When I tell people I'm a writer, the conversation often goes something like this:
Well-meaning acquaintance: "You're a writer? Where can I get your books?"
Me: "You can't yet. I'm in the querying process and still looking for a literary agent."
Well-meaning acquaintance wrinkles their nose: "An agent? What in the sam hill do you need one of those for?"
Me: "Agents make sure I get actual money in exchange for my book instead of, say, a chinchilla."
Well-meaning acquaintance, who looks surprised that I would be displeased with a chinchilla payment: "So once you get an agent, your book will be in stores?"
Me: "Not quite. After the agent decides to represent me, we have to go through the submission process all over again, only this time, it's with editors at publishing houses."
Well-meaning acquaintance: "Huh, that seems like a lot of work..." And because some people think they're book experts just because their high school English teacher made them read The Grapes of Wrath, what inevitably follows is a suggestion so insane that I file it away to pull up every time I need a good laugh and The Daily Show isn't on.
This blog post is dedicated to the well-meaning people who have NO idea how the publishing industry works, but endeavor to advise my career anyway. And, of course, I've added commentary.
"Why don't you just call Stephenie Meyer? She's sold a lot of books. I bet she could help you out."
Yes, because like Edward and Bella, Stephenie and I have a bond...one the transcends the fact that we've never met. I keep her number in my address book right next to Obama's and Angelina Jolie's.
"Hey! Know what you should write? Something with a wizard, vampire, and fairy...and they could search for the Holy Grail." *Pause* "Oh, and the vampire and wizard should be in love with the fairy. Love sells."
OMG!!! It's the next bestseller! Why hasn't anyone else thought of this? Agents and editors will cause a riot trying to get their hands on it...to burn in the fiery pits of hell, the only place worthy of such a masterpiece. Then said agents and editors will find you and stab you repeatedly with sporks.
"You have a love triangle in your book! I told you love triangles sell! Does that mean I get credit for the idea? Do you need to know how to spell my name to list me as the co-author?"
Yes, please. Because mentioning one ambiguous aspect of a story I'd already come up with means that you helped write the book. No need to mention the fact that I'm the one who sat my butt down for countless hours writing and revising, came up with the entire plot, argued with fictional characters, and spent wee hours of the morning pacing the room and discussing plot points with my dog. You should probably contact Stephenie while you're at it and tell her she owes you royalty money for Edward and Jacob fighting over Bella. Hold on, I have her number.
"Why are you writing other books? Authors just have to write one to be rich."
"Getting an agent can't be that hard. There are lots of crappy books out. Yours has to be better than those. Just find an agent who represents crap."
Thanks for the encouragement. I will continue my quest to get my writing up to "crap" standards. Then I'll be sure to mention the "crappy books" the agent represents in my query. Brilliant.
"How about Oprah? Man! If you got on there, you'd sell, like, TONS of books! And you better do it fast because her show ends soon."
Oprah's number is in my address book right next to Stephenie's.
"You're a writer? No, I mean, what's your real job?"
I do have another job besides writing, but this question always makes me want to give a snarky comment along the lines of: "Oh, so you're in management? Gosh, a job where you only work 40 hours a week instead of being on the clock day and night, constantly carrying notepads, and having characters jump out at you wanting something at the least opportune times--like when you're talking to someone about what you do for a living and it reminds you about the character you need to kill. You know, the one who's so stupid he gets pecked to death by an ostrich he thought was dead and the only part of him still identifiable is his yeti-like hairy back, covered in muddy ostrich footprints. Also, it looks suspiciously like he might have been stabbed with sporks.
I know I'm not the only one who gets this kind of advice. I'd love to hear some of the gems you've been told. Please post in the comments if you have some of your own. :)