Monday, March 5, 2012

The "Are You Published?" Question

You know how it is. You're at the grocery store, the gym, your kid's soccer game, a family reunion, and you run into someone you haven't seen for a bit. They start asking about you, and you mention that you're a writer. And then they say, "Oh! Very nice." And then the dreaded question. "Have you been published?"

And if you say anything other than, "Why yes, actually, I have. My most recent book was [name of book everyone's heard of]," you get that look. The same one you figure you'd get if you had said, "I decided to change careers. I think I'm going to make it big as a hoola-hooping juggler."

And you want to somehow convey that you are serious about this thing! This isn't some hobby. This is something you work hard at! (Side note: If it IS just a hobby, that's so totally cool. It just usually means you won't say "I'm a writer" so much as "I like to write," which tends to keep people from asking the Dreaded Question. Which is also cool. ;))

Chances are, they aren't a writer, so they don't get it. They don't get the time and sacrifices and work that has to happen before you can be published. They don't get that everyone has to go through that work. So how do you answer?

My favorites were, "Not yet. Just give me some more time." Or "When I'm ready, I hope to be." Or "I'm working toward it."

Sometimes, it helps convey that it is hard work, and you're putting in the work. Sometimes it works and that look disappears a little.

Of course, sometimes it works TOO WELL, in which case you get Dreaded Question #2: "So, you're going to be the next J.K. Rowling?" (Am I right? Raise your hand if you've told someone you're a writer, and they've asked you if you're the next JK.) I don't know about you guys, but Dreaded Question #2 usually elicits a snort from me, and that's never pretty. Hm. I'm beginning to thing that people who say "I like to write," really know what they're talking about.

How do you answer that question?



P.S. Huge thanks to Eve at Functioning Insanity for the Sunshine Award and to Susan Kane at The Contemplative Cat for the Liebster Award!
P.P.S. I am immersing myself into edits on THROUGH THE BOMB'S BREATH so thoroughly and deeply that I'm only going to post on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the month of March. There. I've announced it, so I won't feel the need to do some crazy post explaining why I missed a day. Oh, wait. I had fun doing that post.... I might have to explain myself again sometime.

58 comments:

Delia said...

I avoid the question altogether by not telling people I'm a writer. It's just easier. Of course, housewifery often gets a different, but equally unpleasant, look. I don't know how much trouble I'm really saving myself.

Happy editing!

Eve said...

Yes I know that look very well. It's always fun and usually followed by 'so why isn't your book finished?' and 'do you really think you will pay the bills with it?' fun times.

I usually answer with, 'I'm a writer working on my first book. No i'm not published yet but how could they publish my awesome book when i'm not done writing it yet?'

That seems to work the best for me and my family :)
Congrats on the other award as well. Much deserved.

Cristina said...

I absolutely avoid telling people I'm a writer to avoid the weird looks... but over the weekend, while out with my cousin and her friends for a glass of wine, SHE told everyone I was a writer.. I cringed!

and wouldn't you know it, someone came out and said, Are you going to be the next J.K. Rowling?

yeah, I avoid telling people I'm a writer! just like I avoid telling people I'm a Marriage and Family Therapist, because that instantly gives people the impression that they have to right to tell me all about their problems and then ask for my professional opinion... at least with that I can tell them that my professional opinion will cost them $70 LMAO!

people are so strange!

Emily R. King said...

I answer the first question vaguely. The person asking it obviously doesn't know me well, so I answer their question indirectly. The truth is too hard to explain.

Maria Zannini said...

I never told a soul I was writing until after I published for exactly the reasons you stated.

But I LOVED the look of shock and awe when they found out. :)

Kristine said...

Hahaha! Though I don't write, when I tell people you do, I get those questions! "Is she the next JK?" I usually just say "to me, YES."

Tasha Seegmiller said...

I figure the question is as ridiculous as asking people who play sports if they are going to be the next Kareem or Elway, etc. Always hopefully :)

Jennifer Lee Young said...

I don't tell people I'm a writer. Instead, I feel more comfortable telling people I like to write.

Great post Peggy!

Angela Cothran said...

