Ten Questions Not to Ask an Author


Top Ten Things not to do


The inspiration for this list was preparing myself to attend four book festivals this year. I was making a list of items that I needed, and it occurred to me that I should prepare some answers to obvious questions. One thing leads to another, and the list is born.

10 If you meet an author, do not ask the question, “Do you make a lot of money writing?” If you do, at best you might get a chuckle in reply. At worst, you might have to listen to a long diatribe about the meaning of art as opposed to monetary considerations. (Wow. You didn’t realize just how little the author made from his books did you, Dylan?)

9 If you meet an author, do not ask the question, “How does your spouse feel about your writing? If you do, at best you’ll get a two-word answer, “They’re Fine.” At worst, you may have to support a sobbing author on your shoulder. (Hopefully, the author is not getting your shirt wet. Right, Diego? Bu the way, you make a lovely pair.)

8 If you meet an author, do not ask the question, “So what is the difference between traditionally published and an indie?” If you do, at best you’ll get a solid objective answer. At worst, you will ask Tiny, the WWF champ, who has just received his 100th rejection letter from a traditional publisher. I imagine you hit a sore spot with Tiny, Drake. I think it is time to test those new running shoes. Yes, right now.)

7 If you meet an author, do not ask the question, “Is your book well written?” If you do, at best you will get a confused look. At worst, you may get a question in return to the effect of wondering if you have just arrived on the planet Earth. (Man, these authors are sensitive aren’t they, Douglass?)

6 If you meet an author, do not ask the question, “What do you do all day?” If you do, at best you’ll get a smart reply like, “Drink bourbon.” At worst, you have to listen to a detailed reiteration by the fifteen-minute segment on the entire twenty-four hour day. (The bodily function and romance parts you could have done without hey, Dean?)

5 If you meet an author, do not ask the question, “Have you written anything that I might have read.?” If you do, at best the author will ask you what you have read. At worst, you will be left standing in the middle of the room with a “Kick Me Hard,” sign on your back. (So you thought you were engaging huh, Dennis?)

4 If you meet an author, do not ask the question, “Do you really like to write?” If you do, at best the author will offer you a cookie. At worst, the sound of crickets will lead you to quickly determine the crashing stupidity of your question. (I guess if authors didn’t like to write they might do something else. Don’t you agree, Dexter?”

3 If you meet an author, do not ask the question, “Do you have any bestsellers? If you do, at best the author does. At worst, you will have probably opened a wound that the author has been trying to work around. (Seems strange to witness a complete meltdown doesn’t it, Drew?)

2 If you meet an author, do not ask the question, “What do you really do?” If you do, at best the author is a trust fund baby. At worst, the author’s response will be delivered at a decibel level designed to shatter glass. (Don’t just cover your ears, Duke. I would make plans to leave soon.)

1 If you meet an author, do not ask the question, “What makes you write?” If you do, at best you’ll get a “little voices in my head,” answer. At worst, you’ll be pressed to explain what makes you breathe, eat, and sleep. (You gotta wonder if that author had been drinking don’t you, Desmond? He sure was spirited.)


    1. Thank you, Chris.

  1. Chuckle, chuckle John…very insightful and humorous. Hugs for you. Xx

    1. Thank you, Jane. 😀

  2. Hey, if I can drink bourbon all day – maybe i should become a writer and put down all those little voices in my head are saying!!

    1. You are a writer so go ahead. I would recommend Willett.

  3. Love this, John. People who aren’t writers ten to ask stupid questions!

    1. I have to agree. I’ve had some dillies from writers too. Thanks, Joan.

    1. Thank you, Jennie.

      1. You’re welcome, John.

  4. Check . . . Check . . . Check . . . Yup, I’ve gotten all of these. I’m just going to go cry in the shower with a tub of Ben & Jerry’s now. 😦

    1. Ha ha ha. I usually hit the tub so the ice cream doesn’t get wet. 🙂

      1. Good point. Watery ice cream just makes it worse.

  5. Great post!! Thanks for the smiles!

    1. Thank you for the visit and comment. 😀

  6. Great list, especially #10. Never ever ask me about sales. If they’re going well, I’ll tell you without being asked. If they’re not, you’re liable to get a dusty answer.

