Mortifying conversations with authors

Did these really happen? I’m not saying.

What kind of work do you do?
I’m an author.
What’s your day job?

What do you do?
I’m an author.
Really. Wow. Do you know Stephen King?
Malcolm Gladwell! Do you know Malcolm Gladwell?
We both presented to the same group once.
What’s he like?
Skinny. Glib.

What’s your job?
I’m an author.
Do you write fiction?
Not on purpose.

What work do you do?
I’m a writer.
Have you been published anywhere I’ve heard of?
The Boston Globe, Harvard Business Review.
Well, la-di-dah!

What kind of books do you write?
Business books.
What. Like textbooks for business school?
No. Books for businesspeople.
Like how to do accounting, stuff like that?

You write books? Wow. Could you introduce me to your publisher?
Maybe. What kind of books do you write?
I’ve written a children’s book.
I don’t think it would help you. My publisher only publishes business books.
Well, you don’t have to be snotty about it.

Would I know any of your books?
I don’t know. My latest book was called Writing Without Bullshit.
Ha! Good luck with that.

What do you do for work?
I’m an author.
Nobody reads books any more. Must be tough.

What books did you write?
I’ve written several. I wrote a bestseller about social media called Groundswell a few years back.
I know that book! Who wrote that?
I did. My coauthor was Charlene Li.
No, really. Who wrote that?

What do you do?
I write books.
Does that pay well?
I make a good living. I also coach other authors on how to be successful.
Smart. Gullible clients, right?

What do you do?
I’m an author.
What about your wife. She must have a job, right?

What kind of writing do you do?
Books about business strategy. I also ghost write.
Really? Horror books! Wow, cool.

What do you do?
I’m a writer.
I am, too.
Yes. I started this novel when I was 19. I wrote three pages. I really should get back to that.

You write books for a living? Do you go to an office?
I work out of my home.
Sounds lonely.

If you’ve had conversations like this, feel free to share them in the comments.

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  1. In my spare time, I used to write personal essays and musical plays. Some people would tell me, “I’m guessing that, like most writers, you write for yourself.”
    “Nope,” I would correct them. “I write to change how people think, feel, and act.”

  2. Back in the early 2000s, when my children were little, we went to a Tom Chapin concert. After the show, Chapin and his bandmates autographed the dozen or so CDs they had released and were selling at a table in the music hall lobby. A man in front of me asked the musician, “Is this all you do for a living?”

    If stares could kill, the inquisitive man would have been vaporized. Writing children’s music apparently ranks just under being an author.

    A friend repairs pinball machines in people’s homes. He makes house calls and charges what some would consider a lofty rate. Customers cannot believe that’s how he earns income. He’s worth every cent when your game is broken.

    If you have a craft, excel at it, and make a living, why should anyone question your occupation?

  3. “I’m an author.”
    “Oh, so you’re semi-retired, right?”

    Not only was I too young for retirement when this conversation took place, but I’m working harder as an indie author that I did as a marketing consultant. Now I say, “I run a small, boutique publishing firm with one high-maintenance author.”

  4. “Would I know any of your books?
    I don’t know. My latest book was called Writing Without Bullshit.
    Ha! Good luck with that.”

    I was visiting a friend recently and she had your book on her dining room table. So I guess you’re having good luck with that.