If you’re a writer, you may dread the question, “What do you do?”
Why? Because of the responses you receive after replying, “I’m a writer.”
These responses, though (usually) well-meaning, are sometimes ignorant, thoughtless, or just downright unkind. Even if you seem unaffected on the outside, the comments can begin to get to you after a while.
We understand, and would like to share ten common questions we hear when we tell people we write, along with the answers we secretly want to give.
1. “What’s your real job?”
Answer: “Umm…I’m a writer.”
This question is really saying, “That must be a nice hobby!” It implies you do your work only for fun and it carries no more consequence than, say, knitting (no offense to knitters–we love cozy blankets).
2. “I have a book in me, too!”
Answer: “Oh really, when is your publication date?”
It’s true most people desire to write a book, but this comment stems from simple ignorance. It assumes writing is easy and anyone can do it. It also disregards the many hours of hard work you’ve put into writing.
3. “Can I read your book?”
Answer: \”Oh, can you do my taxes for free this year?\”
No, you would not like to give away your work for free. Even though there are benefits to giving your book away for free, it doesn’t mean you can give them all away for free.
4. “Will you review my book?”
Answer: “Of course, I’ll be happy to spend 10-20 hours reading your book and developing recommendations for it.”
Again, does this person plan to offer his own work for free? Reviewing a book requires a significant amount of hours. This question also assumes that writers are expected to be editors and well-versed in all genres, which they are not.
5. “Do people still buy books?”
Answer: “No, but I was looking for something to spend a year of my life on, so I decided, ‘Why not write a book?’”
People who ask this question have usually heard vague snatches of conversation about “no one reading anymore.” They don't realize the power the written word still carries, and will always carry. They also fail to realize the many opportunities authors now have to get their books in front of people, whether through printed books, E-books, Amazon, author websites, or social media.
6. “I would love to read your book, but I don’t read.”
Answer: “Yes, you do–everyone reads something. You probably just don't want to read my book. And that’s perfectly okay.”
This is a weak attempt to make you feel better about not buying your book from you on the spot. Feel free to smile politely and change the conversation. Or go talk to someone else.
7. “You don’t look like a writer.”
Answer: “Should I buy a pipe and reside by the fireside in my cabin at the lake?”
This is a classic example of someone who likes to let words flow freely out of their mouth. Should you purchase a tweed coat? We’re a little at a loss of what to recommend here.
8. “How much money do you make as a writer?”
Answer: “May I also ask you personal details about your income? Great!”
Some people assume you’re writing only to make money, and that you define your success as a writer based on the money you make. They fail to understand you could be writing for many reasons: to help people, to share your vision, or to expand the reach of your business.
9. “I haven’t heard of you or your book before.”
Answer: “I guess that settles it, then–I’ll never make it as a writer. I’ll turn in my two weeks’ notice tomorrow.”
Oh yes, this question is another big indication the person you’re talking to is not thinking about the words coming out of their mouth. It assumes all writers write only for notoriety. It also assumes you care whether the person you’re talking to has heard of you.
10. Is your book like The Purpose Driven Life, Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter?
Answer: “Absolutely. You can purchase it on Amazon.”
Of course we know that most of these questions are well-meaning, and many of us have become skilled at gently re-educating people who ask them. Most people don't realize what they’re actually saying. We’re still thrilled to be writers and can't imagine doing anything else, so we can handle a few silly questions.