Five Things you Should Never Say to Authors

November 16, 2017 | By | 4 Replies More

Since my debut YA novel came out I’ve learned a lot about publishing, marketing, and the importance of writing the next book. Another thing I’ve learned is that as an author there are certain statements and questions I hate getting. In general, I think people mean well or they just aren’t thinking at all, but either way we need to talk about what not to say to an author. In no particular order, here are five things you should never say to an author:

  1. Is your book any good?This one always surprises me. How am I supposed to respond to that? Of course I think my book is good. Even when working on a first draft, authors have to believe their book is something special in order to see it through to the end. And if our books make it to a published state there’s no question that we think it’s good. I used to feel embarrassed and awkward when I got this question and would say, “I guess” but now my response is a simple “Yes.”
  1. How many books have you sold?What many people outside publishing don’t realize is that most books sell less than 1,000 copies. Does that make them terrible books? Not necessarily. There are any number of reasons why books don’t sell: not enough marketing, bad timing, or bad luck. It’s possible that the book is bad, but usually that isn’t the case. Sales aren’t always an indicator of quality.
  1. How much money have you made from your book?I would never ask someone how much money they made last year or what their last vacation cost, but some people have no filter. There are some things you just don’t ask strangers or acquaintances about and money is one of them. Trust me, if I start selling enough books to quit my day job I will tell you. The whole world will know.
  1. Has anyone read your book besides friends and family?Ouch. When a book first comes out, maybe initial readers are an author’s friends and family, but so what? Even if your readers are friends and family they each have networks of their own that they can promote your novel to.One of my uncles, who is very cerebral and who I assumed would have zero interest in my YA novel One Night bought the book and read it. A few weeks later he copied me on an email that he sent to twenty of his closest friends. In the email he told everyone how much he enjoyed the book, wrote a thoughtful review, and encouraged them to buy it.
  1. You should try writingGone Girl,Harry Potter, or [insert blockbuster novel here]. I tried writing to trends for a long time, but those novels always fell flat. They weren’t what I was genuinely interested in or what spoke to me. After writing for several years I’ve realized you have to write what resonates with you. It won’t resonate with everyone, but it will resonate with your target readers.

There are exceptions to the above of course. For example, I don’t mind talking about sales with fellow authors because they’re in the trenches with me. They get it in a way that outsiders don’t. When we do share sales information it’s in an effort to help each other, not disparage each other.

What about you? Do you have any advice for responding to rude questions? Share your tips in the comments.

Deanna Cabinian is a marketing director who lives in the Midwest, but dreams of living by the ocean. When she isn’t working or writing she enjoys traveling and spending time with her husband and their Havanese dog, Cuba. She is the author of the contemporary YA novel One Night and the forthcoming sequel One Love.

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Category: Contemporary Women Writers, How To and Tips

Comments (4)

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  1. Kathryn Biel says:

    Aside from the every present, “Oh, is this like 50 Shades?” (I’m not sure why people would assume that every book is 50 Shades in the first place), my favorite not-to-say thing was from a supposed friend. She asked for a recommendation for her book club, followed closely with, “Oh, not your books.” Ouch.

  2. Glad you can relate, Gay! That is a great response to the book sales question. I will have to use it 🙂

  3. Gay Yellen says:

    Whenever I see a certain person, she always asks how many books I’ve sold. I count her as a fan, so I try to say, “None of your business,” in a roundabout way. Last night, the same question. I smiled and said, “I’ll let you know when I’ve sold a million.” That seemed to satisfy her. Thanks for the article.

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