We’ve all been there: someone discovers you’re a writer, fixes you with a curious eye, and blurts out That Question.
Where do you get your ideas?
I usually say “www.ideas.com” and change the subject. Here are 10 more awkward questions you’ll hear – and how to respond.
- How much money do you make? I don’t know why, but people just assume writers a) all make what Stephen King makes and b) don’t mind talking about their salary. The best response here is a vague “Enough” and a quick change of subject.
- Will you read my novel? Or my friend’s or my relative’s or anybody else’s. The correct answer is “I’m sorry, but I just don’t have time.” If they seem serious, explain how they can go about finding a professional copy editor (and mention that those folks get paid for their hard work).
- Will you write a book with me/for me? Everybody has that One Great Idea … it’d make a fantastic book or movie. If only they had someone to help them write it, or to write it for them. If you’re truly interested in their idea, you can offer to help them (but don’t expect much out of someone who hasn’t actually sat down and tried to write on their own first). The better answer is “I’m sorry, but I just don’t have time.” You could explain how they can find a ghost writer if they seem serious (and mention that those folks get paid for their hard work).
- How do you get published? Here’s another would-be writer who’s never actually put any work or research into the craft. The polite answer is “You can find a ton of information on that subject on the internet and Writer’s Digest puts out a great book every year called ‘Writers’ Market’ to help you.”
- How are your books doing? People think this is expressing polite interest, even though it smacks of our first awkward question. The best answer is “They’re doing fine – have you bought your copy yet?”
- Is your book at the library? Most people have no idea how libraries (or bookstores) actually work. The best answer here is “I don’t know, but if you request a copy, they’ll get it for you.” You could also remind them to give you a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads once they’ve read it.
- Is your book on the bestseller list? Unless it actually is, the answer would be “Not yet, but if you buy a copy and tell all your friends to buy one, it might get there.”
- How do you find an agent? This one’s done a bit more work than the “How do you get published” questioner, but they’re still not applying themselves. The right answer is “Writer’s Digest puts out a great book every year called ‘Guide to Literary Agents.'”
- Have you been on any talk shows? Sometimes people equate “author” with “celebrity.” If they’re genuinely confused, you can politely remind them that most authors don’t get invited to talk shows. A good answer is “Not yet – how about you?”
- When will your book be made into a movie? Here’s another common misconception you might politely correct if you feel the need. The best answer is “I have no idea.”
And of course, you’re welcome to think up your own replies to “Where do you get your ideas?”