I'm with Emily. People who know me well already know I write and people who don't know I'm not too worried about telling them. The normal world population has no idea how hard it is. They think anyone can write a book and get it published.

Mara Rae said...

I think saying you're a writer is safe. But when unpublished writers call themselves authors, that can get a little awkward. So I usually say I'm a writer - formally a journalist, now trying to find an agent for my fiction. I find it more horrifying telling my husband's Marine Corps friends that I write YA paranormal.

Annalisa Crawford said...

But won't it be great when you says Yes, and mention the name of a book everyone's heard of?

Rebecca Belliston said...

I had the opposite problem actually. Writing came and hit me out of the blue, so I was always afraid to mention I had a book in the works. Even now, I have old friends I haven't talked to in years say, "You wrote a book? You?" I'm not sure you can win either way. I haven't got the JK question yet, but I'll definitely be snorting. :)

Tonja said...

I say I'm a writer. I used to do software development - admitting to that usually makes people try to get away from you quickly.

My financial planner got really excited when I told him I was writing. He advised me I should write something like Hunger Games.

Julie Daines said...

Hi Peggy. I know you're deep in edits so you probably don't want to hear this, but I gave you an award on my blog. :)

David P. King said...

I remember getting that "look" and even laughs when I said I wanted to be a writer as a teenager. I don't get those looks anymore. Maybe it's because I invite them to check out my blog and see how serious I am about it. But, yes, I secretly dread that question, too. :)

Amanda Olivieri said...

Like a lot of people who commented, I usually just say that I like to write so that I can avoid the question. I do remember, though, when I told my mom that I was writing a book, she asked if I was going to be the next JK Rowling, ha! WHY do they ask that?? I think it's hysterical that so many writers get asked that question.

S.P. Bowers said...

I say I'm a writer and deal with the questions as they come. I needed to be able to put it out there to own the title for myself. And gradually I came to not be so uncomfortable. Even after I'm published people will be asking awkward and uninformed questions. I just better get used to it.

Small Town Shelly Brown said...

If they ask if I'm published I just tell them that I write for my kids. That usually gets a smile and a subject change.

Susan Kane said...

I get those same darned comments! And my answers are much the same, except I throw in "I'm looking for an agent/publisher/miracle..."

Michael Horvath said...

I don't have to say a word and I get looks all the time. True.

Most people just say "That's cool" when I tell them I wrote a book, then they move on to whatever is important to them.

Elodie said...

I would tell them: "Psshhh I have a secret, I am REALLY J.K. Rowling...but you cannot tell anyone." I would then proceed to ask them if they read my books :D

By the way just saw you added me on your "Blogs I love" feed :D I´m blushing! Thank you!!! :D

Leigh Ann said...

Monday, Wednesday, Friday is PLENTY. That's my schedule, and even that gets overwhelming sometimes. So - you are awesome for even taking on that much.

I don't tell people I write unless I know them well enough to know whether they're actually listening to the words I'm saying. Sometimes, when I get far enough to tell people I'm not published, they mention that someone they know "wrote a book, and is published and everything! Like, it's a real book!" And then I almost always find out that it's vanity or self-pubbed. ...and then I just don't feel like getting into *that* discussion at all. :)

Peggy Eddleman said...

Delia-- Haha! Sounds like it's time to start embellishing. ;) Like Principal Home Manager, or CEO of [Your Last Name], Inc.

Eve-- Ooo! Great answer! I love it!

Cristina-- Hahahahaha! Isn't it funny how often that happens?! So funny that it JUST happened to you, too. :D

Emily-- Indirectness. Sounds like a good plan.

Maria-- So you got out of it altogether?! Nice!

Kristine-- See? It's just the question people ask! And thanks for your answer. :D

Tasha-- I know, right? I guess that's their way of saying they believe in you? Idk.

Jennifer-- You definitely know what you're talking about.

Angela-- Sigh. I guess it's that way with pretty much anything. Probably rocket scientists get people all the time thinking that anyone can put a rocket into space if they just get the degree. ;)

Mara-- Why ever would telling your hubby's manly men friends that you write Paranormal YA be weird? Hehehe. And yes, I agree about the author thing.

Annalisa-- Totally!!

