I recently stumbled across one author’s list of things never to say to an author. I pored through it, nodding my head vigorously at some of her points and shaking my head at others.
The post started me wondering: Do peeps really voice such gems as “Anyone can write a book, [sic] what else do you do?”?! If so, that’s pretty horrifying, and it help explains the author’s grumpy tone.
I may not jibe with everything the author said, but I have to admit I have my own list of author aggravations. Now, I don’t want to toss out this discussion as a list of things never to say to an author, since I don’t like putting gags on folks’ rights to express themselves. I mean, people be peoplin’, right? I just figured I would toss out a few grumps in hopes of garnering a nod or two of agreement from my colleagues.
1. “You’re an author? Cool! I have a screenplay/short story/novel I’d love for you to read!”
This one happens a lot. A lot. I like to think the person is all “You’re an author? Me, too. Let’s bond over our literary pursuits!” rather than asking me to donate my editing skills (see below). I’m a busy person, though, working long hours with giggle-worthy pay. I have precious little free time.
2. This is a variation on number one. “I know you’re so good at editing. Would you be willing to edit my blog post/novel/resume/letter of interest/memoir?”
This is endemic in any job that requires a highly specialized skill set. And yes, my friends, writing well requires a lot of study, practice, and upkeep. My spouse, an IT guru, gets texts from pretty much every living human, all desperate for free computer advice and repair. Although I’m an author, not an editor, editing has become my version of computery things. I’m not saying I hate helping out my friends, and I’m pretty free and easy with Word’s Review tab. Still, when I think about how much money I could be earning, – correction: when I think that I could be earning any money for these services, because I doubt editors make bank – I sometimes cry and rock myself to sleep.
For example, today I finally finished editing a friend’s 5000-word blog post. It took me a bit over two hours. I couldn’t help but reflect that, at the pay I receive for my day job, that amount of work could have earned me that super cute, faux leather backpack I’ve been eyeing.
And btw, editors who may read this, I don’t want to pretend I’m a Real Editor (see number one). I think I’m decent at editing, or at least at recognizing basic mechanical errors, but I’m no professional. Heck, if editing qualifies as greatness, greatness has been thrust upon me by others!
3. “I have an awesome idea for your next book! It’s sorta autobiographical…”
So, you want me to be a free ghostwriter of the story of you? Uh, I think I might be busy washing my hair.
Also, I write paranormal romance, so unless you’re a weregiraffe who recently fell in love with a Frankenbeast from whose neck sprouts the head of Walt Disney, we’re probably not a winning match.
4. “Oh!” *eyes start glassing* “You write romance? That’s… cool.”
I admit, there is a part of me that wants to respond with something like, “You know, it’s unfortunate that we devalue romance because it’s a feminine genre. It’s actually quite lucrative [for someones not me, but whatever] to tell stories that put feelings at the center and the action as a satellite.” Who am I kidding? I do say this. However, I also fantasize about yelling, “It’s the bestselling genre out there, mofos!” Oh, sweet, cathartic fantasy.
5. “How cool to be paid for doing something you love.”
Ha! Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
But seriously, this is a kind statement, and I thank anyone who values what I do and recognizes the emotional satisfaction that comes from being an artist. The funny part is the
notion that most of us get paid buckoo bucks. Ha ha ha! Ha! Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
My last royalties check bought my partner and me lunch. At TGI Friday’s. Without sodas.
During my last virtual book tour, one of the bloggers asked me for advice to new writers. My response was immediate: Don’t quit your day job. Unfortunately, fewer people read and more and more books are flooding the market, so the likelihood of becoming the next Charlaine Harris or James Patterson is pretty freakin’ slim. If you don’t write for the love of writing, you’ll come to resent your artistic medium – or perhaps the reading public, which has become increasingly anemic in recent years.