, are solitary creatures; we like to be alone with our creations as we’re going through the creation process.  It’s true, there are some authors, such as the lovely Connie Brockway and Eloisa James who work well together.  Then there’s the rest of us! Don’t suggest stuff like that, it’s annoying.

“You wrote a book, am I in it?”  This one used to bother me.  Now when somebody I know asks this, I say yes. Buy it, read it and then tell me which one you are.  BUT – it should be noted that just because someone is a writer doesn’t mean they use everybody they know in their books.  It’s true, sometimes we’ll find somebody that strikes our interest that we’ll turn into a character but, for the most part, we don’t, it’s just easier that way. (Btw, I am SO buying one of those totebags!!)
Then there's the "Can I be in your next book?" Some authors find this more annoying than others.  I say yes and then usually do what I want. If I end up using them, I'll tell them, if I don't, I just let them assume I did. It's far easier than having to explain how a character is breathed into life.  Some authors I know will actually get very annoyed and I think that I used to too. I think I just sort of got numb to it. Don't ask an author this question. Let them create and do their thing. If they use you, great. If they don't, it's nothing personal, it's THEIR creation, not YOURS.

“You should really just publish it yourself; my brother did that, yada yada…” Seriously? 300 copies? Let’s be realistic here, shall we?  Do non-writers even understand how many books we have to sell sometimes to get a lousy $20.00 royalty check?  Not to mention, royalties can sometimes take months, years even, to be distributed.  I just got a royalty check this past month for a book that’s been out of print since 1999.  Indie publishing is the way to go for many, many, MANY people these days but do not insult them by insinuating that they won't be able to sell that many copies or that a small amount of copies is a good thing. That's just rude.

“I have a great book idea, I could tell it to you, you could write it, we could split the profits, 70/30?”  I hate it when people do this. It drives me absolutely nuts. I know a lot of authors that are driven nuts by this. And usually it’s family members or close friends that are the worst about it and we have to sit there and not say anything because it’s family.  Seriously? SHUT UP. If we want your ideas, we will ask.

“You should do a book signing in some out of the way hole that nobody has ever heard of because I could get six people to show up.”  Now, yes, this one, especially for newbies who are going the Indie route, sometimes is necessary. Six people who buy six books are better than none at all.  But if you know your writer friend or family member is not doing things Indie style? Stay out of it. They have a marketing plan in place. Unless we ask you for locations to plug our books? Don’t tell us. (The only exception is if you find a really awesome book store has opened up…then I think most of us are willing to take a stab at it…)

“So, do you know Stephanie Meyer?”  Most authors don't know Stephanie Meyer.  Whether an author knows one of the current “greats” on the market is moot anyway.  It’s none of your business. Don’t ask. It’s rude. (And for Stephanie's sake I sure hope she framed that pic of her, KStew and RPatz, it's unlikely she'll ever get them in the same room ever again under friendly circumstances...)

“My cousin is writing a book, it’s totally going to be a best seller.”  That’s nice. Good for him. Good for anybody with the balls to do what we do and still have to put up with the ridiculous behaviors of family and friends because they don’t want to accept the reality that we create for a living.

“Can you bring me a free copy?” No, we do not give free copies to everybody. We only get so many free copies ourselves and those usually go to reviewers and contests. I know an author who gets roughly thirty books free with her release – she then sells those books herself to help pay with PR costs.  One must also keep in mind that authors do not get a ton of free books from their publisher.  After the first 10 to 30 or so, we have to pay for them.  Indie authors usually get one lone hardcopy for free, sometimes a few more, but then they have to pay for their copies for publicity purposes.  It's also important to note that the days of having publicists and agents handling all marketing and publicity are over. I’ve learned that the hard way.  After twenty years of having publishers, my agent and publicist do everything, I find myself dealing with publishers who now refuse to pay for anything, my agent and publicist retired so I’m now doing it all on my own.  It’s a learning experience and a valuable one – one that reinforces never give anything away for free unless it’s a contest. End of story. 

“I’m writing a book too, I’ve been working on it for four years, I’ve only got two chapters done but it’s really going places.”  There’s a great little poster floating around Pinterest and Facebook these days: Shut Up and Write.   Those four words speak volumes.  Don’t talk about it. DO IT.   I have a friend that goes on and on about how much they want to write. Yet they spend all their time doing something else. You either want to write or you don't. You either want to make the time or you don't. Yes, some have to deal with day jobs and children and all but I know authors with six kids who are cops or doctors and they still manage to write every day.  There's a saying, if you still have a life, you're not really a writer.  Just something to consider if it's been four years and you're only on chapter two.

