10 Things to Avoid Saying to Writers

Just last week while on the internet I saw a meme titled “10 Things You Should Never Say to Writers” posted by Jessica McHugh. It was really funny, and it got me thinking of a few things to add to that list.  So here is my list of Ten Things to Avoid Saying to Writers.

1. I wish I had such an easy job.

AuthorEASY! If it is so easy where are your novels? I’d love to read one. The problem is people assume that all you need is an idea and you’re off to writing a novel. They further assume that proofreading and editing are the same thing.  Furthermore, they have absolutely no idea what it takes to make a readable story.  Saying being a writer is easy is just like my saying being an accountant must be easy.  I really have no clue.

2. Why do you even need to work?

book_moneyOh man, I get this question every time a coworker finds out I am a writer. The way they often say it is as if I have stolen a job from someone who really needs it just so I can pad my pockets. Never mind that I drove to work in a 18 year old van with one working windshield wiper (when I hit the dash just right), with no air conditioning, and leaks fluids that even a mechanic can’t identify.  I really just enjoy working odd hours and tons of overtime just to add to my Swiss bank account.  This ties into the assumption that the arts pay a lot of money. And in most cases they do not.  Just like every actor doesn’t make millions, every author is not selling record amounts of books.  I need a day job just to live on until people start buying all my books, or maybe forever.

3.  Can I get a free copy of your book?

frustrated_writer_200See above, Jack Ass. Do these people go to restaurants and ask the owner, can I have a free meal? Do they go to a dress maker, and ask for a free dress?  Do they ask the dry-cleaner to clean their suits for free?  No, they don’t. Yet they feel compelled to ask me to give away my hard work to them for free, just because they casually know me. And then they get offended when I tell them about my website’s promotions page where they can enter to win free books when I do giveaways. As if they should somehow just get one.  Come on.

4. I’d buy your book but…

handle_criticismThe list of excuses are amazing. And most of them are kind of bull shit if you ask me. The only one I accept is: “I’d buy your book but I am broke.” Because I understand that. I am also broke.  But telling me you would buy my book but you don’t read science fiction, or you don’t read at all, or you’d rather spend your money on movies (really??), or some other excuse is really just slapping me in the face.  Especially if you’re my friend or family member.

5. I’d write a review for your book but I don’t know what to say.

SurveyOh this one really pisses me off. Listen, I don’t care what authors say about not reading reviews and all that other bull. We need reviews on our books to be successful. And when you have read one and you won’t review it, I suppose that is your choice. But don’t come tell me that you won’t write one because you don’t know what to say.  We are not asking for a New York Times evaluation. We just want you to rate the book and write your thoughts about the book down. Do this once and then copy and paste it on Amazon, Goodreads, and where ever else you see the book. It isn’t hard and it means more to us than you can possible imagine.

6. It must be your dream to see them make your book into a movie.

swearing_3421243It is my dream that people READ MY BOOKS, not watch them. The only reason why I would want my book turned to a movie is because it would hopefully mean more people would READ them.  As any avid book reader knows, they always fuck up the movie.

7. I have a cousin’s friend’s uncle who is a writer.

angry-man-clipartOkay.  I never understood this.  There is only one other career I’ve ever heard this done with; and that is police. Ever notice if you mention a cop someone always has to speak up with how they somehow know a police officer. For some reason people need to tell me how they know a writer. And they always say it as if that acquaintance some how makes them an expert. The best follow up question to this statement is: “Oh, what do they write?”  Because they have no damn clue and secretly I like watching hem squirm.

8. I have a lot of great ideas for books, I just don’t have the time to write.

008968716-clock-and-gears-looping-animat-713-57Some variation of this is always on every author’s most hated thing to be told. Sometimes people want you to write their idea and give them credit. But the worst for me is when someone tells me they don’t have time. I work 40-60 hours a week at a day job, publish a magazine, have a family, and still make time to write. It isn’t that you don’t have time.  You don’t have the passion to write.

9. I am not going to wind up in one of your books, am I?

missing-sign-300x225They always say this with some little hint at it being a joke. You’re not funny.  And there is a good chance that background character I just killed off was you.  I killed him because he made bad jokes too.

10. Someday you’ll be famous and I’ll say I know that guy.

And I will tell security I’ve never seen you before in my life.


