There’s a list of questions you aren’t supposed to ask a woman, and I’ve never minded answering any of them.
I’ll cheerfully tell you my age (35), my height and weight (5’4” and 117 pounds), or the reason Pythagoras and I don’t have kids (we don’t really like them).
But until eight weeks ago, there was one question I truly dreaded:
How many books have you published?
Though the answer now is the same as it was eight weeks ago (none, yet), I can at least follow up by giving details of my upcoming releases.
But I still hate the question. Because let’s face it, the reason the person is asking is to determine if they’re talking to a “real author,” or…well, something less than that.
And that’s an implication that makes me uncomfortable even now that I have a three-book deal that apparently entitles me to carry the “real author” license.
It’s not just people unfamiliar with the publishing industry who seem hell-bent on distinguishing between “real authors” and whatever the opposite of that would be (unreal authors?) We do it ourselves as authors every time we sell ourselves short and allow people to make us feel inferior for the mere fact that we haven’t yet reached that next stage.
I guess this is why I find myself bristling now when someone suddenly treats me differently upon learning about my book deal. There’s a certain level of respect that comes along with that, and I’m not entirely comfortable with it.
I know I sound like an ungrateful bitch, but that’s not it at all. The thing is, I’m the same damn author I was eight weeks ago. Or eight years ago.
If you want to split hairs, two of the three books in my contract started with partial manuscripts I wrote nearly three years ago under a previous agent who just wasn't interested in them. These are the same damn books my current agent adores and my new editor recently gushed over, saying, “everyone here is just in love with your voice.”
So I haven’t changed, right?
But I have, at least in the eyes of writers and non-writers alike. In some ways, this makes my heart swell like a boner in a bad porn.
In other ways, it makes me angry. I’m angry on behalf of every author who’s ever felt sub-par because the magic wand of dumb luck hasn’t yet waved over her head and granted her an agent or a book deal or the level of respect she deserves just for trying to break into publishing.
Writing books is hard work. Everyone who’s ever attempted it deserves the “real author” label and all the respect that seems to come with it.
Whether you’re a brand new writer with distant dreams of publication or someone who’s lost count of the number of weeks spent on the New York Times Bestseller list, you’re still a “real author.”
You have to remember that. The world is primed to make the unpublished author feel inferior, and that can kill your self esteem even more than a bad critique or an outright rejection.
You are a “real author.”
Now go write some real books, dammit.