A while back I wrote a wee little etiquette thingie for authors on how to talk to booksellers. It has recently been suggested by a remainder1 of authors that the non-authors of the world also need such a guide. So without further ado here is how to talk to an author:
- Never tell us that you don’t read or like books. Or that you only read non-fiction or John Grisham. Unless we write non-fiction or are John Grisham we don’t want to know.
- Never tell us you haven’t read our books even if you genuinely intend to. Such information will only cause us pain as we try to figure out what it is about our books that has not lured you into reading them. Is it the covers? The titles? Our name? Is it because our ranking on Amazon is too low? Our not having won the Pulitzer? Why?
- Don’t tell us you have read our books and then say nothing. We’ll assume you hated them and us.
- Don’t tell us you hate our books. Most authors were born with a rare condition that makes our skin much thinner than that of a normal human being. Any hint of disapproval or criticism causes us to lose even more layers.
- Don’t be too embarrassed to praise us. Praise from our readers is the one bright moment in our otherwise blighted lives. (You try existing with hardly any skin!). Writers live in dark squalorous warrens where editors visit from time to time for the sole purpose of beating us and telling us what is wrong with our books. For a brief moment praise makes us forget these horrors.
- Thirty minutes is considered an adequate amount of time to spend praising an author’s work. Though an hour is better. And a day or more is best of all.
- While it is not necessary to tug your forelock, bow or curtsy, it is very much appreciated.
Feel free to share any further advice on how best to treat us poor benighted skinless authors. But not if you are an editor. Or a bookseller or agent or publicist . . .
- A “remainder” is the official term for a group of authors. [↩]