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10 Ways to make your author friend cringe or smile


Cringe Question undecided1: “How many books have you sold?” Think about it – what you are asking her is, “How much do you earn”? If you are that close and you regularly ask each other, “How much did you pay for your new house/face lift/invitro fertilisation?” …then go right ahead. But remember also: authors can be extremely sensitive about their books. Unless they have sold in the millions they probably won’t like the question, irrespective how close you are. Here is what a newly established author can expect to earn with a traditional publisher for non-fiction: up to 12 % of the discounted price of the book (discounts are 40 to 50 %). For fiction 7 to 8 %. Any earnings will first be deducted of any advances paid before royalties are paid out. If an author self-publishes and does it ‘properly’, earnings work out more or less the same. On the surface, earnings seem higher, but the cost of publishing (using quality service providers, suppliers and material) is so enormous that she’s lucky if she even gets 7 % of 50 % per copy sold. A more lucrative avenue is online publishing for instance with Amazon or Createspace. Costs are contained to manuscript production and royalties can generate up to 70 % of the purchase price minus VAT. If your author friend talks about receiving 50 % royalties from her publisher, her book is not with a classical publishing house in the traditional sense. Nuff said!

Cringe Question undecided2:  “Is the main character of the book based on you? Did what happened to her, happen to you?” As authors, even if our novel has autobiographical elements, we have been trained, drilled, brainwashed to always answer this question with “No, why do you ask?” Here’s the thing: you don’t need to ask because there is almost always at least a little of the author in the characters of the debut novel of a writer. But if you ask us, we’ll deny it, so don’t bother.

Cringe Question undecided3: Even worse than cringe question 2 is this one: “Is character xyz modelled on me?” Let me answer in the words of Bernard Bailey who said, “When they finally discover the centre of the universe, a lot of people will be disappointed to find that they are not it.” However, a little of the environment and people around the writer would certainly have influenced her structures of interpretation and weltanschauung, so it is possible, if you know the author well, that some of it would reflect in her writing. Don’t put her in the position of having to answer though, because she has, as I said, been trained to deny it! I know, if you read a lot, you will have read it before: …any similarities are purely coincidental…

Cringe Question undecided4: How do you feel about bad reviews? Oh come on! Must you ask? Writers will tell you (and themselves over and over again) that they like them because stern critique helps them to write better. There you go, there’s your answer, no need to bother your author friend with it. By the way! Write a review on her book; don’t just tell her privately how much you liked it. Yes, you are reading correctly. Telling your writer friend about how awesome her book was and how you called in sick so you could carry on reading through night and day will make her smile turn into a cringe unless followed up by an official review. To the author, the reader’s review is what the applause is to the musician or actor on stage. Unknown

Cringe Question undecided5: “I don’t know how you find the time to write. I’m so busy with my kids and my career, please share your secret.” It’s no secret: She also has no time, she makes time.


Happy Question laughing1: “Tell me, when Tom (character in her new novel) said xyz, did he have ulterior motives? I didn’t quite get what was driving him to… he’s so devious you know. I mean the time when he….” Waddawaddawadda. Talk about her actors as though they were real. Talk long and often about them. And then watch her face.

Happy Question laughing2: “Where can I buy your book?” And then go out and buy it through an official sales channel. Sales figures are the be all and end all of a book. Every purchase generates a point in the rankings. The rankings determine further sales, further publishing contracts, and your author friend’s wellbeing. Authors typically receive 10 to 25 author copies by their publishers. Additional copies they have to buy. Sometimes they get a discount, but they don’t get them for free.

Happy Question laughing3: “Would you like some feedback once I’ve read your book?” The answer is YES! Your author friend eagerly awaits your opinion. She’ll like it if you like it, but she’ll be okay with it if you tell her that you didn’t really connect with it. She can live with a thumb-up and she can live with a thumb-down but hearing nothing is scary. Especially if the book was an author copy as in Happy Question 2.  

Happy Question laughing4: “How can I help you to get the word about your new book?” Being a writer, I think most people know this, is by its very nature a lonely occupation. During the writing process, the author spends hours, weeks, months, sometimes years isolating herself and when she comes out of her self-imposed exile, it may not be easy to reconnect. If you dare ask the above question, her answer may surprise you. A famous multi-million US Dollar bestselling author once said, “Nobody helps the author. As authors, we must learn to ask for help.” If he, immersed in fame and fortune feels this way, spare a thought for your debutante author friend. She may not find it easy to talk about her needs. I am writing this article in the female gender simply to get away from the bothersome he/she without having to resort to the incorrect use of ‘them’ in singular text. I mention this because it’s so important: Male authors will be just as delighted if you offer to assist them.  

Happy Question laughing5: “What is the premise of your book? What is your message to your reader?” Similar to Happy Question 1. You see, authors know that ‘their message’ must reach the reader through the words in the book, not through words about the book. They know that readers don’t want to be ‘taught a lesson’. Readers want to be entertained and ‘learn a lesson’. So when we authors get an invitation to speak freely about our burning message, it indeed puts a smile on our faces and makes us… very happy!

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#1 Natasha 2016-05-26 18:05
OMG, I am a transgressor of note :sad:

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