- by Laura Resnick
10. Have I read anything you’ve written?
People ask me this all the time.
Come on, dude, how would I (or any other writer) have the faintest idea what you have read? I’m a novelist, not a psychic.
Recommended instead: “What’s your latest (or next) release?” Or: “Can you name some of your titles? I read a lot, so maybe I know your work.”
9. Have you ever had anything published?
Actually, this is a fair question, given that some aspiring writers call themselves “writers” when asked what they “do.” But anyone who writes professionally is so tired of being asked that, they may remove your tongue if they hear that question even one more time.
So I recommend that you instead ask, “What’s your latest release?” A professional novelist will answer this question. (And an aspiring writer who has not had anything published will clarify the situation.)
8. “How much money do you make?”
Yes, people ask us this. Surprisingly often.
Try instead: “What sort of money do writers make?” Which is probably a lot closer to what most people are wondering when they ask invasive questions about my personal earnings.
There’s a lot to say about money in this industry; writers discuss it often with each other and are probably willing to tell you a bit about how money works in publishing. But if your mother didn’t teach you this, then I’ll say it now: Asking someone whom you scarcely know how much money she makes is rude.
7. “Where do you get your ideas?”
Probably the single most-asked question.
Pardon me while I yawn.
Getting story ideas is simply the way writers think. Some people can play the piano by ear, some people have perfect pitch, and some are natural athletes. Writers get story ideas; if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be writers.
But, okay, for some specific examples and anecdotes from me and other writers, see the “Where Do You Get Those Crazy Ideas?” page on my website.
6. “Will you write my great story idea and then split the income with me?”
To clear up a couple of common misconceptions: (a) Ideas are not the crucial aspect of successful fiction; execution is. (b) Ideas are not the hard part of writing a novel; writing is the hard part.
In using her skills to write your idea for you, a writer has nothing to gain, and a great deal to lose—such as time, energy, career momentum, and income.
5. “If you help me write my life story, I’ll split the income with you after we sell the book.”
Unless publishers are already interested in publishing your life story (probably because your life is already being splashed all over the media, but possibly because you are a well-known expert at something unusual or important), the chances that anyone will pay you (or, more importantly, pay me) for your life story are remote.
4. “I’m going to write a book someday when I have time.”
We hear this one all the time, everywhere we go. Statistically, there are more people in America who say they “want to write a book someday” than there are people who read books.
Realistically, if you’re not already writing, the chances that you’re ever going to start writing are marginal. Most people never get past just talking about writing.
Additionally, most people who start writing a book never finish it. (And most people who finish writing one whole book… never sell it and never write another.)
The only people who write, who stick with it, and who have a serious chance of becoming professionals are the ones who can’t stand not writing. And you already know who you are. (Hi, there!)
3. “Will you read my manuscript?”
Aaaagh! Back–back, foul beast! Back, I say! Stay in your lair!
Now and for all time, if a writer is willing to read your manuscript, she’ll offer. Because, believe me, she gets asked this so often (sooooooo often) than she knows you want her to offer.
But do not put a writer on the spot by asking. The list of reasons is very long, and includes, for example, this being a much bigger imposition than you realize (much), the probability of injured feelings (yours), and legal risks for the writer (yes, really).
2. “Will you read the manuscript of my offspring/spouse/sibling/parent?”
Remember what I just said about how awkwardly it puts the writer on the spot if you ask her to read your manuscript? Well, take that and multiply it by thirty if you’re not even asking her for yourself, but rather for someone whom you love.
1. “Will you introduce me to your agent?”
This, too, really puts the writer on the spot. For a long list of possible reasons.
Your excellent work may not be suitable for her agent. Or your work may be unprofessional and unpublishable, and the writer is too polite to tell you so. Or the writer may have had a catastrophic experience with the last person whom she referred to her agent and been warned (by the agent) not to do it again. Or the writer may be having problems with her current her agent, and she neither wants to discuss those with you nor refer potential clients to an agent whom she’s finding problematic. And so on and so forth.
So just don’t ask. If the writer thinks it’s a good idea, she’ll bring it up. (Yes, really.)