1 Apr 2015

Some things not to say to an author awaiting the release of their book*

When you're a creative person about to release a significant piece of work, the people in your life will be very interested in it and will want to be supportive of your endeavours. This is lovely and cannot be overvalued. However, often without meaning to, people will come out with phrases that will make you want to stab yourself in the eye with the very red pen with which you've been painstakingly proofreading 80,000 words. Here are the ones I would absolutely recommend avoiding:

  • So, what's your next book going to be about?
Erm, I dunno. I might write a tome pondering the phenomenon that causes people to disregard the fact you've just poured your heart, soul and energy into writing, editing, rewriting, proofing and promoting a work, to assume that you'll have had any time or motivation to even think about embarking upon the massive undertaking that is writing another book, and to proceed to ask you questions like that one.

Would you look at an amazing piece of architecture and say "Wow, nice design, dude. So what's the next building you create going to look like?" No? Then don't do it to any other creative person. Someone who's waiting for a book to come out has already spent a great deal of time having to live in the future. Don't demand that they fast-forward even further in to the future and in so doing, force them to skip over the very moment of triumph they've been waiting for - that's just sadistic.

  • I've always thought I could write a book.
That's nice. Would you like to go off and do that, then, instead of faking interest in my literary endeavours when really you're just looking for an excuse to talk about your own frustrated authorly ambitions?

Quite apart from the fact that the above statement takes my work and makes it all about you, it's frustrating and obnoxious in another way. There's a reason it's considered rude to walk up to a teacher, a nurse or a plumber and say "Yeah, I could do what you do." That's because it is rude. Yet that's basically what you're doing when you casually say "Oh yes, I've always thought I have a book in me." Also, it's de facto untrue. If you could be doing it, you would be doing it. Unless you've already done that job yourself and actually really did consider it easy, you have no authority to speak on that subject. In the unlikely event that you have done any of these jobs and found them easy, it's still pretty shoddy behaviour to belittle someone else's hard work by breezily stating that to their face. If in doubt, just don't say it.

If you want advice or mentoring on how to start writing, by all means ask for it directly. Don't insult someone who's sweated blood over their career by implying it's something you could just pick up in an instant if you really wanted to.

  • Can I have a free copy?
Did you contribute to my book in terms of providing mentoring/advice, proofreading, photographs, interviews or other forms of support? Then sure.
If not, and you're just banking on the fact you know me to try and blag a free book, I have two words for you, and one of them's "get".

  • Oooh, here's something really interesting that could've gone in your book.
Fantastic. Please climb into a DeLorean and go tell it to me 12 months ago. Otherwise, I must admit to being frankly a little exhausted of the topic I've just written 80,000 words about, and could do with some down time to look at silly memes on Pinterest, rather than encounter yet another recommendation for a book/article/TV show/movie/song/music video relating to my topic of choice. Remember- it's OK to talk to me about other things, and at this point, it's actively preferred.

Instead, here are some things you can say that will always be well received.

"I can't wait to read it."
"I'm so excited for you."
"I'm telling everyone I know about it."
"Let me know if I can help promote it in any way."
"Here's some Um Bongo/red velvet cake/wine."

*With love and thanks to everyone in my life who has supported me in creating this book - even if it was by saying any of the above, I know it was always well-meant - I promise I'll stop being so caustic when it's released.

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