On Friday, I made a humorous post The Top 10 Things People Say to Writers, and How You Should Respond. I thought it might be fun (and cause dang, it’s hard to come up with blog post ideas) if I broke down every one of those list items in its own post and answered it…gasp…seriously. Yes, I can be serious sometimes! And also, because, I think these really are things that writers have said to them from time to time, and we need to learn a diplomatic–and perhaps constructive–way to deal with it.
So, over the next couple weeks, I’ll be breaking down each item on the list and I’ll try to answer it as seriously, and studiously, as I can.
Ready? Let’s start at the top!
1. How come you’re still working at (day job) if you have a book published?
I’ve talked about this before: not only is writing, and the general publishing of books a business, it’s also part of the entertainment business. Just like acting and music, writers write to tell stories and entertain people, and that’s what the business of writing is all about. The thing is, most people who don’t work in any aspect of the entertainment business are only fully aware of the people who make lots of money doing it–famous actors, musicians who fill stadiums, and of course, writers who are household names and make tons of money off their books. Especially in the writing business, lesser-known authors are even more obscure than D-list actors and small time musicians.
We also are constantly bombarded with stories of authors who become bestsellers off their first book, or land a six-figure advance. So, it’s probably easy to think that ‘getting published’ means ‘getting money.’ Especially if you have more than one book published, especially if you have many books published, it might be baffling to some of your friends and family as to why you’re not yet living the good life.
My funny answer to this question on the original list: Well, you see, it gets really boring on my yacht sometimes. I mean, I’ve visited all the tropical islands at this point, my mansions get awful lonely after all the models and celebrities go home, and I just can’t buy any more diamonds and luxury cars because it’s gotten so meaningless. So, I come here because I need SOMETHING to do.
A more constructive answer: The truth is most writers aren’t rolling in money like Stephen King and JK Rowling. There’s a lot of different publishing houses, and many have far less money and distribution to offer their authors than big publishing houses, but that doesn’t mean they’re not legit. Not all authors get a huge advance, even at big publishing houses, and in fact, most of them don’t get any advance. You simply have to hope you reach an audience, people like your writing, and you get more and more books published so you can build a readership and maybe someday at least make some adequate money off it. That’s how it works!
Honestly, what I always tell people to help them understand is: “You know how there’s bands like U2 and The Rolling Stones, but there’s also bands who play in bars on the weekends, and every level of popularity in between? That’s how it is with books and authors, too.”
You can be nice and informative, but also throw some sarcasm in if you like. What would you say to this question?