Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Questions from Readers

When I accepted Dani Greer's challenge to write a blog a day for every day in August, the biggest question in my mind was - what in the world will you write about? I wasn't convinced I could come up with thirty-one different topics in a single month. But, strangers are helping. You see, I'm becoming more comfortable with the idea of actually telling people that I write, but that is a different topic.

I'm finding that when I tell people about my book, they ask the most interesting questions. I was expecting to answer the same basic questions over and over - where do you get your ideas, how long did it take to write, etc. I've been pleasantly surprised by the thoughtful questions from both people who read the book in advance and young authors who want to improve their own writing skills. It never once occured to me that people would expect me to be an expert on anything. I struggle with answers to these questions, and feel like a fraud the whole time. I don't think of myself as an expert. I'm a novice - a hardworking novice who continues to learn by making mistakes. So I struggle with the answers. If I feel a particular question requires some thought, I ask the inquirer to see me after the event or send the question to me in email. I don't know if this is the best way to handle the situation, but it is the best I've got at the moment. What do you do when a young person asks a question you don't feel prepared to answer?

Then there's that other group. The people who aks off the wall questions. Most recently, I was asked, "Will I think less of you if I read your book?"

So many thoughts ran through my mind that I was left speechless for several minutes while I weighed sarcastic responses against the incoherent.
  • I guess that depends on how little you think of me now.
  • No. In fact, you should buy and read three copies.
  • Absolutely.
  • I don't know, how would you use a work of fiction to judge an author's character?
  • Umm...

Eventually I got to a civil, "What an interesting question. What made you ask that?" But I'm still stumped. How would you answer this question?

The last group of questions fall into the 'none of your business' category. The most common of these comes in two parts. The person first asks how much of a book price typically goes to the author - or how much does the author make for each book sold. I don't mind this question. Answering it feels like I'm sharing a bit about the industry with an interested party. The problem is this is typically followed by a second question - how many books have you sold? Everytime I hear that question, I wonder how the asker would respond if I asked how much he earned last year. I never ask. I find a polite way to avoid the question - usually with the truthful "I don't know." I can expand on this answer with the ins and outs of the different kinds of book sales, the time lag between sales and accounting to the author's agent and then the lag between there and information to the author. I can talk for as long as it takes for the inquire's eyes to glass over. But there has to be a better way to respond. What do you do?

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