What “Everyone Knows” About Authors*

As part of our current series of “Golden Oldies,” here’s a blog I wrote that was published a couple of years ago … but which I think stands the test of time.


(Lea Wait’s notes garnered during ten years/nine books worth of book signings, library appearances and general interactions with non-writers.)

1.  All authors are rich.

2.  Authors get as many copies of their published books as they want, free, from their publishers. Just ask them — they’ll give you one. If they don’t give you one, they’re not really your friend.(They’d also love to give a copies of their books to any charity that asks. The more giveaways the more readers! And all authors want are readers, right?)

3.  Authors get their ideas from a) their dreams, b) the lives of their friends and relatives, c) the daily news and d) complete plots handed to them by strangers. They’d love to hear your ideas for their next book!

4)  Authors have plenty of spare time. All they have to do is write down those stories people tell them. So any author would love to a) watch your children; b) walk your dog; c) serve on your organization’s board; or d) organize a benefit for your worthy cause and call all his or her writer friends to come and support it. (Remember: they’re all rich!)

5)  Authors have staffs to take care of their scheduling and itineraries, answer fan letters, keep their mailing lists up-to-date, and do research for their next books.

6)  An author may get some rejection slips at first, but after his first book is published, anything he writes will be published.

7)  Authors spend a lot of time flying around the country, staying in fancy hotels, being wined and dined, talking with Oprah, and signing their books. The publisher pays for this. If an author is NOT doing this, it’s because he’s chosen not to.

8)  Authors may not all smoke, the way they used to, but most of them still drink pretty heavily. Alcohol helps them be creative. They also drink because they’re lonely, sitting in front of their computers all the time. You’d do an author friend a favor by dropping in unexpectedly several times a week to cheer him up. And by bringing wine.

9)  No matter what they say, authors really are their major characters.

10)  Therefore, of course: romance writers have hot sex lives, picture book writers think like first graders, mystery writers want to kill people, and science fiction writers want to blow up the planet. YA authors who write about vampires … well … you know!  College professors write literary fiction for other college professors to analyze.

11)  Authors will be really pleased if you tell them you loved their book so much you loaned your copy to twenty of your best friends. They’ll be even more pleased if you tell them that, to save trees, you bought it used on Amazon to begin with.

12)  Now that authors can publish their own books, only old-fashioned writers bother working with agents and traditional publishers. They can make a lot more money putting their book up on Kindle themself.  If your author friend doesn’t know this, you’d do him a favor by telling him.

Anyone have any additions to my list?

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36 Responses to What “Everyone Knows” About Authors*

  1. People who can write can write anything equally well, so they will be happy to write a play for your community theater group, a sonnet for your anthology, and a murder mystery for your murder mystery fundraiser.

  2. Barb Ross says:

    Your ideas come to you full blown and linearly as they will appear on the page. If you have to do a lot of rewriting and restructuring, you don’t have talent.

  3. Published authors know “the secret” to getting a publisher (or editor or agent or movie deal) but refuse to share with unpublished writers.

    Writers don’t need to be offered an honorarium to speak before a group. See earlier point about all writers being rich. Of course we don’t need gas money!

    Sadly, the list could go on and on. Still, a fun post, Lea.

  4. MCWriTers says:

    Let’s see:

    Once you’ve published a book, you have it made. You’re on the gravy train for life.

    It’s okay if the book you write isn’t edited or well-thought out, an editor will recognize your genius and fix it for you. If only that selfish author will just share the info about her agent and her editor.

    Oh…and terribly important…two of my faves…Writing must come easy for you, dear published author, because they tried to write a book one, and it was HARD!
    And right on the tail of that one, writing a book takes no time at all, as they say to us: I’ve always wanted to write a book, and someday, when I have a free weekend, I’m going to write one.

    It’s just that when we sweat blood, we do it in private.

    I actually set out once to see how fast I could write a book. I wrote 10-12 hours a day for 3 1/2 months and wrote 485 pages. Then I had to spend a year slimming it down.

