Monday, February 24, 2014

What Every Writer Really Wants You to Know But is Too Nice to Say

by Samantha Wilde

In celebration of the one year anniversary of the release of my second novel, I'll Take What She Has, I decided to write down all the things I wanted to say when my books came out, but didn't. Because I am TOO NICE. 

Don't I look like a nice person?

I always want to say the nice thing. I'm a minister, that's how important it is to me to be kind to other people! However, I have spoken with many other authors who share this same affliction: smiling and shutting up in the face of woefully awful book-reader manners. Today, on behalf of all of us, I will break the silence.

It is time for readers to get an education in the etiquette of talking to authors. I will now nicely offer it.

1. NO, I will not loan you a copy of my novel.
I can't tell you how many readers say to published novelists: "Can I borrow a copy?" Would you go to a restaurant and ask to borrow a dish of food? Would you go into a jewelry store and ask to borrow a necklace? Authors are not librarians. It's insulting. If you don't want to buy the thing, for heaven's sake don't tell us!

2. PLEASE don't mention how you're going to get the book from the library!
I love libraries. I compulsively take out books. But if you are friends with or have the opportunity to chat up a published author at her book event, do not say, "I'll look for it at the library." If every reader requests that their library carry a copy of the book, that's awesome! However, unless you really can't afford a $15 paperback (less on Amazon, even less on eBay), you should hold off on letting your favorite author know that you love her books so much you intend to support her by not buying anything she has produced.
My amazing artist friend Sara Manela made
this picture for me last year.

3. Say something nice! I KNOW you can do it.
After you read an author's book, don't say, "I read your book" and nothing more! If you hated it, find one thing you can genuinely compliment. I am not asking you to lie. How about saying, "I like the cover," or "There were some funny lines." I've read awful books and yet I can always find one good thing and so can you. It's rude to offer silence. Don't tell the chef: "I ate the food," and don't tell the writer, "I read the book." If you truly can't find a positive thing, why not say: "My cat really liked it!"

4. A book costs money. Do not expect to be gifted one.
Do you know that most authors receive about 25 copies of their own book? After that, they have to BUY copies. I have bought copies, in fact, for giveaways I've done. That's right, I've paid to give my book away and I can assure you I am not the only one. So don't be offended when your neighbors' sister has a novel come out and doesn't bring you a copy.

5. BUY the thing already!
I know of many other authors who have friends, even close friends, who have not bought their book. Honestly, how many people do you know who have published a book? Probably not that many--and please don't include your Facebook friends here. I don't buy the book of every person I have ever interacted with on the planet, but if I go to a book talk, I buy the book. If my friend publishes it, I buy the book. I have even bought the books of acquaintances knowing I would never read the thing. Be a good friend. Buy the book.

Or don't buy the book, but if you choose not to, steer away from comments such as: "It really doesn't look interesting to me," or "I'd never read a book like that." Remember what your mom used to say? If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all? Silence is golden.

6. NO, you haven't!
The proper response if someone you know publishes a book is: Congratulations! Alternatively you can say: "That's exciting!" "Good for you!" or maybe even make some conversation and ask: "What was the process like?" It is not okay to say, "I wrote a book, too," when all you have at home is twenty pages you wrote forty years ago that no one has ever read. That's like saying to the winner of the Biggest Loser who lost 250 pounds through sheer hard work, "I lost weight, too! One pound." I LOVE that you want to write a book. I'm happy to hear about it. Yes, your life is interesting enough to become a bestselling memoir, but honey, it ain't so easy!

Well, I've done it and now I feel dreadful. What a mean person I've become. What next? Un-friending people who haven't purchased larges quantities of my novel or used it in their book club? Naming the unlikeable character in my next book after the person who keeps telling me she'll get my novel when it's on the remainder pile at the bookstore?

Won't you make me feel better and comment with your unspoken replies to bad reader-manners you've encountered over the years?

Thank you! And have a nice day!

Samantha Wilde is an extremely nice person. She tries to be agreeable, especially to strangers. Her two popular novels, This Little Mommy Stayed Home and I'll Take What She Has, are definitely worth owning, however you should know she only pretends to be a real writer because she actually spends her days taking care of her three small children, cleaning the house, and reading books. She's a minister of the progressive kind and wrote a book about love, Strange Gifts, that she does actually give away on a regular basis. She wants you to like her on Facebook because it improves her self-esteem. And wouldn't that be a nice thing to do?


  1. I'll comment first by saying thanks for the laugh and thanks for having the guts to share this! I can relate to every single one. Though what you share is funny, it's also sadly true. I could probably think of a few more to add to your list but for now, here's one I'd love to share, just because it was the one time when a reader really caught me off a book signing I had this past summer, a gentleman wanted to buy one of my books but he had the guts to ask, "How much for an unsigned one?" (So much for the gentleman.) I could only stare at him for a moment or two while I collected my baffled thoughts and then I told him it was the same price, signed or unsigned. When he walked away I could only think, "Did he really just say that?" I'm glad to say that's the only time someone has asked me that!

    1. Oh my goodness! That's perfect. Perfectly terrible! Thank you so much for sharing. It's so nice to know I'm not the only one.

  2. Samantha, what a great post!!! I think you've said just about everything we authors would love to say. I agree about the library, but another pet peeve of mine is when people tell me they've bought one of my books from a used bookstore or read a copy they borrowed from their mom, sister, or whomever. Thanks for telling it like it is!

    1. Thanks, Wendy. That's a good addition. If you borrow an author's books, you probably shouldn't tell her!

  3. Sometimes people tell me they won't buy a book because they don't like to read. Fine, I tell them, buy it anyway...use it for a paperweight.

    1. Brilliant! A new advertising campaign: Books aren't only for reading!

  4. Such a great post. So many people think 1) if you published a book you must be rich and famous and therefore 2) you can give them a copy because it's your book and therefore 3) you must have a million stowed away. Sometimes it's good to step out from the NICE...

    1. You mean I'm NOT rich and famous?
      Seriously, I agree. It's understanding how widespread the belief is that in publication comes fame and money.

  5. Loved this post. I will add one more: Help an author and leave a review! Amazon loves books with loads of reviews so at the very least, even if you *cough* do check it out of the library, or borrow the book, go and REVIEW THE BOOK!

    1. Yes, Maggie, that's an excellent idea. Might even make up for getting the book from the library...

  6. I'm glad someone finally said this. I casually know a gentleman who's well off actually come up to me and ask, "So, when do I get an autographed copy of your book?" I responded with a sweet smile, "When you buy it, I'll be delighted to autograph it for you."

  7. Wonderful post. Relate to all of them. And I love that you finally had the courage to say it.

  8. Oh, the hidden grimace, the words not spoken. Perhaps we should print this and hand it over during those delightful conversations so that our flat-line smiles don't cement themselves on our face.