Rebecca-- I guess we should just care less about "winning," and care more about getting in the best snort. ;)

Tonja-- I used to be a software tester, so I totally get that. :D And that's so funny about your financial planner! Yes. You should totally do that. All it takes is deciding to do that, right?

Julie-- What?! Are you kidding? I'll ALWAYS take an award with much squeeing, regardless of whatever else I'm deep in the middle of! Thanks much. I love it!

David-- Yeah, but see? The convincing them of your seriousness is usually what elicits the DQ#2. If you haven't gotten DQ#2, it begs the question: Do people feel uncomfortable comparing men to JK, for fear that the cross-gender comparison might make things awkward? Someone should do a scientific study. I vote for it not to be me.

Amanda-- It IS hysterical! I think it's because she is the most well-known author. I think it's a way to compliment, really.

S.P.-- I like to get it out there, too. I don't think there ever was a time where I held back on telling people I was a writer. And so true! There'll probably be awkward questions every single step of the way. We're going to be experts at the awkward question before we know it!

Shelly-- Ah! Nice answer!

Susan-- Sounds like it works! And best of luck in that agent/publisher/miracle search. :D

Michael-- You're hilarious!! And true- people generally move on to other subjects pretty quickly.

Elodie-- Hahahahaha! I love it!! And of course I added yours! You're a million kinds of awesome, Elodie. It would've been there months ago if I had been able to force it to the top of my to-do list sooner.

Leigh Ann-- Thanks for the validation. :D I love that you don't mention it until you know "whether they're actually listening to the words I'm saying." So funny! Yet people ask without really caring all the time. Sounds like pretty darn good advice to me!

K. Turley (Clutzattack) said...

My current dilemma is telling people I have an agent for my book--but that it doesn't necessarily mean the book will be picked up for publication.

Feels like I'm telling them "I have a lottery ticket with numbers on it."

Leigh Covington said...

Here's the honest truth. I hate to tell people I write just to avoid that darn question! Both questions, actually! So yeah. I don't announce it much, but I will when I'm closer. :)

Jo said...

"Not yet, but I'm supplementing our income as a topless dancer on the weekends" is usually a good way to end that line of questioning.

Clarissa Draper said...

No one asks me if I'm published because I'm don't tell anyone I write. It's easier for me that way.

Z said...

Every single day of my life. I'm graduating this year, so naturally everyone asks what I'm getting my degree in, what I'm going to do with it, etc--and I get asked if I'm going to be the next JK EVERY SINGLE DAY (the worst is my mother, who stokes the rumors by announcing that's exactly who I'm going to be...oh mom.)

When they asked if I'm published, I usually tell them to check out my blog...or I laugh and tell them "Duh! That's why I'm in school--so I can learn how to get there!" Too bad I'll be losing that excuse here shortly...but my book should be finished by then, so there's hope!

Donna Hosie said...

LOL! Don't you just love "the question"?!

Thankfully I will publish in June so only 3 more months of awkward silences!

Charlie Holmberg said...

Fortunately, when I say I'm a writer, it's no lie, since my day job happens to be [technical] writing.

Really, though, I tend to refer to writing only as a hobby, not as my career. Because it isn't, not until I'm published, so that avoids the problem all together.

(To be honest, it's a little pet peeve of mine when someone tells me they're an author and have never been published/don't have publishing prospects. I know, I know, this is a personal thing, but still, it bothers me. I play the piano, doesn't mean I'm telling people I'm a musician or a pianist...)

Angela Brown said...

*raising hand*
Seriously, do people not realize there are way more authors than JK Rowling and James Patterson?

Even though I have a full-time gig, I mention I'm also a writer. I've worked hard on it so I certainly don't want to slack that part of me. I've just got a long way to go to get where I'd like to be, which, by the way, is not being the second coming of JK Rowling. I get to answer with a two-fold response: "Yes, I self-pubbed something as a learning experience and for fun a few years ago but I've turned my attention to my passion of young adult novels."

Lan said...

Ahh the dreaded follow up writer questions. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten the "So you're writing Twilight?" question. I don't bother anymore. I just say "I'm really boring and don't do anything but watch TV" which for some reason usually makes people happy.