Comments ( 16 )

  1. J. Sander
    Ahh number 8 kills me! I hate it when people say that!! Great article!
    • Richard Flores IV
      That is one I don't understand. It takes passion more than time. But people don't like to take time to do anything anymore. We are an instant gratification society.
      • J. Sander
        You said it! Hard to believe sometimes. Makes me kind of sad actually...
  2. wednesfri
    Nice list. I get asked for free books pretty often, even though my most expensive eBook is $3.99. If you don't think four freakin' dollars is a fair price for something it took me three years to write, you shouldn't even be talking to me--let alone asking for freebies.
    • Richard Flores IV
      I don't understand the logic in asking for anything for free. I don't understand blatantly asking for someone's hard work for free.
  3. Cecilia
    ha ha ha ha ha true true and true ten times over. One bloke said "I always wanted to write a book for kids" and I said "when was the last time you read one?" he sat there gaping like a fish.
  4. Christofer Nigro
    People use the "I don't have the time" excuse for anything they lack the passion or desire to do, but don't want to just come out and admit that. So it's no surprise that they apply it to writing, too. You will note that comment, when applied to writing, has the connotation that *anybody* can write if they have a "good" idea, as if good ideas are as easy to come by as a high-paying job. Writing is a skill that takes a lot of practice and hard work to fully build even for those who do have the natural talent. It's not something we do simply because we have the time that everyone who doesn't write lacks. As for everyone asking for free books, yes I had a cousin ask me that several months ago. It is pretty insulting if you happen to go out of your way to sell short stories and books in digital format at affordable prices between $0.99 and $3.99, yet almost none of your friends or family are willing to buy copy. I can understand if you work for a publisher, and they only sell your book or short story in an anthology in print format only that's priced at $20.00 or more, especially if it's in a genre that your friends and family members in question do not care for. But asking for freebies from you if you sell on digital for under $4.00? Come on, that's more than a slap in the face, it's a kick to your lower extremities! So much for support of your hard work. Are these people that indifferent to our success? Or are they secretly resentful of it? Those questions may seem unfair to ponder, but now and then I can't help wondering. Of course, I've often heard these two currently popular excuses not to buy my books or short stories: "Well, your book is in digital, and I don't like digital, I prefer to read in print format..." or "I'm going to wait until it's available in print to buy it, that way I can have a copy you can sign for me." When I hear idiocy like these excuses, I want to kick a table over, especially considering there are now programs where you can put your actual signature on a digital book.
    • Richard Flores IV
      Thanks for your comment. You are correct. I am not a fan of digital, but it doesn't keep me from buying a book I want. To me $4.00 is the most I'd ever pay for a digital book. I think that is reasonable. But people still want it for free and that baffles me. Thanks again for reading. I have been really surprised by this post's popularity.
      • Christofer Nigro
        You're very welcome, Richard. I think this particular post is so popular because those ten questions are heard all too often by every writer, so it really resonated with the writing community :-) This post helps us all vent our collective frustration over hearing all the typically ignorant questions that are routinely directed at us. So it really struck a chord with us! Regarding digital, I would almost never charge more than $4.00 for a novel or anthology collection, or more than $0.99 for a short story, and maybe about $1.99 for a novella of respectable length. This is because I think the best way to prevent piracy from getting out of hand, and the best way to show appreciation to our readers for supporting our work financially, is not to get greedy and go overboard with pricing. Currently, the ideology is that writers who publish in digital should be able to charge more for non-fiction work than fiction, so these days you commonly see non-fiction titles priced at $9.99 in digital format. I understand how beautiful print books are, and I grew up accustomed to reading them since the digital format is so new, but I prefer digital because it's just too convenient in too many ways over the superior aesthetic beauty of print books. I'll devote a future blog post of mine to describing the reasons. Nevertheless, I certainly do not think print should ever disappear, and once I start my planned self-publishing ventures, I will certainly provide the option for POD.
  5. isisflying
    Why the max of $4 for a digital copy? The majority of the work is in the writing, which translates into digital. We also put time into formatting it for the digital reader, so why short-change ourselves? I give (approximately) a 45% discount off the print price to people who buy digital. (They get an even bigger discount if they buy both print and digital.) I certainly don't think that it's greedy to expect to be paid a decent rate for my work, and I don't think other writers should undervalue their work either. You can find my book "Worlds of Power, Worlds of Light" at: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615909345