"You write romance? Isn't that just soft porn?" No. It's not. I've read literally hundreds of romance novels that had no sex in them whatsoever.  It's about romance. Man finds woman or woman finds man. They meet. They fall in love. Bad or good things happen. Is it that hard to comprehend?  Are there romance novels with sex? Yes. I write some of them thank you very much and that's my choice; but there are authors out there who aren't comfortable with that medium and that's fine too.  If there's a market for it, a writer will cover that market. Not all romance novels involve sex and most of those that do are not "porn".  And NO, Fifty Shades of Grey does NOT count. AND - the pic to the right is the start of my next book's cover! Taken by the lovely Jenn LeBlanc it features the awesome Karl Biermann and the beautiful Jaci Nudell.

Then, last but not least, the one that I find shocking that it didn’t make it into the video is the all time favorite:  When are you going to go get a real job?  Writing IS a real job. Unless you’re a surgeon saving lives no other job is more painful, time consuming or stressful in my opinion.  We write, we create characters, we take the reader away to places they’ve never been and probably never will be able to get to. We write, we hack, we slash, we cry with our characters, we laugh with them, then we edit them into the ground before proofing and editing some more. Then most of us handle booking our reviews and interviews, our public appearances and advertising. We have to block time for writing, scheduling, marketing and squeeze it in around children, home life and spouses/so’s.  Do not tell us that what we do is not a real job.  We will grant that many times things are tough, many times things are tight, many times royalties are slim to none or are held up for whatever reason so we’re eating Ramen noodles but we’re doing what we love and it is our job. It is what we do. How dare anybody assume that this is not a real job??

So, in conclusion, will answering these questions or comments stop non-writers from butting their noses in and being totally rude? Probably not. But, perhaps, if a non-writer stumbles across this blog they  might find it in themselves to go easy on their friend or family member who is a writer. They’ll let them do their job without the harassment and comments.  It would be nice to think they would, but, sadly, I don’t hold out much hope. Non-writers really can’t seem to help themselves sometimes… Do you think non-writers will stop making comments and asking questions???


  1. Oops! Too many typos in the first one post.

    I think I've been asked most of those questions. Not much you can do but grin and go on.

    1. Very true Jerrie! But, at the same time, I'd like to think that some of it falls under good old fashioned manners. ;o)

  2. I LOVE the one about free books. Um sure, you work at the electric company, how about a swap? *eye roll*

  3. Great post, Mia. Give us a laugh and pause to think..."hey, do I say those things to my writer friends?"

  4. Cleverly written, Mia. Gave me a chuckle or two for sure. I think the questions hurt more when you're not published yet. At least when you are, you can point to a copy or open your Nook and show the questioner. You can say,"See. This is real!"

  5. Natalie Hahn is a faithful fan and artist who doesn't have a blogger account but wanted to post:

    Well said. People are freaking idiots in regards to respect of writers, artists and craftsman - I spent a lot if years with my glass art on the art show circuit (retail) and gallery and wholesale.

    They seriously have no clue!
    And... Your right about the download/ people say they will and don't, and they forget or don't realize the author knows if they did or didn't.

    The biggest thing that got me was people approaching me at prestigious juried art shows, asking me if they could purchase something at less than my price asked.
    One show in Denver, I went batty- and responded with "will you take reduced wages at your job? No? Well I can't either"

    (I was a full time artist, supported my house and kids from - wholesale, galleries, and retail)

  6. Mia, this blog totally rocks. The one question my father, now deceased, ever asked me about my writing: So, have you made any money? Made me cringe. He didn't even ask what I wrote. Non-writers are just so dense sometimes. Thanks for sharing all the stupid non-writer questions.

  7. Great post, I've never used it yet, but when told 'writing is not a rel job' I want to go to their homes, confiscate every Tv, ban them from any cinema and block them from having a games consol.
    Because someone wrote the script, someone created the games, someone wrote the news articles - Oh yes, that means we have to ban newspapers, magazines and ALL form of advertising.
    I wonder how commerce would fair without its writers!
    Authors-are-writers regardless of their genre!
    As for your list, I chose to laugh :-) Thanks for your great rant.