  5. All authors’ books are immediately sent to Hollywood agents and seriously discussed for their television/movie potential. If the work is made into a film, the author has total control over casting, script, location of the shoot, etc. Afterwards, the author will be Even More Rich (see No. 1) and will spend all his/her time hanging out with major stars in LA. Readers who liked his/her work before the film or tv series came out will all agree that the author has Sold Out.

  6. MCWriTers says:

    And speaking of control, we also have absolute control over our book covers–the the design and the copy that goes on them.

    Love this comment string, which wouldn’t be complete without another truth about writers: Not even our friends and family need to buy our books, because we’re so rich we don’t need the sales.

    • Lea Wait says:

      You know — that’s one I actually had on the original list! (Before the editing we never have to do …!) A well-known children’s author added on my FB page that authors love to help with book reports by answering all questions for book summaries, main characters, major plot points and author biographies… needed by 8 p.m., please!

  7. No new ones, but enjoyed these!

  8. Writing children’s books is easy, because they’re short. Ditto poetry.

  9. Also, because we have so many free books lying around, we would be delighted to donate some to your school/library fundraiser in BackOfNowhere, Iowa. Mailed at our expense (because we’re rich, as noted; and have time on our hands, also noted.).

  10. NancyM says:

    Authors are eager to hear your stories and want to write them into books that will earn millions. And we’ll even share the royalties 50-50!

  11. Clea Simon says:

    Writers who don’t appear on Oprah/Fresh Air etc. just haven’t thought of it. If you tell them they should go on TV, they’ll be grateful.

    Also, writers have unlimited publisher-paid touring budgets and they’d love to come to your town. (Well, the second part of that is true, but it costs money to get to stores.)

    Addendum to that: Readings exist so you can ask writers about their agents. You don’t have to buy their books. They are there to help.

  12. Bob Thomas says:

    A propos riches: Lea is too polite to do this so I had to intervene. One day a lady was gushing all over her about her brilliance and to prove what a loyal fan she was, the lady announced she loved all her books and shared each of them wiith at least 20 friends. What I said to the fan was near unpublishable, so….

  13. MCWriTers says:

    Bob…reminds me of one of my favorite event stories. After a library talk, a woman came up to me and said that she had been looking all over for one of my books and never could find it. So I pulled a copy out of my trusty little bag and said, “You’re in luck. I have one you can buy right now.” She drew back as though I’d said something obscene, and said, “Oh! I don’t BUY books.”

    How we get so rich, eh?

  14. Jeff Cohen says:

    Writers don’t really work all day. Writing is actually a hobby, not a profession, so at some point writers will wise up and get “real” jobs. But not before they give you a copy of their book, tell you who will star in the movie of their book, read your manuscript to give to their agent/editor/publisher, write the screenplay to the movie of their book, design the cover for their next book, make sure their book is in the front window of every bookstore in the country, and by the way, the publisher does all the publicity.

  15. Writers who have not made the NYT bestseller list need to be reminded again and again that all they have to do is go on TV and be interviewed.

  16. Coco Ihle says:

    Kudos to Lelia and everyone else for your brilliant “truths.” What a riot! Thanks, I needed a good chuckle.

  17. Coco Ihle says:

    Oops! I meant, Lea. Sorry. At this hour, my brain freezes and my fingers go crazy.

  18. Kathy Newton says:

    Loved this conversation. I don’t personally know ANY authors who are RICH, have time to relax or enjoy continued life interruptions by eager strangers.

  19. Lea Wait says:

    Then sounds as though you know some real writers, Kathy! Unlike the fantasy creatures who clearly inhabit some universes …..!

  20. Sarah Graves says:

    Not quite in the “truths about writers” category, but:

    I actually had someone tell me that she aspired to write novels, too, just like I do. “Only,” she added earnestly, “I’m not going to write a mystery novel. I’m going to write a REAL novel!”

    • Lea Wait says:

      Ah, yes. On the other hand, I once had someone look at a pile of my books (for both adults and children and say, “I see you used to write for children. I guess then you learned enough to be able to write for grownups, right?”

      Strangling readers is not allowed, right?

  21. Prentiss Garner says:

    Thank goodness you all listen to all that crap and continue to write wonderful books ANYWAY!!!!!!

