Note: I’ll preface this post by saying I’m being purposefully snarky. I appreciate inquiries about my writing career from friends, relatives and acquaintances, including the following ones. But I won’t pretend that I haven’t ever been annoyed at being asked one of these questions, despite the good intentions its asker may have.
That being said, here are 5 questions never to ask a writer – specifically one in the traditional publishing business who has yet to actually publish a book.
1. How’s the book coming?
This is the conversational equivalent of “How are you?” Totally rhetorical and you really don’t expect much of an answer; you just probably have no idea what the hell else to say to me. You may genuinely care about me as a person, but couldn’t care less how my day is actually going when asking how I am. It’s a pleasantry that requires no other answer than “fine.” This is probably the most common question on the list. It’s harmless, but it’s also a little too easy.
2. Can I read your manuscript?
In a word: No. If I wanted you to read my manuscript, you already would’ve. Trust me. I guess I should only speak for myself here, but I am quite selective in whom I let read my work. Chances are that if I am ready to let you in to that part of my process, I would’ve already had such a discussion with you. So, please, save us both an awkward conversation – don’t be a self-invite reader.
3. Have you thought about self-publishing?
Yes, of course I have! But I don’t exist in that world at this point, so it’s not really something I’m looking to do. As it happens, I was on the verge of going that route when I attracted the attention of a literary agent, so traditional publishing is the world in which I’m attempting to forge a path at the moment. Granted, these are business elements of which the casual asker probably won’t be aware, so I can’t fault anybody for not knowing the ins and outs of publishing, and this is the question I mind the least on the list. But, yes, to answer you honestly, I have thought about it.
4. Where can I get a copy of your book?
On the opposite spectrum from the previous question, this one annoys me more than any other on the list. Why? Because it tells me that you’re not paying a lick of attention to anything I say. You’re probably someone who follows me on a social media platform for one reason or another, and you likely do want to read my book, which is great. But if you really were reading my posts, you’d know that you cannot yet get a copy of any of my books, because they’re still in search of a publisher. Wake up and pay attention, would ya?
5. Any news on your book?
Oh, didn’t I tell you? I sold it to a publisher just this morning! I can’t believe I forgot to mention that! Uh…no. Believe you me, if there were any news on my book, you’d know. I would be talking incessantly about it and getting on everybody’s nerves, including my own. So, unless I bring it up, there is most assuredly no news on my book, and asking will only remind me of this fact.