It doesn’t matter where I am. A party. The vet. Getting my teeth cleaned. Whenever people find out for the first time I’m an author, one of three questions pops out their mouth…
How are your sales? How much money do you make?
Really? Are plumbers asked this? Does anyone ever ask the Walmart greeter what he or she nets for pay? I’m guessing not, so why?
Why do people feel comfortable asking writers how much money they make?
Because, doggone it, everyone has a book in them, and they’re curious how much money they can make. It’s really not about the author, to shame them or to pry. This question simply flies past the curious lips of people who have a secret hope they can pound out their story and become a millionaire.
Compassion is needed to answer this one. Sure, the Rowlings and Kings of the world do make big bucks, but most authors don’t. It’s a dream-crushing bit of information, so remember that sometimes truth stings. Be gentle.
How many chapters is your book?
This one always stumps me. Not because I’m on mind-altering drugs and don’t know how many chapters I’ve written in any given book, but mostly because chapters are subjective. Haven’t readers figured that out by now?
Apparently not. Apparently garden-variety readers award badges of honor to books with lots of chapters.
So I put on my teacher’s hat and explain in one-syllable words that publishers don’t require mandatory chapters; they look at total word count. At that point, I whip out my sunglasses because a brilliant light bulb flashes on.
I wrote a book, too. Can you help me get it published?
This is a tricky one. I love to help others. Who doesn’t? But the brutal truth is, I am a lowly writer, not an acquisitions editor.
Much care is needed in the answering of this question. The danger is you’ll get cornered for at least an hour listening to the synopsis of an entire epic saga. I’ve found the best way to handle this situation is to offer sources other than yourself. I frequently recommend joining ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) for networking purposes. I also advise author-wannabees where they can attend local writer meetings or possible critique groups they can check out.
Those are the top three questions I get asked. How about you? What’s your FAQ?
24 Replies to “Author FAQs”
People always ask me how many pages I have written (number of pages in Microsoft Word? Paperbook? Paper A4/A5 size?)
Hah! I haven’t been asked that one. But personally, I’d go with sticky-notepad size and really beef up the count. Bigger is better, right?
Michelle, you hit the nail right on the head! Every question you’ve been asked, I’ve been asked. And I fumble around for some sort of coherent answer. I think one of my favorites though is, “How much do you pay for your book? I bet it’s only, like two dollars, right?”
Interesting. Most people assume I get my books for free and they freak out when they discover I actually have to pay for my own stories.
Wonderful post! And so true. I wish I could count how many times I’ve been asked about how much money I make, so it’s nice to be reminded to be gentle on that one. 🙂
I’m increasingly asked about self-publishing, whether or not that’s how I’ve had my books published and how much it costs to go that route. I don’t have much advice on that one, though I do think it’s becoming a viable and certainly affordable way to go.
I’m also asked, in round-about ways if it’s in person, but more frequently via email, if I could give or send people free books. I assume they think I have an unlimited supply. While I’m eager to get my books into the hands of an interested reader, and often happy to give books away, people don’t realize that I must pay for many of the books I use for promotion because I always use more than the publisher gives me for such things – and either way I must pay to have it shipped.
But since everyone assumes a traditionally published author is rich, that’s no big deal … 🙂
That’s right! I forgot about the ol’ can-I-have-one-of-your-books question. It would be fun to be able to toss them out like Halloween candy, but even Halloween candy incurs a cost, eh?
Even if people want to buy a book from me, rather than expect it free, I’m mentally calculating how much of my author stock I have left and how best to use them. I put a smile on my face and let them know the book is available through all the usual places.
Really! What is the deal with people thinking that if you’ve had one book published you are on your way to independent wealth? I’ve never understood that.
Wishful thinking, perhaps? The secret dream that if they pound out the book in their heart they’ll make gobs of money?
Michelle, I enjoyed your post. Yes, I’ve had the same experiences and, you’re right, the questions people ask authors usually have far more to do with their own dreams than any curiousity about our process. I always encourage them to write what God has placed on their hearts, but also try to give them a gentle reality check. I don’t know of any short cuts to stardom….as a matter of fact, I don’t even know a long cut to stardom. 😉
And when you figure out that whole stardom dealio, shoot me an email, would ya?
Thanks for sharing your answering strategies, Michelle. I so dread the “I have an idea for a book…” line that I hesitate to even say I’m a writer when I meet new people! I, like you, suggest hooking up with a writers’ group. I also have a secret cue for my husband, if he’s with me, to interrupt if I’m trapped by a long-winded future novelist. I also always make sure to explain that writing the book is only the beginning, and note that it took me four years to find a publisher for my first book.
Love the husband idea! I’m going to incorporate that one with all my family members. Maybe one of my kids can randomly start screaming or something.
Spot on. Just had the “Do you make a pretty good living?” discussion with the guy at the computer shop. People see writing as a way to make “extra” money, which I guess it can be. But if someone says they are thinking of writing a book, I gently let them know making and selling books is a business-based industry like everything else, so the first step is studying the industry you’re thinking of going into. I’m afraid I’ve burst a few bubbles over the years.
Dream crushing is a valid occupation. I do it all the time. I figure it’s better I burst their bubble gently than they receive a harsh slap upside the head by a publisher.
Sadly it’s true that 90% of acquaintances instantly start thinking about the “book in them”, and what about the other 10%? They start gushing over us and exclaiming they never met an author before, and that’s embarrassing for me. Then I find myself brushing aside my accomplishments. I need a good line to use for that one, because I always handle it differently.
But regarding the first scenario, those comments always remind me of my own naive beginnings. We were once them. When I first started sharing my dreams, one woman gave me a book she had on writing. Another sent me a brochure for an upcoming ACFW conference in Arizona. Both of these helped me tremendously, and moved me forward to accomplish my dreams.
Gives me an idea…why not put writing helps on the back of our business cards to hand out for such occasions? Hmmm.
Loved this post! Here are the three top questions I get:
1. YOU wrote a BOOK?
2. How many copies have you sold?
3. Can you show me how you did it?
I have had almost as much fun showing people how to publish than actually writing books!
Hah! Loved #1.
Do you ever wonder how much a writer makes per hour? Even the ones who do make a good living, earn every penny by the sacrifices they make, and the time they put into the writing process.
Actually, Sharon, I try to live in denial about the per hour thing. Way less depressing that way.
Thanks for your post, Michelle. Makes the rest of us feel understood as we field those lovely questions, some humorous, some not-so-humorous.
I think we all strive to be helpful (because we all started our careers with a certain number of questions), so we need to discern whether or not our answers would even make a difference (like the $ ones).
Sometimes, if I briefly smile or chuckle when people ask me an overly personal question, people take it as a hint that I’d rather talk about something else, so they quickly back off and change the subject. People who are less sensitive may need a little extra help, so I touch down on the subject quickly and then gracefully try to change it for them. : )
We can always could include some of the most common and helpful questions, answers, and links on our websites, then slip our curious friends a business card. Nothing like generating more traffic and helping others at the same time.
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