    1. Very dusty. Thank you, Annabelle. 😀

  7. Gwen Plano · ·

    Oh goodness, you’ve prompted me to think of the questions I’ve gotten – and try to forget. Great list, John. 😀

    1. Thank you, Gwen. Have a super Monday.

  8. LOL. Fabulous list, John. I’m amazed by how many of my coworkers hear I have “a book out” and ask “And you’re still here?” Then think it automatically means big money and a movie contract. My most recent sales report showed $1.42. Thank you Dan Antion — I think that was from your Christmas request for the Three Things novella.
    Number 3 is terrific — I’ve had that one. I got a kick out of all the “D” names. Have a marvelous Monday, John. Now, back to Mordor. Hugs.

    1. Mordor Monday calls. Thank you, Teagan. I have started a new list of names. Have a super day. 😀

  9. Bottom line, don’t talk to writers. 🤭

    1. Ha ha ha. That could be one conclusion, Jill. 😀

    1. Thank you for the reblog, Mary.

  10. Sound like you’re well prepared to man the tables. Pack extra bourbon.

    1. I think so. Thanks, Craig.

  11. Great list, John. You are signed up for Four? I know you said Galveston, but what are the other three? Perhaps I’ll see you at one!

    1. Wimberly, McKinney, and Word Wrangler

      1. AWESOME! I will definitely see you in McKinney. There is a great little Irish Pub on the square in McKinney that we can grab a drink at and chat!

      2. Excellent. I have never been to McKinney

  12. These are great, John – I’ve heard #6 more times than I can count. And Craig’s right – extra bourbon is always a good thing.

    1. I have it. Thanks, Teri

  13. Best to just focus on them and what they do for a living. Ha.

    1. Yes. “Oh and what do your do?” “I’m an undertaker.” “Excuse me I’ve gotta go finalize a movie deal.”

  14. Jaysis, John, this was brilliant!
    Well played, sir.

  15. Oh, yeah… 😛

  16. Outstanding list, John! Guess all authors have been through it. I’m amazed by the number of folks who think that just because I have one book published, I’m sitting on Big Money Street!

    1. You are aren’t you? Ha ha ha ha

      1. Sure. Which is why I’m writing a second book!

      2. Yes you are. Maybe not in money but certainly in satisfaction.

  17. Nope… I drink Molson Ale all day! Great list, John!

    1. Ha ha ha. Thanks, John

  18. That was perfect, John. I think we can all relate, LOL!

    1. I hope so, Mae. Thanks. 😀

  19. This one is just to funny, John.

    1. Thank you, Denise. 😀

  20. D.L Finn, Author · ·

    What a great list and perfect way to start my morning with a laugh:) I have gone intro my what I do all day and its more than writing and could eork 24/–lecture more than once. Great way to send the authors off to work! Happy Monday.

    1. “Hi ho hi ho it’s off to work we go.” “Hey what are you folks mining?” “Words.”

      1. D.L Finn, Author · ·

        lol! That needs to be on your list now, too:) That was pretty garbled message glad you could figure it out…must put on the glasses!

      2. Would recommend it. Ha ha ha.

  21. So, I guess we’re left with “how about those Astros?” or “Would you care for some Bourbon?”

    Greta list, John.

    1. Thanks, Dan. How about, “What inspires you most?” That would knock any writer to the knee profile.

      1. I would go with “if I buy this, will you sign it for me?”

      2. That is an excellent question.

    1. Thanks, Sally XXX

    1. Thank you, Michael.

  22. Excellent, John!
    Having thrashed through several dozen interviews this past year myself. I couldn’t resist taking a stab at yours:10. “Do you make a lot of money writing?” Enough to fill my training bra.
    9. “How does your spouse feel about your writing?” You’ll have to ask him. He’s the guy over there with the earplugs.
    8. “So what is the difference between traditionally published and an indie?”One owns you and knows your every move, the other can’t even find you.
    7. “Is your book well written?” Nah, I found it dark and damp in there.
    6. “What do you do all day?” Argue with the robotic Grammarly app.
    5. “Have you written anything that I might have read?” Do you read letters to agents? Job applications?
    4. “Do you really like to write?” Yes. I’m a masochist. I love the pain of struggling with words while watching my nails bleed onto my keyboard.
    3. “Do you have any bestsellers?” Two, my furniture and appliances on Craig’s List
    2. “What do you really do?” Panhandle at the corner of Orange Ave and OBT
    1. “What makes you write?” I have a vibrator attached to my desk chair.

