Friend of Author: “Everyone, this is _______. She’s an author.” Note* At mention of the word author, IQ points begin freefalling and a toddler-esque curiosity grips the party-goers.
Party-Goer #1: “Oh, what’s your book about?” (This first response may seem benign, but don’t be fooled. This is the lead-in question, a.k.a. the elevator pitch. Being the introvert that I am, this kind of put-on-the-spot inquiry makes my skin crawl. It should be noted, there is no easy answer to this, especially for fiction writers. Somehow, a premise never sounds as good by mouth as it does on paper.)
Author: Responds with whatever neatly packaged reply they have rehearsed and tucked away for just such occasions. Note* Cue the cricket noises and blank expressions all around
Party-Goer #2: “Is that like fill in the blank with whatever recent blockbuster best seller is least like what you write?”
Author: “Well, not exactly.”
Party-Goer #1: “Are you a real author or one of those do-it-yourselfers?” (This, of course, is a reference to self-publishing. At this point, the party-goers have no idea whether the author is traditionally or self published. If the latter, they have already thrown out the implied insult before it can be reeled back in.)
Author: “Uh, I have a traditional publisher. I guess that makes me real?”
Party-Goer #3: “Too bad. You could be like that Amanda Hocking chick. Have you heard of her?” (Amanda Hocking, self-pubbed millionaire, not to be confused with Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist. However, depending on the amount of alcoholic beverages consumed by party-goers #1 and #3, this is a distinct possibility.)
Author: “Yeah. Shame.”
Party-Goer #2: “So how much money do authors make anyway? Are you rich?” (The rarity of this question in regards to ALL other fields of employ is striking when compared the consistency of it in regards to the singular profession of writing.)
Author: “Ummm…” Note* Cue the involuntary twitch.
Party-Goer #3: “Hey, you should send me a copy of your book. I’ll read it.”
Author: “I don’t actually get free copies.” (Author now begins searching frantically for a bathroom.)
Party-Goer #1: “You know, I’ve always wanted to write a book.” (This can also be substituted with the related statements, I’m writing a book, or, I started a book. Here, one or more party-goers, after systematically offending the author with their line of imprudent questioning, is about to launch into a life story and/or have the gall to ask for help.)
Author: “Really? That’s fascinating. I, um, I think I hear my mom calling.” (At this point, the author, having been down this road a time or two before, abandons all hope for a reasonable exit strategy and simply bolts for the door.)
Party-Goer #2: “Isn’t she odd?”
Party-Goer #3: “Well, she is an author.” (Remaining party-goers attribute the author's flight to the general eccentricity that is known to be possessed by writers as a fatal flaw of their character.)
I get some version of this scenario almost every time I meet new people. My two favorites are the inquiry into my personal finances (as though by measure of my decision to put my creative writing abilities out in book format, I am also obligated to display all earnings from it), and the free copy request, which I imagine goes hand in hand with the urban legend that all authors are wealthy.
In response, I am considering printing the following on a t-shirt for social outings.
~Yes, I am a writer/author.
~A.) If you are going to ask what my book is about, then at least have the decency to feign interest and/or comprehension at my answer. B.) This kind of shit gives me performance anxiety and heart palpitations, which I will endure for the sake of an agent or editor. Are you either? I didn’t think so.
~No, my book is nothing like whatever household title you’re about to drop.
~All you a real jack-ass or just a figment of my imagination?
~Of course I’ve heard of Amanda Hocking. I am a professional. It is my business to know my industry. Plus, I don’t live under a rock. No, she isn’t in a wheelchair. You should really consider putting that drink back.
~How much do used car salesmen make? My finances are none of your business.
~Free copies are a myth. I earn my living selling the books I write. Don’t be a dick, buy one if you want to read it.
~Everybody always wants to write a book. It doesn’t count unless you finish it. I cannot pass you my magic publishing baton. If you want to truly be an author, which I suspect you don’t, then you will have to put in the years of dedication, ramen noodle dinners, and ceaseless rejection that I, and every other accomplished writer, have had to endure. P.S. Nobody gives two shits about your life story unless you’ve experienced something completely mind-blowing, like a shark attack, or are already famous or related to someone famous. Are you a cousin of Paris Hilton and Snoop Dog? No? Then stick to your day job.