    • Richard Flores IV
      I don't consider this about author greed. My wife regularly buys eBooks for more than $4, but she also has an eReader. I don't. For me, when the price goes too much higher than $4, and I can get a Mass Market at my book store for $8, I would rather pay more for the print book. Especially when I consider trying to read a book on my cell phone or computer, versus holding the paperback in my hand. Take your book for example, I'd rather invest $4 more and get the paperback than deal with trying to read it on my phone. So for me, buying a file, to read on my phone, when I already prefer paperbacks, isn't worth more than $4 to me. While others, would see your book or others above $4 and gladly pay the price for an eBook. Value is in the eye of the buyer. When it comes to pricing your books, only the author (or publisher) knows what is an acceptable profit margin for the time put in, the cost to produce, and so on. Pricing is a delicate balancing act, one I am not really prepared to write a how-to on just yet.
    • Christofer Nigro
      I don't think setting a limit on how much you charge for an e-book is undervaluing your hard work as a writer. The thing is, if you want to sell a lot of books, you have to make them affordable to your readers. You need to meet them half way not only to earn their support and loyalty, but also to cut down on the temptation for them to resort to piracy. A lot of potential readers are on a fixed income, and have to limit their monthly book budget accordingly. Hence, authors with a more reasonable pricing scheme are going to win more readers. The less you charge for each of your books, the more of your books a fan reader will be able to buy, and the less they will be inclined to acquire digital copies via piracy.
  6. isisflying
    The software business was able to make the move to digital without cutting their rates to the bone. Why can't writers? When we buy a software package, we get a download - no CD or DVD, and we still pay full price. Of course there are single-function "apps" that are dirt cheap. I could see charging $1 for a short story, which I suppose would be the equivalent of a single-function app. As for pirates, they will always exist no matter what we charge.
    • Richard Flores IV
      Again, I don't buy software without a disc. Only one exception to that and it was Tomb Raider. I don't pay for apps either. I don't see the point in charging me full price for a download only game/software. It is all about what the buyer will pay. And each buyer is different. I fell my profit should be the same on both my digital and my print. Thus my digital is much lower price because I get more royalties than I do from my print. But pricing is your choice as an independent author. If your price point works for you then by all means you're doing it right.
    • godofthunder85
      Well, once again, I think writers, like musicians, need to meet their readers/customers half way by providing them quality work without breaking their bank. Over the past few years, record companies actually have made their prices more reasonable to offset turning off customers and encouraging rampant piracy. For a while over the last decade, when digital first hit the scene in a big way, the record companies weren't producing any CD singles, and tried to get customers to buy exclusively *albums*, often trying to get them to pay $26.00 or more for a whole album in order to get one song. Under that business model, piracy proliferated. Now, however, companies like iTunes and Amazon sell single mp3 files for $.99, sometimes cheaper for certain songs, and sometimes $1.29 for particularly high-selling or new songs. This has curtailed the degree of piracy to a degree considerably less than it was during the previous decade. As for digital albums, I've purchased a few for as little as $9.99 (depending on how many tracks were included), a far cry from often paying well over $20.00 for some CDs. As for DVDs and Blu-rays, movies are often sold - and rented - cheaper on services that provide digital downloads, such as Amazon. I think the same guidelines apply to writers in regards to short stories, anthologies, and novels (or novellas). Granted, it's true, as you say, that pirates will always be there, but there are customer-friendly business practices that artists of all stripes can adopt that keeps the piracy from getting to the point that it seriously undercuts our ability to sell our creative product. This is even more important for us to consider than musicians, it can be argued, since popular bands never made the majority of their income from record sales, but from touring and merchandise sales (e.g., t-shirts, posters, etc.) sold at concerts. Writers, on the other hand, do not have the equivalent of that, and mass downloading of prose text files takes far less space and time than downloading mp3 files.
      • Richard Flores IV
        You make a good point. The music industry had to adjust digital age. First by realizing that the business model they were used to no longer applied, and then finding what works. I thing books are still adjusting to the digital conversion. And many publishers are only just now realizing that the old model doesn't work.

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