    1. I love these, Susan. LOL material.

  23. I’d want to stay away from all those peeps who rejected Tiny, tell you what . . .

    1. Me too. Thanks, Marc.

  24. Another great list of questions, John! I’ve certainly been asked a few of these questions.🤪 Some of these can be very annoying.😏

    1. They can. I had a guy ask me when the picture on the back of my book was taken. I told him and he said, “You must have had a pretty good make up artist.”

      1. Ahhhh!! 😮 No way! Some people are just too obnoxious. :/

  25. You mean I’m the only one making a ‘killing’ in this business??? Asking while tears flow!

    Keep the faith, children, in the ‘Writing God’!

    Great list, good John!

    1. Yup. You are the only bonafide millionaire I know. 😀

      1. Why am I the last to know? 🙂

  26. lol … lovin’ this list, my friend. The worst question I’ve ever been asked (About my writing, Diago!) So this guy looked me in the eye (just one eye as mine a widely spaced) Anyways … He asked most sincerely, “So what do you write?”
    (At that point, I had written my memoir and had yet to begin work on my first book of fiction)
    I responded with ‘My memoirs”.
    His response … “Oh … but do you do any REAL writing?”
    My response … expletive deleted etc etc etc…. Grrr!

    1. Ha ha ha. So funny Soooz. (about my writing, Diago) Had to laugh out loud.(One eye was pretty funny too.) Thanks for sharing. 😀

  27. These are brilliant, John. 😀

    1. Thank you so much, Colleen. 😀

    1. Thanks, Jemima. Oh, yes is right.

  28. Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Check out this great post from John Howell with 10 things not to ask an author from his Fiction Favorites blog.

    1. Thank you for the reblog, Don

    1. Thank you, Anna for the reblog

  29. Oh my gosh, John, talk about a good laugh. This list is one of your best. Some questions, huh? 🙂
    This also reminds me of questions reporters ask people after they’ve endured a horrific tragedy. (not funny, but stupid, nonetheless)…

    1. I know right. Like, “How does it feel to lose everything?” Thanks Lauren.

      1. Exactly! It’s crazy. I mean, who comes up with those questions? Anyway, great list again!

      2. Thank you , Lauren.

  30. Wow, what a fun (and totally accurate) list! I’m glad I stopped by to read the post, because it gave me a much-needed giggle. 😃

  31. I enjoyed reading this thank you. You might also like Steven King’s response when asked if he writes for the money!

    1. I’m not sure money is all that important. It would be a true validation if a living could be made, however. Thank you for the visit and comment. 😀

  32. A person asking those questions would be lucky to be in a condition to walk out the door especially with Tiny there. Funny list, John. 😀 — Suzanne

    1. I know right? Thanks, Suzanne.

  33. Multiple good chuckles on this list … and I’m wondering how many of those have been actually asked!

    1. I think you can safely say 100%. Thanks, Frank.

      1. … And that makes the list even funnier.

      2. Hilarious list that ‘Do you like to write?’ question killed me. I might answer if asked no, I just use this as a reason for my search history looking so weird and being indoors all day can be seen as socially acceptable.

      3. Ha ha ha. That is a great answer. I once said, “It keeps me from robbing banks.” Yes there was a jaw drop. 😀 Thanks, Amy.

      4. LoL, I would imagine.

  34. Classics, John. And I’ve been asked all ten, many many times. The #11 asked many times is: “Why don’t you just write a book like the ones that became bestsellers? Don’t you WANT to make money?” The other one that bothers me a lot is from several friends who tell me a story about their great-aunt Molly, or brother-in-law’s sister’s husband’s uncle and then urge me: “YOU’RE the writer, please, wrote a book out of this!”

    1. Oh I know. I was cornered by a guy who had the greatest story that he wanted me to write. I would have liked to have had a gun. To shoot myself.

    1. Thank you fo the reblog.

  35. People don’t usually ask me questions when I tell them I’m a writer, John. They just stand there, openmouthed, and stare at me for ages. It’s can be very off-putting. 😀

    1. I have been there. Makes for an uncomfortable moment till I walk away.

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