Friday, August 20, 2010


By Patricia Gulley

You…wrote a book.

You wrote a book!

You wrote a book?

Think about these three sentences with the emphasis on either the first or last word. Then think of all the different tones of voice that could be used while saying each of them, and you will have yet another thing an author faces after assuming she/he has finally scaled the insurmountable wall called ‘Published’

And most of these comments come from people you know not the great sea of readers out there in the world who don’t know you from Eve, who you are hoping will buy your book. No, mostly it comes from people you’ve met over the course of your life.

Disbelief that you had any qualifications to do anything, leads to a nanosecond of doubt that they may have misjudged you, followed by the thought that you printed it out on your computer and are hand-selling something that comes on paper with dolly wheel edging. Or they may give you the benefit of the doubt and assume it is an autobiography or family history, and they are pleased they don’t have any interest in it.

Then there is surprise and pleasure that you may now be a celebrity and they can claim they know you. That is usually followed by shock that you haven’t received hundreds of thousands of dollars in advance to be followed by millions more in royalties, and ending with disappointment that you will not be taking them out for lunch.

Fear that you are going to expect them to spend money.

Fear that you are going to expect them to read your book, even though there is the expectation that you will give them a free copy.

Over the years I have read many an author’s first efforts at going out and trying to do the promotion thing. Some have worried about their ability to stand up in front of an audience and talk about themselves or their book, because they remember public-speaking classes from school. To their surprise, this is not half the problem that getting people to show up becomes. From then on, it is the stomach wrenching, ulcer on the way terrors of finding no one has come to see or hear you. Or, they may find themselves sitting or standing at the entrance of a bookstore having to ‘hawk’ the book. I have worried about these things and can understand the Pure Terror it causes.

But no, there is an audience, they know who you are and they have come to see and hear you. Some are good friends, and others are acquaintances that you haven’t seen in a while and you are so pleased they remember you. Until! Skip back up to the top of this blog.

I don’t know if there is a question here, if the published writers have experienced any of this, I’d hate to ask you to recall the incident, much less comment. For the unpublished, it may bring back memories of people to whom you’ve mentioned that you are writing a book, and have experienced those same three sentences.

And to think I thought it would be all marketing and traveling and having a wonderful time trying to find time to write the next one. Oh well!


Annette said...

Pat, I think this is one of the reasons writers need to support other writers and attend these things. It's nice to have SOMEONE there who understands.

Joyce said...

It's definitely nice to have someone who understands. Thank goodness for groups like SinC, Pennwriters, and RWA.

I think it's funny when people show such great interest when I tell them I'm a writer--until they find out I haven't had a book published yet.

Jennie Bentley said...

Ah, yes. Been there, done that. All of it. Including the standing at the door hawking the book and doing signings where nobody shows up. Last month, I went to do a signing at my local Borders, only to find when I got there that they had no idea who I was and didn't have the books in stock. That time, people actually did show up, and left empty handed, which is no better, believe me.

I'm off to Killer Nashville for the weekend. Play nicely, children.

Gina said...

Compassion for neglected authors sitting behind tables full of books explains why I've ended up buying lots of things I never wanted in the first place. Sometimes these pity purchases turn out to be pretty good books.

Yeah, people's reactions can be weird. Years ago, I co-authored a non-fiction hardcover book (Informed Consent: A Study of Decision-Making in Psychiatry) and was showing it off to a group of colleagues in a waiting area outside of court. "Have you seen my book?" I proudly asked one man as I handed him my copy. He hefted it in his hand, looked at the cover (where my name was prominently displayed), and said, "So, you're reading this, huh?"

PatRemick said...

It's a crazy business. Enjoyed your post... I think it would be better if you went around all day reminding yourself...

Patg said...

Yes, support among ourselves is the key word. Author support and fellow 'whatever the protagonist does' support. In my case Travel Agents.
Jennie, what happened to you is the kind of teeth grinding incident that makes you want to go screaming into the sunset.

Laurissa said...

Enjoyed your post, Gina! I definitely need the support and understanding from the various writers groups.

Ramona said...

Pat, when I wrote for children, the joke in that group was always about people saying, "So when are you going to write a REAL book?"

Then JK Rowling came along. And all those questioners shut up.

Patg said...

I love JK Rowlings' story.
What an inspiration to determination.

Gina said...

JK Rowlings is my favorite author (and she would be even if nobody else ever heard of Harry Potter). The unconfusing complexity of that series, coupled with the immediacy of her writing, blows me away every time I reread those books.

Anonymous said...

Yes it is positive to have groups to support our writings and our weak moments. The comments about being a writer/being published are just what writers need to put up with while moving forward. Take that nap and then continue the good fight!

Jo P

Norma Huss said...

Hi Patricia,

I can go Gina one better. When I told some acquaintences about my book, one of them said later - confidentially so no one else would hear, "I bet you had to pay a lot of money to get it published."

"Hey, they paid me," I said. Oh, well. Mysteries scare her. Actually, it's possible any book scares her. (tee hee)

Anonymous said...

Even though I'm still among the unpublished, I can still relate to your posting. If I mention I've written a book, first they want to know when it will be out. When I explain how hard it is to get a book published, then they lose interest. Of if they think I'm going to be making mega bucks like John Grisham, and I tell them even if I do get published, I'll be lucky to break even. That's when they lose interest and change the subject.

Another aside about the fear you'll want them to buy and/or read your book. A woman I know just got published by Publish America - that scam business. I had warned her about them, but she went ahead anyway. The price of the book is $35.00 - paperback for a new author. Obviously I'm not going to buy it. It's not even in a genre I enjoy reading. Gloria

Anonymous said...

As a non writer, my guess that touting a book would be like having a birthday party and spending a whole year wondering if anyone would come. The very best congrat I can give you is my husband does not like women writers, especially women mystery writers. Old grumpy says you can tell by page 3 who did, but he read your book from cover to cover and didn't catch on to the killer until the very last!!!!