In no particular order (with the politest replies I can muster in brackets):
- "I've always wanted to write a book but I don't have time." (Get up an hour earlier, lazy-bones - I did. At even 1000 words a day - 3 pages of A4 - you'd be done in a couple of months. Simple, time-wise.)
- "Everyone's got a book in them." (Best place for it.)
- "I liked your last book better" / "This is better than your last book." (Could you possibly rephrase? I suggest: "I loved *******" / "This is brilliant.")
- "How are sales doing?" (I'll tell you how sales are doing when you tell me how much you earn. Besides, do you know what would be "good" sales? So, if I say I sold 1000 copies in three months, have you any idea whether this is good or bad? So don't ask. Pretty please.)
- "I was in Auchtermuchty and didn't see it in the bookshop." (Ah, that'll be because they sold ALL their copies just before you came in.)
- "Where do you get your ideas?" (I can't tell you - it's like being in the Magic Circle. No seriously, a much more interesting question would be: "What happens when you get an idea? Like, do you stop whatever you're doing and write it down? Or do you mull it over for weeks? Start writing straightaway? How do the characters grow? In your head or on paper?" Those questions, about process, are interesting to authors.)
- "Ooh, that sounds fab - I'll buy it secondhand." (Don't worry - I'm sure my bank manager will understand.)
- "Are you going to write an adult book?" (No, I'm not nearly clever enough .... Arggghhhh, please don't ever ask this without arming yourself with anti-porcupine gear. Actually, if you must know, I am going to write an adult book, when I feel like it, but meanwhile, while my brain is still at its peak, I'm writing for teenagers. We are very, very prickly about this, often unnecessarily so, but it always feels as though people think writing for children/teenagers is easier than writing for adults. So, if you want to ask the question, find a very sensitive way of phrasing it. Otherwise you chip away at our pathetic fragile egos.)
- "I haven't seen it reviewed in the papers." (Oh, and how many papers do you read every day? Do any of the papers you read have any reviews of children's/teenage books? If so, how many? And did you know that there are 10,000 children's books published in the UK every year?
- "Oh, are you the new JK Rowling?" (Considering I don't write fantasy or books in a series, probably not. Anyway, fame and fortune are the tawdry trappings of success and I am above such things.)
This wasn't really meant to be a whinge. We love you all, you lovely, lovely readers, really. And we certainly need you. But our skin is very thin and sometimes it's our closest friends who quite accidentally say the wrong things. So, I just thought it might help if I told you what those wrong things were.
Just sayin', as "they" say.