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!

Coming Home: Reality, Snow, and Winter Institute

This past week I got to do something I've never done before - attend Winter Institute.

If you don't know, Winter Institute is an annual convention attended by indie booksellers where authors, booksellers, and quite a few librarians all mingle, talk books - and hopefully make an impression on one another.

This year it was in Albuquerque - somewhere I've been before and was ready to go back to. Whenever people ask me what my favorite city in my travels has been, I usually have to base that judgement on their airport and / or convention center. Such is the nature of work-based travel. However, having spent some leisure time in ABQ a few years ago, I can say that I generally do like the place.

Also ranking high on my list of awesome cities is Fargo. Yes, really.

Regardless, I first had to get to Albuquerque, which turned out to be way more of a problem than expected. Chicago is both an airport hub, and the hub of all my problems, generally speaking.

Without going into too much detail, I was supposed to get to ABQ at noon. I got there at 5:30. I was delayed so long, and so often, that I finished reading Moby Dick, which is my new metric for delays.

I did get into the city in time for my first Winter Institute event - a dinner with indie bookstore owners and fellow Harper authors. It was a great time, with lots of book talk, and - hopefully - some good conversation on my part. I'd been up for 17 hours at that point so any charm I possessed at that time is mostly due to coffee.

Then I slept for about ten hours. It felt awesome.

The next day I had an interview with LibroFM, followed by a cocktail hour where authors lined the walls, signing free copies of their books for attendees. It's breakneck, with people actually running through the doors when they open in order to ensure they get the books they want.

I signed for the full hour, then was whisked off to another dinner and mingling, with excellent food and better company, then came back to the hotel to sleep, and return home... mostly without delays.

I left behind 50 degree weather, a nice hotel room and catered dinners to come home to 10 degrees (projected -20 tomorrow!), no food in the fridge, laundry that needed to be done, a driveway that needed shoveling, and a dog that was so happy to see me, he pooped on the floor.

Welcome home.

I share this not because my life is difficult (it's not) but to convey that my life is... pretty average. It's easy to see authors posting pictures of fancy dinners, crowded signing rooms, and famous meetups, and think that a red carpet must be rolled out wherever we go.

It's not. And if it were, at my house, it would get peed on.

Author Mindy's life and Real Mindy's life are two different things, something that should be pretty clear by now. But I want to take it a step further.

The glitter canons of Twitter and white-toothed-selfie's of Instagram convey a story - one that is carefully curated.

I didn't tweet about the many, many booksellers who congratulated me on my first book (HERONE will be my 8th, the first seven having passed by without their notice), or the people who picked up a copy, perused it, then decided they didn't want to give it the room in their bag, or tote it home on the plane.

I share these things now because I think it's important for aspiring writers - and fellow midlist authors - to know what an event such as this actually looks like when you're in it. Yes, it's amazing. No, it's not difficult - one of my handlers thanked me for making an appearance at the author dinner right on the heels of my horrible day of traveling. I said, "I'm a farmer's daughter. My first job was called Pick Up Rocks. I was 5. It was 90 degrees. I can eat dinner and talk about myself this evening. It's not a problem or a hardship."

And it's not. I'm blessed to have a publisher behind me, a release coming up, and a tour to promote it.

And maybe next year they'll send me to Winter Institute again... with my ninth book (not my first.)


Corey Ann Haydu on School Visits

Don't miss the newest episode of the Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire podcast, with guest Corey Ann Haydu. Corey joined me to talk about how the acting world helped thicken her skin for the ups and downs of publishing, writing about OCD from a place of understanding, and the moment of choosing a voice for a story that determines whether it will be middle grade or YA, and what to try - and not try - at school visits.