Seems like such a simple question. But it has the ability to blast a hole in your confidence the size of Wyoming. Take this morning. I ran into an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in three or four years. Naturally, she asked me “how the book thing was going.” My answer? “The same.” We talked about which houses were considering my projects, my new agent, and a few other tidbits. But by the end of the conversation, it was pretty clear that little had changed since the last time we’d spoken. Ugh.
Writers know how excruciatingly slow this business moves. Friends and family, on the other hand, don’t and probably think (or so my overactive mind tells me) you’re a no-talent hack if you haven’t scored a book deal in the time it takes most people to finish college. (Shout out to M.E. if you’re reading this: I know YOU don’t think anything of the kind!)
If you’re a writer, I’m guessing you’ve had this conversation before and offered a similarly depressing answer. Those who bypassed the waiting game and skipped straight to self-pubbing still aren’t off the proverbial hook. I’m sure you’ve heard a few gems along the way, such as, “Hey, why hasn’t your novel broken out like Fifty Shades of Gray?” or “Why don’t you write something like Amanda Hocking and get famous?”
Well, then, the next time talk turns to your budding / non-existent career, feel free to use one of these handy-dandy replies:
1. I actually made a crap-ton of money self-pubbing, then blew it on body piercings. Want to see one?
2. Of course I’m published. But you may be more familiar with my pen name, Stephen King.
3. Anyone can be famous nowadays. Obscurity is sooo much more fashionable.
4. I’m trying to remain neutral in the publishing war by keeping my books out of circulation.
5. Amazon begged me to de-list my titles–my royalties almost bankrupted them.
6. I’m doing really well in Lithuania. They love me.
7. I’m on the Fall 2023 release list for Random House. I’ll send you an email when my book launches.
8. Jonathan Franzen and I are collaborating on a novel. The first draft is due in ten years.
9. You have no idea how complicated this business is. Can I tell you about it? In detail? How long do you have?
10. I’m waiting for December 22, 2012 to launch my book. Just in case.
To be a writer, you need to have superhuman patience and unlimited optimism. Or at least a few snappy comebacks when these run out.
Ever get this question? If so, what do you normally tell people?