It shouldn’t happen to a writer

Welcome back to another blog hop, with #OpenBook. Here’s this week’s prompt.

Don’t forget to click the purple button to see what everyone else has to say on this week’s subject. It’s at the end of my post.

What assumptions do people make about you when they hear you are a writer?

The first one is that I must be rich and or famous. Then they might ask if I lead a life rubbing shoulders with other famous authors. Occasionally, they’ll ask me sensible questions, like how many books do you have published (twenty-three so far) or how long does it take you to write a book (from three weeks to three years)?

However, once my secret (that I self-publish) is out, the whole mood changes with some people. There’s a sense of disbelief, that because I don’t have an agent and a contract (neither of which I actually want), my work somehow doesn’t count. I’ve even been told that I’m not a “proper” author, whatever that means.

Then there’s the obligatory hatred of Amazon that always seems to be there. As if (by working with them), I’m somehow responsible for their activities.

Now, I’m not an apologist for Amazon (or any monopolistic entity). BUT, and this is important, they have given me and many other people a voice, a platform to express ourselves. For that reason, I’m grateful to them. It doesn’t mean that I have to like everything about their operation. Or agree with it.

On balance, they don’t treat me badly, pay me on time and what I earn from them is enough to keep me in meals out and a few spare pennies.   

At the end of the day, it’s their business, as long as they comply with all the relevant legislation, they can conduct it how they see fit. I CHOOSE to do business with them, that’s the key, it’s a BUSINESS arrangement.

I digress, sorry about that.

To better illustrate what I’m up against, as a little-known author who self-publishes, these are some true stories from my experience.

Once they’ve decided that, as I’m not part of the “proper” literary world but a hanger-on who obviously has no talent, some people excuse themselves, by saying that they don’t like Sci-fi or don’t have time to read. They move away as if I was on fire, or harbouring something contagious.

There are also the people who start off by asking a lot of sensible questions about self-publishing. They then proceed to tell me that they’ve written a book which would be a best-seller, if only I (as an obvious expert), could help them publish it. And by that, they mean edit and format the manuscript, design a cover and then upload it all for them.

Now I’m more than happy to offer advice, a lot of very kind people helped me to get my books published and I want to pay that forward wherever I can. But I didn’t expect any of them to DO it, just to tell me how, or suggest where I could find out.

At a sci-fi convention, a person told me that he’d written a sci-fi story. I congratulated him and he then took over an hour to describe his story to me, with a lot of repetition and asides, plus the occasional suggestion that I “ignore that bit.” It was almost as if he was reading me his first draft from memory. I was desperately trying to be polite but a lot of potential customers at the event got fed up with waiting to catch my attention and buy books before he got the hint.

There was even a person who interrupted my conversation with a group of fans at another convention. We were talking about world-building when she barged in and loudly asked for a refund on the paperback that she had purchased not an hour before. Turns out that she’d started reading it over a cup of coffee and had decided that it wasn’t to her taste. Needless to say, the crowd around me vanished.

Finally, there are the ever-present people who tell me that they’d “love” to read my books, if only they weren’t so expensive. I guess that they don’t have any idea of how much work is required to create and polish them, as well as the upfront costs incurred, or for the fact that I like to eat or turn a light on occasionally. Or perhaps they feel that giving away one freebie won’t hurt me? My stock response is that one of my books is cheaper than a cup of coffee and will take a lot longer to consume.

Until next time.

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12 Responses

  1. Jack Eason

    Agree with everything you’ve said pal. Being subjected to stupidity on a daily basis, is it any wonder we remove ourselves from society for the sake of our sanity?

    • Richard Dee

      It’s better to keep quiet and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

  2. Stevie Turner

    People tend to want free books these days, as there are so many authors giving their books away. Like you I publish on Amazon, which is the most popular choice for readers I think, and I do have the odd free promotion. However, that’s as far as it goes!

    • Richard Dee

      In the past, I gave away a lot of free books and to be honest, I’ve never seen the benefit of it.

    • Richard Dee

      My family show little interest in my writing, I have offered them books but they politely decline them.

  3. Daryl Devore

    This line speaks volumes – as I’m not part of the “proper” literary world but a hanger-on who obviously has no talent
    We get that thrown at us not only from non-writers – but from the other side of the publishing world – the agents – publishers and agented writers.
    So sad.


  4. Stevie Turner

    The free books bump up your blog stats on the day and cause hundreds of downloads on Amazon, but after that you’re back to where you were before.

    • Richard Dee

      Sadly, that’s been my experience, lots of downloads but no further interaction (no reviews, engagement on social media or sales of sequels).

  5. Lela Markham

    You’re right. Amazon is a business and I have a business relationship with it. If people don’t like Amazon, they shouldn’t do business with Amazon. You can sell books through other outlets. You won’t make as many sales and your income will drop to nothing (I’ve tested this theory), but you are free to do so. Amazon is not a monopoly for authors, it’s just the best platform available so gets the lion’s share of the market.

    Same with consumers. A friend who owns and is the supply manager and marketer for a private business in town explains that you can find almost anything that is available on Amazon through other sources — which means they’re not actually a monopoly. Consumers don’t have to buy from Amazon. They can choose to pay more money from other sources. If Amazon enjoys a near-monopoly, it is because they offer deals consumers enjoy. Nobody is forced to sell through or buy from them.

    As for the “proper literary world” – there’s some good authors still out there publishing through the big houses, but a lot of it is predictable and it’s like they’re telling the same stories. Indie authors are free to take chances and that’s a really good thing. The pub houses became stale because of their need to gatekeep. It’s got nothing to do with talent and everything to do with control and conformity.

    • Richard Dee

      That’s true, although the perception among a lot of buyers is of a monopolistic operation and that’s what matters. I used to despair of seeing rows of almost identical copies of the latest big novel in bookstores, often within weeks of its initial popularity. I like to write something different, selling that in a world of conformity is hard going.

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