  22. Lea: I get all of these wonderful supportive comments too. I particularly like the ones about not buying my books, just borrowing them (said with a horrified look, as if I were suggesting they go to one of Nevada’s legal brothels). When people say they could write a book if they only had time, I am relentless: “I doubt it,” I say, and probably never have to talk to that person again. Being a writer is a masochistic profession. But then, I did just come in 19th out of 1,000 entries in the 2011 Writer’s Digest Short Story Competition. I can live on that for awhile.

    • MCWriTers says:

      Hurrah! Celebrate! And know that most non-writers have no idea what that means — but those of us who do — are cheering you on!

  23. Alice Duncan says:

    Sigh. I do wish those misconceptions were true. Oh, and my sister has told me I write trash, and when she decided to write a book it will be nonfiction. I told her to go for it. Nonfiction is MUCH easier to get published than fiction. Unfortunately, that’s the truth.

  24. Mo Walsh says:

    Because you’re a writer and you work from home, you are the perfect “volunteer” to do PR for the school, the scouts, the church, the marching band, the gymnastics team….
    (In fairness, I suspect anyone who works with numbers in any capacity is always the perfect volunteer to be treasurer.)

  25. And despite your brilliantly intricate plot, totally surprising ending, characters that come alive and are so REAL the reader thinks she is related to at least two of them, the typo on p. 3 shocked her so much that the whole book was spoiled for her. You really must consider switching to a better publisher!

    LOL, Chris

  26. MCWriTers says:

    I loved this discussion before and am so happy to revisit it.

    There are always those people who let us write their stories for only 50% of the profits. LOL.

    On the other hand, I did recently get a story idea from someone who sent me a clipping, and she and I are both thrilled with the story that resulted.

    Chris…the irrationality cannot be overestimated. I had someone give me a one star review on Amazon because she was miffed that the book wasn’t available in a kindle format! I guess you know you’re a writer when that happens.

  27. Mark says:

    So, now that you’ve had your fun at your reader’s expense, maybe it’s time to put the shoe on the other foot and start a list of things that all authors know are true about readers but really aren’t.

    We’ll start with one that rings familiar – all readers are rich.

    Why must you have that idea? Because you can get offended and tell off readers who buy your books used or loan your books to their friends. (While Lea hinted about it in her original post, Bob bragged about doing it in his reply.)

    Let’s assume that your book costs me “only” $8 for a mass market paperback. And I do have 20 friends who I think will enjoy it as much as I did. That’s $160. For every writer I love. For a minimum of one book a year. You think I have that kind of money?

    I read between 50 and 70 books a year – a combination of hardcover and paperback. I buy more books than that a year (fully intending to read every book I buy, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day). So yes, if I find an author I want to try who has several books out, I will buy them used. Why? Because I can’t afford to buy every book I want new. But the good news for you is that if I do like your books, I will start buying them new.

    Those friends I loan your books to? Quite often they start buying your books as well.

    And how is my loaning my book to my friends different from what the library does?

    Look, I love to support authors. I will drive an hour one way in traffic, with $4 per gallon gas to go to a book signing for an author I like or am interested in. When I do that, I always buy the book.

    I have reviewed at Amazon for 12 years now. Why? To help authors I love. It’s why I branched out to Epinions and now have my own review blog.

    I know writing is hard work. I know you make peanuts. And I do my very best to support you if I enjoy your books. I don’t expect freebies. I expect to go and buy your book.

    But cut readers some slack. We’re on budgets, too. As much as we’d love to support you by buying new copies of every book, we just can’t always afford to do it.

    In fact, that attitude from authors is the kind of turn off that makes me put them on my do not buy list.

    Note: This rant is from a reader who hasn’t loaned out a book in several years. But when I do again, I won’t feel guilty about it despite your best efforts.

    On a different note, Chris, you are completely correct about business people and money. I’m an accountant, and I’m always the treasurer or some related thing.

  28. Brenda says:

    You all have me on the floor laughing & crying!

    You only left out that authors and their families definitely want to hear how someone hasn’t read ANYTHING since they got out of college!

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