What I Really Want To Say


I’m sure these things never happen to any of you other authors, so forgive me while I vent for a bit among you, my friends and colleagues.

(Not that you have any choice. I mean, we all voluntarily signed up for this crazy business of writing books, so it’s part of the unwritten code that we have to put up with each other’s rants now and then. “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night,” as Bette Davis famously says in All About Eve.)

Scene #1

Filled with good intentions, I agree to mentor a local high schooler who wants to become a writer. I attend the mentor orientation program and lay out goals for the semester, based on the profile and paperwork the student has submitted. At our first meeting, the student informs me that she already has her novel’s first three chapters completed and that she wants to know what publisher she should contact. She explains why her book will eclipseTwilight and expects me to help her become the next Stephenie Meyer.

What I want to say: “Believe me, if I knew how to be the next Stephenie Meyer, I wouldn’t be here helping you. I’d already be the next Stephenie Meyer.”

What I really say: “It would be a good first step to check your spelling since I can see five mistakes right here in the first paragraph.”

Scene #2

I agree to speak at a local aspiring writers’ workshop about my decades-long writing career, the need to understand the business of publishing, and how I finally landed my first book deal with a traditional publisher. After my presentation, I invite questions. The first one I get is, “Have you considered self-publishing? It’s really fast, and I’ve already published several books.”

What I want to say: “Good for you. How many copies have you actually sold and why are you here, then? Did you not hear anything I just said? ”

What I really say: “Good for you. Traditional publishing isn’t for everyone, that’s true.”

Scene #3

I’m standing in line to order my favorite hot tea at the local coffee shop when I see an acquaintance who waves me over to her table. I get my tea and go to say hello. My friend introduces me as a writer to the woman seated next to her, at which point the woman launches into a lengthy description of the book she’s thinking about writing. My eyes glaze over, my smile freezes on my face, and I feel the heat from my tea seeping through the extra layer of the cardboard holder and into my fingers.

What I want to say: “I really don’t give a rip about the book you want to write. I don’t even know you. I just wanted a cup of my favorite tea.”

What I really say: “Nice to meet you. Gotta run.” And I promise myself to make my own tea at home for the rest of my life.

Okay, I’m done ranting. Thanks for listening. I feel so much better. I’m going to go make my tea now.

Your turn. Any rants you want to share?

15 Replies to “What I Really Want To Say”

  1. This made me laugh Jan. I can so relate. Took me a decade of sweat, hope & tears to land my first contract. Those who haven’t walked the journey don’t get it! Thanks for this.

    1. I’ve always told students and my writing audiences that there are no stupid questions, but I’m beginning to rethink that. “Have you considered self-publishing?” is going to start the list. Glad you got a laugh, Amy!

  2. I am not published, holding out in hopes of traditional publication. Even so, I still have people ask me if I can connect them with “my publisher” because they’ve got a fabulous idea for a book.

    1. Hang in there, Cindy. For me, it was worth the wait. I’ve developed a stock reply for people when they ask me to hook them up with my publisher. “Oh, do you have a full-length book proposal ready? You can check out the guidelines on their website. Publishers want to see proposals, not ideas.” That generally ends the conversation, I’ve found.

  3. You my friend, out did yourself. This is a hoot — only because it hits so close to truth.

    If I had a dollar for every hour I can’t get back, spent with that frozen smile and glazed look, while someone peppers me with demands that I “get them in,” so they can get their book published faster. 90% of the time, the manuscript isn’t even digestable, they haven’t done their homework, and they simply want someone to come alongside and fast-track, aka “do the work for me.”

    I thoroughly enjoyed my morning chuckle. There’s always the comfort of knowing we are not alone. 😉

    1. Yes, it’s reassuring to know we’re not the only crazies out there, although I’m not sure if it’s better knowing we’re in a pack of them…

  4. Ha! Oh, the life of a writer. Strangers tell me the details of the books they’re writing alllllll the time, and I usually have to repeat the fact that I was traditionally published three or four times before people say, “Oh, you mean your book is actually in bookstores? . . . Can you get me an in with your publisher?”

    Thanks for the smile today. It’s always nice to know I’m not the only one dealing with these people.

    1. I had to laugh at “Oh, you mean your book is actually in bookstores?” I’ve heard that one too, and I just shake my head. ‘Publishing’ has become such an inclusive term for a variety of activities/formats that I find myself always qualifying that “I’ve written printed books that are sold in stores”. It makes me feel like a dinosaur, but at least it’s a dinosaur that I like.

  5. Thanks for the Saturday chuckle. My favorite is when someone asks “What’s your book about?” and when I give them the 10-second elevator answer, their eyes glaze over. If ya weren’t inter-sted, ya shouldn’ta axed.

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