Kelley said...

I've gotten the next JK Rowling question. I just laugh :)

Haven't found the best answer yet. I like the 'I hope to be when I'm ready' answer :)

Alleged Author said...

I answer all questions with a whole lotta nopes. :P

Imogen said...

I don't talk much about being a writer. Most of the people I know wouldn't be interesting in my writing anyway. But I do have the advantage that I'm young enough for them not to ask me stupid questions. They just think it's a hobby.

Marewolf said...

My answer: "Are you kidding me? I don't even know what I'm doing yet!"

:)

Chantele Sedgwick said...

Good luck with your edits!! And enjoy your little break. ;)

Trisha said...

I don't get the question often, because I have the benefit of having a good "respectable" job to fall back on ;) But seriously, when people do ask if I've been published (which always happens if I ever say "Oh yeah, I write!"), I say, "Nope, but then I haven't tried yet either." :P Which will stay true until...gasp...I actually start trying someday! Then I will be in trouble when faced with this kind of question ;)

Carrie Butler said...

Go into a really drawn out explanation of the publishing process and they will never ask again. I promise. In fact, they might start avoiding you in the grocery store...

Kidding. ;)

I just whip out those Moo minicards and direct them to my site!

Tara Dairman said...

"So, you're going to be the next J.K. Rowling?"

My usual response to this sort of line is "From your mouth to the Flying Spaghetti Monster's ears!"

Feel free to borrow and insert deity of your choice. =)

Tara Tyler said...

right!
it's exciting to talk about the writing, but most people dont get it...my son keeps telling me to get published already so he can be rich, ha ha!

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

You know, this topic gets brought up so often on writer blogs that I think we should all put our heads together and come up with a list of answers that will put those non-believers in their place :)

Sarah Pearson said...

I don't tell anyone :-)

Connie B. Dowell said...

I agree with Susanna. We need some snappy answers for when we get "that look." Here's my ridiculous suggestion: "I'm a ghostwriter. I AM J.K. Rowling." Well, that one might get you a totally different kind of look.

Patti said...

I'm a closet writer in my real life. Not too many people know.

Valentina Hepburn said...

I get so embarrassed when people say to me 'Still writing?' I feel such a geek. Obviously, because I write for a living, they know I write, but they know, that I know, that's not what they meant. I've thought of a great answer for all those detractors. "Get stuffed." There. Not very constructive, but it would make me feel great! By the way, Peggy, I know you're busy with edits, but I've tagged you. When you get time, please answer the questions I've answered on my blog. Can't wait for the answers. No hurry, sweetie. Just when you have time. Love Valentina

Shallee said...

I usually say similar things-- "I'm working toward it," or "Soon, I hope."

I also get people asking, "So when you're a famous author, does that mean I get a free signed book?"

Um...love ya. But probably no. :)

Joshua said...

I've never really thought about it this way, but I suppose I can answer yes to this question. As long as those poetry anthologies count. I made it into four of them when I was much younger. So...does it count?

Cortney Pearson said...

Lol, yes I've had the-next-JK-Rowling question too!! Good luck with your edits!! :D

Liz Fichera said...

Oy. I hated that question. It got easier once the first book got published but it's still not easy. We writers are so dang hard on ourselves.

Tracy Bermeo said...

I'm with Delia. Would rather explain writer than housewife. Have to say though that it does help that I"m published each week on a local news media site and at least people in town don't need further explanation. :) Good luck with your edits.

Christa Desir said...

MG writers get "you're going to be the next JK"...YA writers get "so do you write books like those Twilight ones?"

I prefer to skip the entire conversation by telling people that I edit romance novels. I'm sort of lucky that way bc there isn't much to follow-up after that. :)

E.D. said...

I still haven't told anyone I write fiction too (in addition to legal articles) - exactly for the reasons you mentioned. But if I ever manage to get a piece published, I am going to tell everyone :-)

Alexis Bass Writes said...

80% of the time when I tell someone I write YA, they ask me if my story includes vampires. People are so silly. :)

Lynda R Young said...

Yep, I'm terrible at answering that question but mostly because I don't want to get into it all and explain all the intricacies behind what it means to be a writer. lol.

