Insensitive Things to Say to Authors

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What with self-publishing so common nowadays–it used to cost a fortune–there aren’t a lot of people who remember how blisteringly, punishingly hard it used to be to get a book published by someone who would actually pay you for it. In fact, it was just this side of impossible.

Not that many people understood that, at the time.

When I finally got a novel published, it was only after enough fruitless work to sink the Bismarck and enough frustration to discourage Hercules. Understandably, I couldn’t fight the urge to tell everybody that I’d finally accomplished this.

When I told my next-door neighbor, his eyes lit up and he blurted out, “Wow! When’s it gonna be a TV movie?” Not, “Where can I buy a copy?” Not even, “I hope it gets made into a movie.” No–he wanted a TV movie so he wouldn’t have to pay anything, perish the thought that he should buy the book.

Then there’s my hometown library. When the library director was my friend, she used to make sure the library purchased each of my books as they came out and displayed them in the Young Adults section, where people could see them. But then came a new director who knew not Joseph, and next thing I knew, my books weren’t there anymore. I searched, and finally found them exiled to the Local Authors ghetto, one step up from being hidden in a crypt under the floorboards.

I asked the new director if my books could be moved back to Young Adults where I thought they belonged. She gave me the kind of look one generally keeps in store for cranks and twaddlers and answered, “You’re self-published?”

I’m afraid that hit me on a raw spot. “No, I am not self-published. I am a real author. I am paid for my books.” Like, I only wanted some respect. Didn’t get it, though.

Sorry–didn’t mean to diss any of you who have opted for self-publication. But I come from another time when self-publication was not an option unless you were rich, or prepared to shoot off your life savings to publish a volume of your poetry. Really, when I started writing, it was virtually unknown. To me, it just isn’t real, the job just isn’t finished, until I’ve been paid for it.

I don’t go to the freakin’ library anymore.

About leeduigon

I have lived in Metuchen, NJ, all my life. I have been married to my wife Patricia since 1977. I am a former newspaper editor and reporter. I was also the owner-operator of my own small business for several years. I wrote various novels and short stories published during 1980s and 1990s. I am a long-time student of judo and Japanese swordsmanship (kenjutsu). I also play chess, basketball, and military and sports simulations. View all posts by leeduigon

12 responses to “Insensitive Things to Say to Authors

  • Unknowable

    Mediocrity is so common, it’s assumed in all situations, even if it’s not merited. That’s a real shame, Lee, because you are not, in any sense, deserving of being relegated to the Local Author’s section.


  • marlene

    The hometown library or all libraries? I love going to libraries. It actually takes less time, and is more enjoyable, than using search engines on the internet. The shelf is marked, and the cards are in the files, so there’s no irrelevancy to wade through. I believe it’s cheaper to use their copy machine than to spend over $100 for printer ink for my own machine, which doesn’t always produce the best copy AND requires me to copy and paste articles, before I print them, to remove the ads. Yes, some sites have a printable version, but most don’t. Anyway, for you dear author, it’s a tough beginning that turned into a rewarding future.


  • Erlene Talbott

    As a kid, I absolutely loved the local library. I read every book there by the time I was 14 (except the references, that is) and the librarian sent for some big boxes of books from the state capitol so I would have reading for the summer. She was so familiar with me that she would send me to the grocery store for her supplies occasionally.
    Now, it is a different situation. I have gone to the local library here, and it is pathetic- nothing of interest at all. I order lots of books on Amazon and Ebay. I like the wide variety, low cost, etc. I give quite a few books away to make room for more, and spend a lot of time reading. Hope my eyes hold up. The librarians here are quite nice middle aged ladies, so no problem there. Of course, this is “red neck” country, not city folk lol


    • leeduigon

      The first book I ever took out of the town library, back in third grade, as “All About Termites” (don’t ask!).

      The library has been completely made over since them; and although there are many more books in it than there used to be… somehow it seems less.


  • thewhiterabbit2016

    So many books today are ghost-written – like do you really think Michelle Obama wrote that book herself? Self-publishing is a great way to get a real publisher interested in your book. On the downside, self-publishing is lowering the literary standard.



    Man that made me mad! People can be so dumb with what they say


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