More Things You Shouldn’t Say to an Indie Author

Last week’s post in the Indie Author Life series – 5 Things You Should Never Say to an Indie Author – proved just how tight-knit the indie community really is. I deeply appreciate all the ‘likes,’ the reblogs, tweets, and most especially, all the “Me, too!” comments. The post was so successful and the responses so overwhelming, I’m posting a ‘sequel’ this week.

My new author friend Rachel Thompson and I organized a poll for more writers to share their stories of ignorance and disappointment from people who mean well, but just don’t understand how publishing works…or how difficult it can be.

More things you shouldn’t say to an indie author:

“Who published your book?”
Just like you should no longer assume that every person you meet is heterosexual, don’t assume that every author’s books are published in the traditional way. A better question to ask is “How was your book published?” It may seem like semantics to you, but trust us: it sounds a lot better.

“I’d love to write a book, too. But I don’t have time right now- I’m too busy with my career.”
This doozy can be extremely annoying to those of us whom writing IS a career: or are working very hard to get there. I have separated people into two groups: those who like to write, and those who are writers. The writers are the ones who get published: somehow, in some way. They make it a priority. They cannot imagine life happening around them without writing as a way to make sense of it all, because writing is a way of processing. And when writing is shared, it communicates a grain of truth about the human experience.

Those who like to write, on the other hand, are people who do it when they have time. There are bigger priorities in their lives, and that’s fine. If they get to it, they get to it. But in my opinion, a book written by someone who ‘likes to write’ is not as good as one by someone who LIVES to write. I can’t explain how I can tell the difference, but I can.

“Hey, wanna write my life story for me?”
Can’t say I’ve heard this one (yet) but more than one person mentioned it, so it must be real! It’s flattering that you think enough of someone’s writing skills to ask this, but writers tend to be very busy people. Ghost writers exist for this very purpose. Also, be aware that if you ask someone else to write your book for you, they are entitled to a portion of royalties. Are you okay with that?

“That’s nice you get to stay home and write stories all day.”
That’s like telling a stay-at-home mom that it’s nice she gets to stay home while her babies sleep all day and play quietly. Our writing is a business; it doesn’t always go the way we want it to. There are good days, and then there are times when there’s more coffee making, vodka tipping, hair pulling, and venting than getting anything productive done. Have you ever had a workday like that?

Finally, here is a look at the long-term impact a few careless words can have on someone who is trying to be a successful writer (out of respect to those who submitted, all these quotes are anonymous):

My husband has repeatedly said it’s not a real job because I don’t earn enough and I don’t put in the same effort as with a “normal” job.

I think the worst is my family who has never really read my writing…it’s not that I expect me family or friends to like what I write. I know that choosing what we read is much more complex than that BUT so much of who I am is in what I write so if you aren’t reading it you really don’t have a chance of truly knowing me.

“Oh, is that, like, on your bucket list?” (In response to the process of writing a first novel.) I find this question insulting. As if writing a fucking novel is on the same level as a long weekend spent fly-fishing in Montana.

I had a friend on Facebook who wrote me something like “All you do is travel to nice places and have fun,” to which I was going to respond “No, actually, all I do is WORK in nice places. I spend 12 hours or more every day writing, marketing and building a career for myself, instead of sitting somewhere I hate, doing something I don’t want to, lining someone else’s pockets.” I didn’t in the end, I just deleted him.

Friends, family members, and new acquaintances, I’m sure you mean well when you ask us questions about our books. We love your questions! Just think carefully about what you ask, and how. Respect the fact that we are people who have chosen a long, twisty route to fulfilling our dreams. Your support means everything.


12 thoughts on “More Things You Shouldn’t Say to an Indie Author

  1. I think the ‘bucket list’ comment is instructive. It implies that writing a novel is something everyone should, or could, get round to doing at some point. The thing is, everyone (or at least, a lot of people) thinks (a) they have a novel in them and (b) they know what writing one involves – because how hard can be it, right? Only writers know the real answer to that question …


  2. Ha, well I can’t draw either. I’m writing and my sister is drawing. She just sent me the first character sketch and it was so exciting! Oh and the “same page” thing was a total accident. I guess I just make puns so much that now they come out unintentionally.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for another great post! The only thing I’d like to say is that some writers take a lot of time before they are published, and regardless of how writing is their life and a priority, it doesn’t necessarily mean that getting actually published is their top priority.

    I consider myself a writer, but this is part of who I am. I have been looking for a (paid) job in sectors that mean something to me (university teaching and media / creative industries). I got irked when someone told me that I should just stop doing my writing because it didn’t pay and that I should do useful things. My publications (as well as the tons of projects that didn’t get picked in the submission process) are vital to me and will still be the day I have another job. I don’t picture myself stopping to be a writer. Even when I have less time to devote to writing, I know I will continue, because the ideas and need to write will still be there. Maybe I will write less, but it doesn’t mean at all that I will stop writing, especially as even when I get another job, I will still be researching and writing. Of course I hope to get back to fiction writing at some point, but I know and feel how academic/nonfiction is my primary writing field these days.


    • Yes, while published authors are writers, not all writers are published. 90% of my writing will never be published, since it’s in journal format (unless I give permission to whoever finds my will to go ahead and publish them after my death, but that’s still up for debate).

      Whatever your goals are, keep writing!


  4. Can I throw things at people who think writers sit around and do nothing all day? Please? I mean, I’m a relatively non-violent person but… right now I am working full time (for the regular paycheck) while building my connections through social media, producing blog/story content, and working on the novel (which is nowhere near the place to be able to start looking at publishing). And I know the work will just increase and get harder as I go. So… if I promise to only throw soft, non-injuring things, can I throw things at them? I’ll invest in a supply of crafting puff-balls for the purpose…


    • It sounds like you and I are sort of on the same page. I’ve also got a full-time job and am working on a (graphic) novel. It’s weird to hear other people at work talking about going home and watching TV and going to baseball games and stuff. I’m like, Ha, I’m going to go home and work more. And yeah, I’m sharpening my nails for that day when someone says Hey, just come out with us and take a break from your novel because it’s not like it’s real work.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m lucky that my coworkers understand (to some extent) – so when asking my weekend plans and I say “Writing” they are nice and supportive! I’ve functioned within little bubbles of artist-types most of my life so haven’t actually encountered that sentiment a whole lot.. thank goodness! A graphic novel? Awesome — I with I had the skills for that, but my drawing skills stalled out around the kindergarten level 🙂


  5. Along the lines of “Hey, wanna write my life story for me?” I get a lot of “I’ve got some great ideas for a book.” Great, stack them up behind the twenty or so that I have but barely have time to write and maybe I’ll look at them when I’m dead. Seriously. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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