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  • Writer's pictureLee Murray

Do you tell people you're an author when you're out socially?

This question is lifted from author Sahar Sabati's informative Ask an Author series, which ran from 2015-2016 and included responses and reflections from English-speaking authors from around the globe. Since I'm often asked these questions by readers, I have republished my answers here with Sahar's kind permission.

Yes, I say I’m a writer. It tends to go down well if the group is full of accountants or lawyers or software engineers. One or two people will ask what my real job is, but most people are polite and ask what I’m working on. The next question is usually, “Have you published anything I’ve read?” or “Can I buy it in an actual bookstore?” (For the record, the answer is yes: you can buy any book in any bookstore if you ask the retailer to stock it!). Then there are the people who say, “Oh, I’ve thought about writing a book,” as if it’s as easy as making a sandwich. Those people can’t wait to tell you the premise for their bestseller, and how it’s all written in their head, if only they were as lucky as you and had the time to get in on paper. (Yes, there are people who believe the book they have yet to write ‒ the first thing they’ll have ever written ‒ is guaranteed to be a bestseller.) Sometimes those people have already written something: a paragraph or a couple of chapters, or even 250,000 rambly filter-laden adjective-heavy words, complete with stilted talking-heads dialogue and systematic punctuation issues. I secretly dread those meetings, because inevitably they’ll ask if I can have a quick look at it and give them some pointers. Or could I look at their friend’s/sister’s/mum’s work and give them some pointers. There are the “I’ve written a book, how do I go about self-publishing it?” “Will you come to my kid’s school and talk?” and “Can you donate books for my rowing club raffle?” people. There are the sorts who will come to your book launches and help themselves to a free copy because “the publisher pays for them, right?”. But I still tell people that I’m an author, because occasionally, just occasionally, there will be a lovely someone who says, “I’d love to read your work. Where can I buy it?”


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