Columns > Published on September 13th, 2013

5 Other Things You Shouldn't Say to Authors

Something wonderful happened when 5 Things You Shouldn't Say to Authors went live back in July. Not only did people take to it, but a lot of our members chimed in with their own recommendations. It became clear that a list of five simply wasn't going to cover it. So without further ado, the next five...

“I could have written this book.” 

Ouch! Dick move, bro. It’s one thing to call someone’s writing bad, but to have your efforts trivialized by a non-writer is another issue entirely. I’ve never gotten this one personally, but I’ve read enough Amazon and Goodreads reviews to know that this mentality exists—especially when it comes to mainstream successes a la Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight. There’s a lot of chatter about how poorly written they are (Google either title with the phrase “I could have written this”), hence, the claim that any ol’ civilian with high school writing skills could scribe one of these. I’ll say what I’ve always said: it’s really easy to say you can do something—in this case, writing a novel—when no one holds you accountable for actually doing it. Having said that: I’m a much better actor than Daniel Day Lewis. I just don’t have time to go to auditions.

It’s really easy to say you can do something—in this case, writing a novel—when no one holds you accountable for actually doing it.

“Are you real published? Or fake published?”

Nothing makes an author feel like a second-class citizen faster than having their credentials questioned. Look, I’m not going to go into a long spiel about which avenues of publication are considered legit. The general perception used to be that The Big 6 was like an ivy league school while self-publishing was akin to going to Greendale Community College. That more or less held true for a while…and then we got Amanda Hocking and J.A. Konrath, and yes, E.L. James, too. These “fake authors” proved you could make hundreds of thousands—or in James’ case—millions of dollars. Monetary compensations aside, writing is writing. Don’t be so quick to pigeonhole someone as “fake published” just because you’ve never heard of the venue hosting their words.

“I have a great idea for a book. How about you write it and we’ll split the profits 50/50?”

I have a great idea for an app. It’s called iPregnant; it’s an electronic pregnancy test that uses sonar pinging to determine if one slipped by the goalie. Okay, so you go ahead and take care of all the patents and development. I’ll wait for my half of the money at home.

In all seriousness, people do say this…although it’s usually just the first portion—the idea part—at which point, there’s some polite discussion on how it would or wouldn’t work as a novel. That’s fine. People have ideas and the process of pitching makes for interesting conversation. It takes a certain kind of presumptuous asshole, though, to think they can hustle a publishing contract on an idea alone—not to mention the part where absolutely no work is expected on their part. If you really think you have a good idea—whether that be an app or a novel or whatever—it’s probably best you do it yourself.

“Can you hook me up with your agent/publisher?”

It still weirds me out when some dude that I used to know only by an avatar and witty screen name hits me up on Facebook wanting either my agent’s contact info or an insider’s deal with my publisher. Not weird in the “I’m unaccustomed to helping people” way. I have no problem helping people out…if I know them. And coexisting on the same website doesn’t equate to knowing someone. Here’s what you've got to understand about this: an author can’t simply gift agency representation or a publishing contract. At most, they can recommend you as a potential client, and to do that they’d have to be a fan of you and your work—not someone who is only vaguely familiar with you. The agent/publisher “hook-up” is not passive; it’s a formal endorsement in which one author vouches for another. If you’re going to ask for favors, at least have a pre-established relationship with the person first.

“Can you give me a free copy of your book?”

No way, Jose. To quote the great Frito: “I like money.” 

About the author

Brandon Tietz is the author of Out of Touch and Good Sex, Great Prayers. His short stories have been widely published, appearing in Warmed and Bound, Amsterdamned If You Do, Spark (vol. II), and Burnt Tongues, the Chuck Palahniuk anthology. Visit him at
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