I'd love to be bold enough to respond to the question of being the next JK with a definite "yes!" I just don't think I could say it with a straight face. ;)

Peggy Eddleman said...

K-- Ha! I remember that dilemma all too well. Here's to hoping you don't have that problem long!

Leigh-- Sensible approach, definitely. I dare you to shout it from the rooftops, though. :D

Jo-- Hahahaha! Okay, you get the award for the greatest question-stopping comeback! Priceless.

Clarissa-- I have to say, the easiest way to not have the awkward questions is to not give them a chance to be asked in the first place!

Z-- Haha! I love your mom! So very awesome when moms have all the faith in the world in their kids. Mine is the same way. And I guess the looming loss of a good answer to the awkward question is a good way to light a fire under you to get that book finished, huh?

Donna-- Yay for only three months to go! Congratulations!! I still have 18 months. Wow. That feels like forever.

Charlie-- I'm right there with you on the author thing. And I WAS right there with you on the technical writing thing. (I was a technical writer for software manuals for a few years. Definitely different from writing fiction, isn't it?!)

Angela-- That's a great answer. And I never held back on telling people I am a writer, either. I figure it's a HUGE part of my life! A huge passion! And sure-- I think people know there are more authors than the obvious ones... Those are just the ones that come to mind first. :)

Lan-- Haha! I love it! And I guess I never realized how often YA writers get the Twilight / Stephenie Meyers question. Makes sense.

Kelley-- Me too, it's just that a snort always comes out with that laugh. ;) And good luck trying out the new answer! Chances are you won't have to wait long to try.

Alleged-- Ahh! Why didn't I think of that?! I always feel the need to explain. Why, why, why? A simple nope will do it!

Imogen-- That's a gift. Make sure you love it. :D

Marewolf-- Ha! I love that answer!!

Chantele-- Thanks! And best of luck with yours when you get them!

Trisha-- Nope, but then I haven't tried yet either is a fabulous answer! And yeah... I guess you'll have to come up with a different one when you do start. Best of luck with that!

Carrie-- I think I love your fake answer every bit as much as I love your real answer! I heart my MOO cards. And suddenly I think how great it would be to have one side tell what my book is ABOUT. I always fumble when I get that question!

Tara D-- Hahahahaha! Thanks for passing on borrowing rights on that one!

Tara T-- Ha! I love kids. A teacher of one of mine asked the class if they knew anyone in real life who was famous. He told me to hurry up and get published so he could answer me. ;)

Susanna-- Definitely. We're thinkers, right? Surely we can come up with something. :)

Sarah-- Good plan. Much easier that way. Although possibly not as fun.... ;)

Connie-- Haha! Yeah, different look indeed. But could be quite fun!

Peggy Eddleman said...

Patti-- That keeps it so much more simple!

Valentina-- Haha! "Get stuffed." Yeah, probably not the most constructive way to answer, ;) but sometimes, it may feel like the best. I can't promise when I'll get to the questions, but I will work on it!

Joshua-- Ooo, nice! It totally counts. Helps people realize how serious you are. Of course, it brings you closer to DQ#2, also. Which, apparently, isn't always the JK question-- it depends on what you write.

Cortney-- Amazing how often that comes up, isn't it? And thanks!

Liz-- It's nice to know there's an end! Or at least that it gets easier. ;)

Tracy-- Pretty sad, isn't it? I know that I could do housewife/mom duties all day long, never rest, and still not get to it all! That's so awesome about the local news media site! Especially if it staves off the questions. :)

Christa-- I hadn't really realized that until your comment. And I can totally see how that would be! People who write for adults probably get the Next James Patterson question. ;) It's nice to have a good question-stopper response!

E.D.-- Yes! Shout it from the rooftops!!

Alexis-- Hahaha! I love it! I hope I'm hanging out with a YA writer someday when they get that question.

Lynda-- Okay, so the goal is to be able to answer a YES! with a straight face, right? We should form a support/practice group. ;)

Z said...

Haha, thanks Peggy, yeah, lighting a fire under my bum usually tends to get me hopping :) That's what moms are for, right?