I am offering this post as a public service both to authors and the people around them. I am the first to admit that we authors can be a tad on the sensitive side. Honestly, we wouldn't be able to do what we do if we weren't. We feel deeply. While we have no choice but to develop thick skins when it comes to the public in terms of reviews and public commentary, it's not always so easy to toughen up that epidermis in social situations. I am offering a list for any of you out there who know an author and would prefer not to have him or her seething or plunged into despair after an encounter with you.
This came up because of an encounter at a book signing I recently attended. The author is a hugely successful (like fourteen or fifteen times at the top of the NY Times Bestseller list successful) guy who lives in my town. He's also a total sweetheart and very supportive and helpful to other authors. I went to try to be supportive back (not that he needs it, but you know what I mean). The signing was huge. Packed. Bigger than any of his other signings I've attended and I've been to probably all the local ones over the past three or four years. We ran into an acquaintance there who said, "So, Eileen, are your book signings this big?"
I was completely floored. My sweet and somewhat clueless sweetheart launched into something about how well-attended my signings are, but I was really stung. What was I supposed to say? No, I'm not as successful as John and probably never will be. It seemed rude to point it out, especially in front of an audience. My honey contends that it wasn't meant as an insult, but was just a casual and thoughtless remark. It still was hurtful, though. Here's a list of a few more casual remarks that tend to leave me gnashing my teeth.
1) Wow. You're really cranking those books out.
I understand that you're trying to say that I'm prolific, but what you're implying is that I'm like a factory. My books are not widgets. I do not crank them out. I work very hard to produce a book a year and sometimes more. I'm crafting, revising, plotting and thinking. Not cranking.
2) You should send your book to Oprah!
I don't get this one as much anymore as most people realize that Oprah is now off the air, but for Pete's sake, really? Do you think the book isn't sent out for promotion? Don't you realize how many people send books to Oprah or Kelly Ripa or any of those celebrities? Do you honestly think that's a helpful hint that no one's considered?
3) Do a lot of research for those books?
Honestly, I've only gotten this one once, but it really stands out as incredibly offensive since we were at a school function and he said it while staring at my boobs which I realize are magnificent, but really?
4) I'll read your book and then I'll tell you what I think of it.
Then the next day I'll stop by your office and tell you how I think you're doing your job, 'kay?
5) So are your books self-published?
This one is slowly leaving my offensive list with the rise of e-pubbing, but it used to drive me nuts. I would not tell you I was a published author if I was self-published. Why are you assuming that no publishing house would want my work? How about just asking what publishing house(s) I write for?
I know there are more, but these are the ones that I can come up with off the top of my head. Any others out there?