When it comes to professions, being a Writer is unique in that people often feel inspired to say to us whatever pops into their minds. From strangers at cocktail parties to long-standing relations, we’ve all been confronted with pretty odd parlays. What’s most bewildering is that those same people would never say such things upon meeting a doctor or sitting down to dine with a lawyer or even the kind old lady who makes their daily latte. They may wonder how much the doctor makes taking throat cultures; what illicit case the attorney has in hand; why a woman in her golden years would still be working at the coffee shop; but it’s common courtesy to respect those individual’s lives and vocations.
Enter the Writer, and all etiquette gloves are off.
I’ve had my painful share of experiences. One that never fails to arise at distant family gatherings is: “So Sarah, how are your books doing—are they selling?”
It seems innocent enough and yet, it’s a terribly uncomfortable question to put forth in the midst of carving the turkey. All other conversations shush and everyone waits to hear my response. I always come so close to answering, “Only to readers! Pass the salt.”
But see now, I would feel rude replying that way, even if it is the blatant truth that the individual ought to know intuitively after all these years. Then I wonder, would this relation continually ask a businessman, “So Joe, how’s your business doing—are you selling?”
[pullquote]It confounds me that those of us who work in creative careers are somehow seen as less “serious” than those in institutionalized jobs. We’re all making a living, paying the bills, following our passions, and leaving a mark on the world, right? So why, why, why do so many feel they are free to say rather uncouth things to writers?[/pullquote]
It confounds me that those of us who work in creative careers are somehow seen as less “serious” than those in institutionalized jobs. We’re all making a living, paying the bills, following our passions, and leaving a mark on the world, right? So why, why, why do so many feel they are free to say rather uncouth things to writers? The frustration appears to be shared.
This summer the hashtag #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter went viral on Twitter. From celebrity authors to ghosting freelancers and everyone in between, Writers gave the world some friendly etiquette advice. I’ve gotten such a kick out of reading these. They’re so very Writer Unboxed that I asked a few friends for their experiences to add to the list. We can all learn from these, laugh together, and for some, take notes.
LISA SEE, New York Times bestselling author of China Dolls – @Lisa_See
- “You write? That must be a nice hobby for you. My wife… (knits, gardens, plays tennis, volunteers, etc.)”
- “Maybe I’ll buy it on my Kindle.”
- “Why does your husband allow you to travel by yourself on book tour (or for research)?”
CAROLINE LEAVITT, New York Times bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow – @LeavittNovelist
- “Are you still writing?”
- “What do you mean, don’t drop by, you’re working? You’re just sitting around making stuff up.”
- “When are you going on Oprah?”
EMILY LIEBERT, TV personality and award-winning author of Those Secrets We Keep – @EmilyLiebert
- “Your book is so cute!”
- “You’re an author? I’ve got at least ten books in me.”
- “Your book was an easy read. No need to think too much.”
KAREN ABBOTT, New York Times bestselling author of Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy – @KarenAbbott
- “I got your book at a garage sale—on the ‘free’ table.”
- “I have a great idea I want you to write for me. Can you draw up a contract detailing how we will split the advance and royalties?”
- “Your protagonist is too stupid to live.”
MIRANDA BEVERLY-WHITTEMORE, New York Times bestselling author of Bittersweet – @MirandaBW
- “How did you feel when you – oops, I mean your main character – lived through that scary, horrible thing that you – oops, your main character – lived through? I felt so bad for you. That part of the book was so sad.”
- “Oh, I know someone who wants to write a book! I’m going to give them your email address so you can tell them all about how to write/pitch/sell/publicize it!”
- “We’re friends in real life and social media, and I totally knew you had a new book coming out, but I had NO IDEA it was any good until it hit the New York Times Bestseller List! Now I’m totally going to get a copy… or at least check it out of the library. I’ll let you know what I think when I’m finished! Also, if you could please donate a copy to my favorite charity for their auction, that would be awesome. They need the book by tomorrow.”
KAREN WHITE, New York Times bestselling author of The Sound of Glass – @KarenWhiteWrite
- “It’s irritating to wait a whole year for your next book. Can’t you write any faster?”
- “I have the most amazing life story, but I don’t have time to write it. Maybe you can write it and we’ll go 50/50 on the royalties.”
ALYSON RICHMAN, New York Times bestselling author of The Garden of Letters – @alysonrichman
- “I liked your book so much I’ve decided not to return it to the bookstore.”
- “I don’t buy books. My grandson knows the Internet so well he can find them on sites that give them away for free.”
- My all time favorite: “I don’t read books.”
You know you want to play along. What’s your #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter?
Now, thanks to tinyCoffee and PayPal, you can!