5 Things Not To Say To Writers... And 5 Things To Definitely Say

Last week I blogged about the first world problems of a published author. Yes, our live are pretty awesome. Are the easy? No. We’ve still got problems. They’re just not query trenches problems… and no, I don’t think any of us would ever trade it.

Today, I’d like to talk about things that are said to me… often. They aren’t bad things, or insulting things (although I do get those too, just usually not related to my writing). They’re just… things that I hear a lot, and I’m guessing other authors do, too.

Again, I don’t have a hard life. Consider this post first-world problems of a published author, part two.

5 Things Not To Say

1) You Still Publishing Books? Yes, because it’s my only form of income. I doubt lawyers, doctors, farmers or teachers are often asked if they are still in their chosen career path. But here’s the other thing - what if the author you’re talking to is on a downswing? What if they can’t sell another book and their publisher dropped them and they don’t have an agent anymore? That’s incredibly painful, and not something that’s easily spoken about.

2) How’s The Book Selling? If the author is traditional published, they probably don’t know. We typically get our royalty statements once every six months, and they cover the period of time three to four months prior to that. If they are self-published they have a much better grasp on how the book is selling, but… did you just ask how much money they make?

3) You Should Make Your Book Into A Movie. We all would if we could. A movie requires things like actors, set designers, directors, producers, recording equipment, editors, and probably a million dollars. Movie making is incredibly difficult, very expensive, and best left to the people that do that for a living. We’re writers.

4) I Have The Idea For Your Next Book. No, I have the idea for my next book. Sounds like you have an idea for a book that you’re excited about. You should totally write it.

5) I Love Your Work! I Illegally Downloaded It! Cool. What do you do for a living and is there a way I can reap all of the benefits of it without paying you anything? Let me know.

5 Things To Definitely Say

1) What Are You Working On? Authors are usually pretty happy to talk about our work in progress. This is a safe question because even if the author isn’t under contract or hasn’t sold a book in awhile - or even if they lost their agent - chances are they are still writing, and would love a chance to talk about their current project.

2) Are You Going to Write A Sequel To… Most authors are going to love the fact that you’re asking for more of their work. In my case, I get this question all the time about A Madness So Discreet. I don’t mind answering honestly - as of right now, no. This is because a sequel generally only nets about 40% of the audience of the first book, and A Madness So Discreet hasn’t really sold well enough for my publisher to green light a sequel. But - the fact that you love it makes me happy, and this gives me the opportunity to encourage you to tell your friends about it, in the hopes a sequel could be forthcoming. Word of mouth is still the best marketing out there.

3) Your Book Made Me Feel… Honestly, I love hearing this. I made you feel!! I don’t even mind if it made you angry, or sad, or any range of negative emotions. A couple months ago I had a girl walk into one of my signings and say, “Mindy McGinnis, I’ve got a bone to pick with you.” I loved it. She was seriously aggrieved with the ending of one of my books, and I told her what a huge compliment that is to a writer.

4) Will You Sign My Book? Yes. Always. Forever. Twice, if you want. I’ve had people walk up to my table with a stack of all my published titles, then apologize for asking me to sign them. Don’t apologize! This is the highest compliment that can ever be paid to me. You love my work! You bought my books! The absolute least I can do is sign them for you. Personally, I don’t mind if people approach me in public, either. Don’t hold all authors to this, but if you see me and you have a book on you (or nearby), yes, yes, I will sign it for you. Of course I will, thank you for asking.

5) You Probably Don’t Remember Me, But I Met You At… Honestly, no we probably don’t. We see a lot of faces. But, this is still an excellent thing to say to us because you’re telling us you care enough about us, or our work, to come out and see us more than once. We’re all busy. Making time in your schedule to come to an event is a huge compliment, and signings are notoriously dull for authors. If you met us before, tell us! Give us a little reminder of where, and while we might not remember you, we can probably still recall the event, and thank you for being enough of a super fan to support us by coming out for events!

Take The Guilt Out Of Writing

A writer's worst enemy is procrastination.

The second thug in our lives is procrastination's close cousin - responsibility.

Too often our writing time is carved out of the day, the niche of a few minutes where there isn't food to make, laundry to do, floors to sweep, lawns to mow, weeds to pull. The terrible truth about the to-do list I just ripped off is this: it never ends. The food will be eaten, the laundry will get dirty again as will the floor. Grass grows, and weeds (unfortunately) grow even faster.

