What Not to Say to an Author

It’s wonderful being an author. While there’s rarely much money in it, you get to do what you love. It’s probably the most fun you can have with your clothes on.

There’s also the sheer joy of opening a box full of copies of your shiny brand-new book. That, as novelist Helena Halme points out, never gets any less exciting.

Helena Halme's latest book

And it’s a thrill meeting readers and getting feedback, especially when you find out your words have made a real difference.

But there are people who say the most inane things to authors. So, with the help of one or two fellow writers, I’ve compiled a roundup of things that really grate:

1 “Are you published?  Will I have heard of you?”

Well, yes, the author generally is published. Otherwise they’d probably not call themselves an author. As for hearing of that person, it depends. I know several people who never heard of Kahlil Gibran, yet his book The Prophet sold tens of millions of copies.

FreeImages.com/Mana Media

2 “Why don’t you get your book made into a film?”

If it were that easy, I think we’d all be knocking on Hollywood’s door. It’s not, which is why, until we get the call, we’re selling our books at around £7.99 a pop (or less; usually much less for the ebook). Not quite a direct route to the Walk of Fame.

3 “I do a bit of writing myself.”

I mustn’t scoff, because occasionally someone like David Lodge says this. More often, though, the follow-up is “I wrote a letter to my local paper once” or “I’ve written a 100,000 word novel from the point of view of a slug. Could you read it for me and help me get it published?”

FreeImages.com/Jurga R

4 “I’d write a book too if I had the time.”

The implication is that their life is far busier than the author’s, and that no talent is required.

5 “When I retire, I’m going to write a novel.”

Usually uttered by someone who’s never even written a shopping list. See 4.

6 “As you’re at home all day, could you just babysit/pick up a parcel for me/come out shopping with me?”

Because writing books is some romantic thing that just happens when you click your heels and make a wish. It’s not like it’s a proper job, right?

FreeImages.com/Kia Abell

7 “Where’s my free signed copy?”

Because, obviously, authors are happy to work for free.

Many thanks to my fellow writers, especially Vivien Hampshire and Georgina Penney, both from the Romantic Novelists’ Association.  If you ever meet one of us, you know what not to say.

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How to Go Up in the World in Just Four Steps

Now that Dan’s out, he’s on the up. going up in the worldFirst off, he needs to find work.  The snag?  How to explain away six years at Her Majesty’s pleasure.  Inventing a job abroad might fill that big gap on his CV.  Lucky he’s got a good imagination.  You don’t get very far without one, in his experience.

Dan is one of the characters from my novel One Night at the Jacaranda.  In this post I’m letting him out to share his current MO with you.

Dan needs to learn stuff.  That’s step two.  He reads a quality paper every day now. Cover to cover.  At the public library, if it hasn’t already been nicked.  Or he might find one in a bin.  Some days he has to pay for one.  newspapers

And he listens.  You can learn a lot from people, especially when they don’t even realise what they’re saying.  That’s when you discover things.

He chooses his own words carefully.  From a dictionary he got at the charity shop.  That’s step three: not sounding like a lag anymore.  Course, when you’re inside you want to sound like everyone else, because bad things are even more likely to happen when you don’t fit in.

Oxford Reference Dictionary

A lot of his new words are adjectives.  Easier to slip into conversation than nouns.  How the fuck would you shoe-horn a word like behemoth into a chat with the bint on the till at Iceland?  Yesterday he just about managed to use contiguous.

definition of contiguous

That was when the old biddy behind him pushed her shopping right up next to his on the belt.  He’d have let her go first, especially seeing as she only had a pint of milk and a packet of Rich Teas, but then he wouldn’t have been able to say contiguous. So he just put a divider up on the belt.

Today’s word of the day is egregious.  Means outstandingly bad, but so far he’s only managed to use it once, even though he waited an age for the 16 bus and when he got on it ponged of rotten fish.  Which is about as egregious as it can get.

Fourth and most important of all:  he’s looking for a woman.  Nobody said these four steps would be easy, but he’s got a good feeling in his bones.

Yep, there too.