View Full Version : How do you respond to "so how's your book sales going?"

07-16-2008, 11:48 PM
I cringe when people ask me that - in fact, I find it kind of offensive when people ask how well (or not) my book has been selling.
It's like me asking a realtor how much commission she/he has made this year. It feels like too much of a personal thing - (my income!)
Does anyone else feel this way?
And if so, how do you handle it?

07-16-2008, 11:54 PM
I'm fortunate not to have that problem ... make that unfortunate. But, if I did have a book published, people wouldn't have the chance to ask the question.

"Hey, Tim, long time no see. Would you like a beer?"

"Speaking of beer, have I told you about my book sales?"

Just me dreaming.

07-17-2008, 12:00 AM
Try this one: "Pretty good, but it would be even better if you bought a copy! Heck, two copies, give one to a friend!"

I guarantee they'll stop asking. :)

07-17-2008, 12:00 AM
Swift kick to the groin.

07-17-2008, 12:02 AM
Oh, don't be shy. If you want me to sign your copy, just ask.

To which they stammer...blush...and change the subject. Works like a charm.

07-17-2008, 12:18 AM
I'm with moonwrite. I'm not fortunate enough to have sold a book yet, but if I did, I'd be starting every conversation with, "I sold .... books today!"

I really can't understand why people asking that would bother you. And I think it would be more like asking a realtor how many houses they sold, not how much commission.

Or a car salesman how many cars he sold.

How many things you sold doesn't give any clue as to how much you make off of each sale.

Again, I'd be more than happy to tell them. To me it would be like asking a baseball player how many homers he made. Something to be proud of.

07-17-2008, 12:24 AM
Swift kick to the groin.

I think I love you, Blondchen.

Claudia Gray
07-17-2008, 12:31 AM
I tell the truth -- which is that I honestly don't know for sure, but my publisher seems to be happy, and that's all that matters.

07-17-2008, 12:37 AM
"Worse than I hoped, better than I feared."

07-17-2008, 12:38 AM
I wouldn't mind at all and would be happy to tell them what I knew and / or encourage them to buy more copies. They're probably just making conversation and showing they're interested in you and know you're a writer.

If it's asked with malice or snark, that's a whole 'nother story, natch.


07-17-2008, 01:18 AM
I tell them. I don't have the slightlest problem doing so. In fact is anyone wants to know my books made $5000 last year. I think if more people talked about it novice authors whould understanbd their publishing options better (i.e how much do you make in the small press) and the general public would understand the writing professions better (i.e. we aren't all best-sellers). Of course people don't have to discuss this if they don't want to but I don't see asking as automatically a rude thing.

07-17-2008, 01:50 AM
It doesn't really bother me either. I get this question a lot from friends, family and co-workers. If I know the answer I tell them. And some of them have purchased my books.

07-17-2008, 02:22 AM
My husband is self-employed (reproduction historic jewelry (http://medievalwares.com/)) and his standard answer is "Could be better." He says this is the standard reply for all small merchants, and that even if the end of a show found him sitting naked on a pile of money, with everything sold, the answer would still be "Could be better."

07-17-2008, 02:30 AM
Another question I can cross off my list of concerns.


Soccer Mom
07-17-2008, 03:23 AM
It's just making conversation. People ask me about my dayjob work all the time or "So, try any interesting cases?" It's just talk. If you are uncomfortable just say things are "going well" or "as expected" or something equally bland.

07-17-2008, 07:13 AM
Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about:
my partner's boss lives in another city but whenever I see him, he always asks "so how many books have you sold?" and, "how much money do you make per book?" I can just see him doing the math in his head. Now here's the maddening part: the guy makes way mucho money (way more than i do) and he has NOT bought even one copy of my book. My partner even carries some of my books around in his truck and offered multiple times to sell his boss one. The boss always has some excuse and wiggles his way out of it. And usually ends up saying I should give him a free copy.
I don't have a problem discussing sales with people who are friends/fans and support me, but for those who ask me persistently about my sales and who have never bought one of my books, it really chaps my ass. It just seems petty.... But Inky & JoNightshade, i really like you responses. I'll try those from now on.

Actually, what I wrote above brings up another related issue: people expecting you to GIVE your book to them for free!
Ever run into that one? I get that all the time. Yes, I did reserve 15 copies for family, close friends and contributors but I can't count how many people I know - even remotely know - who ask if I can just give them a copy.
My gosh, if I gave a free book to all the people who asked, I would have made zero dollars and my publisher would be in HOLE big time!!!

and let me also add that for those of you who are reading this or responding to this saying, heck, i WISH i was in that situation - you will be!

07-17-2008, 08:01 AM
"Doctor, I know we're at this cocktail party, but I have this pain in my side..."

"Mrs. Smith, while we're watching our kids play soccer, I know you're a hotshot attorney and I have this issue -- I just want your opinion, though. I can't afford your prices. Heh heh."

"Doctor, can you look at my tooth and see if it's okay? I'm sure no one in line at the supermarket will mind."

"Oh, you're in marketing? Great! I have this product, can you help me launch it? I mean, in your spare time, as a friend and all. I have no budget, but that's why you're here, right?"

"Counselor, your daughter's piano playing was swell. While we're here at the reception, could you talk to me and my wife about our, ah, problems? Just fast, high-level."

"Oh, you're a chef at the best restaurant in town? Awesome! We're throwing a party next week, why don't you come and you can do the cooking and show off. Pay you? Um, no, this is for FRIENDS."

And so it goes.

"Are you pregnant?" "How much money do you make?" "Are you two still intimate?" "WHen are you going to have kids?" "When are you going to have more kids?" "When are you going to move?"

You're complaining about a fact of life -- there are a lot of rude people out there. It's not limited to writers. In fact, we probably deal with it a little less than doctors and lawyers, etc.

Shrug it off. If the boor won't buy your book, just smile and say, "it'll be better when you buy a copy; I'll even sign it for you when you do."

aka eraser
07-17-2008, 09:21 AM
"Fine thanks, but I'm unlikely to retire soon."

Not everyone knows a published writer and when they meet one, they're often simply curious. A pleasant, innocuous response like the one above works for all but the rudest questioner. And folks who persist should be ignored.

Or mebbe kicked in the groin. Depends on tone.

07-17-2008, 09:25 AM
"Actually, you're buying lunch."

I'm kidding. No one actually asks me that. :(

07-17-2008, 05:04 PM
Why would he buy a book unless he wanted to read it enough to part with the cash?

The funny thing is that I am writing small fry, but when I share my numbers with people who ask they have always said something positive.

07-17-2008, 06:33 PM
And here I thought this type of question ended once people stopped asking "So when are you going to get published?" :P