Very rarely do we treat writing as a responsibility on its own. Even when I'm under contract or on deadline, writing still very much feels like something I do for myself. Because writing is a solitary undertaking, it's easy to identify it more as me time than as something that requires a true work ethic in order to be properly executed.

Squaring these two facts is no easy feat. Sitting down to write can often feel like a guilty pleasure if there are dirty dishes in the sink, or socks on the floor. While the to-do list is daunting, it cannot go ignored - unless you don't mind starving, stinking, living in filth, and being covered in ticks from your yard. And if all of those things sound just fine to you, I'm guessing that finding some alone time isn't all that much of a challenge anyway.

I recently went on a writing retreat, which is something I've always pooh-poohed in the past. I used to think that if I took a writing retreat, I would laze about, act like I'm in a coffee commercial while I sit on the deck of a cabin, then take long walks in the woods while pretending that I'm in some sort of medication commercial. None of these things would bulk up the word count, so I always thought a writing retreat was a euphemism for I'm going to get drunk in the woods and play Tetris on the laptop but keep a serious look on my face while doing it so that everyone thinks I'm writing.

Surprisingly, I wrote quite a bit while hanging out in a cabin, and starred in exactly zero imaginary commercials. I realized on the second day that the reason why was because I wasn't worried about laundry, floors, lawns, food, or any other myriad of responsibilities present in day-to-day life. I could sit down and write without guilt.

I realize that leaving home for three days might not be in the cards for everyone, realistically. But the lesson remains - next time something is stopping you from sitting down to write, ask yourself if it's actually the chore that is the obstacle, or the guilt?

Because if it's the guilt, don't worry - the chore will be there tomorrow.

Your inspiration might not.

6 Ways To Support Writers Without Spending A Dime

Readers and writers have a symbiotic relationship; one can't exist without the other. The absolute best way to support the writers you love is to buy their books. But that's not feasible for everyone, all of the time. There are plenty of great ways to support the writers you love without breaking the bank.

Use your library. Yes, authors benefit from libraries, too. Libraries know what titles by which authors are circulating widely, and will often buy more copies if the hold list is deep. If your local library doesn't have an author you love, ask if you can make a purchase suggestion. Most libraries are happy to make acquisitions based on patron needs, and even if they don't have funds to buy a new copy, they may be part of a consortium that will find a copy for you, and deliver it to your local branch. This helps writers by showing a demand for their books. And I imagine we're all pretty familiar with the theory of supply and demand.

Put Our Books Face Out on the Shelves. Any shelves - library or bookstore. How many times have you been browsing a shelf and your eyes have skipped right over a spine? A lot, I'm guessing. If you see a book you love, put the cover art face out so that it can shine. Think of it as a book recommendation to a stranger.

Follow Us. Love or hate social media, it can be the coin of the realm. A big following doesn't equal success, but it is a small indication to the writer that they are doing something right, and somebody cares enough about their book to see what else they have to say. Sure, it's a bit of an ego stroke, but if we're having a bad writing day and log on to Twitter to see ten new followers... no lie, it helps.

Tell Us Our Impact. I occasionally get fan email that opens something like this: "I don't know if you even read your own emails, but..." Yes, I read my own emails. I'm not nearly a big enough deal to not read my own email. I also answer them, which sometimes surprises readers. I appreciate each one of those emails. The bad writing day I mentioned before? A few of those have been assuaged by a message telling me what one of my books has meant to the reader.

Tell Someone Else About Us. Word of mouth is still the most effective marketing there is, and money can't buy it. If you love a book, tell your friends. Tell your friend's cousin. Tell anyone you know who loves to read. Those little ripples can turn into waves that sustain an author's career. It doesn't mean that we're all going to be New York Times bestsellers, but it does mean that our backlist might stay in print a little while longer because a new reader just discovered an author that flew under their radar up until now.

Write reviews. Did you love one of my books, but not the next one? (If so, you're not alone in that). Either way, I want you to write a review. Reviews - good or bad - on shopping sites like B&N or Amazon show the site that people are reading the book... which means they are buying and interacting with it and it is therefore worthy of promotion. Amazon needs to see a minimum of 50 reviews on a book before it will begin suggesting it to readers in the "Customers Also Bought..." section.

Note: There is some debate among writers as to whether or not this is true, but Amazon is notoriously tight-lipped on their alogrithms. Regardless, think of your reaction when you see a book with 13 reviews versus one with 256... you automatically know that the latter is doing better.