Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Many of the authors here at Inkspot have written about the support they receive from family and friends. But what about the deep dark secret few of us are willing to discuss, let alone admit to? What do you do when you discover that close friends and relatives have either never bothered to buy your books or haven’t even bothered to read the free copies you’ve given them?

I don’t like confrontation with people I have to interact with on a fairly regular basis. I’d rather wrap myself up in my hurt feelings and slink back into my cave. But the hurt lingers for a long time.

When I was writing in the romance genre, I rationalized the lack of support by telling myself some people just can’t transcend the romance genre stigma, even though my books were far from what some people describe as “those” books. No embarrassing clinch covers with bare chested heroes and heroines with heaving bosoms. There were, however, a few sex scenes, and I know some people get really squeamish reading sex scenes.

There are no sex scenes in my mysteries, though, and I dare anyone to find objection to my covers. (See for yourselves.) 

Also, it’s not that these people don’t read. They do. Just not my books, apparently.

One close friend who lives in another state admitted she hadn’t bought my latest book because there are no bookstores near where she lives. I guess she’s never heard of Amazon although she is quite computer literate and does shop online all the time.

One relative only reads “literary” fiction. Another waited so long to buy my first book that it was out of print by the time she got around to it. And a third isn’t buying my books because her daughter is an aspiring author who hasn’t been able to sell her manuscripts. Like that’s my fault???

Then there’s my mother’s friend who told me she wasn’t buying any more of my books because she bought my first one and never got around to reading it. I bit my tongue, but what I really wanted to do was remind her of all the overpriced crap my mother had bought from her kids and grandkids throughout the years for their cub scout, girl scout, and school fundraising drives. Crap either loaded with fat and calories or that simply took up space and would never be used. Yes, thin mints and samoas are delicious, but the popcorn always arrived stale. And how many bottle openers does any one household really need? My books both entertain and they won’t make you fat.

So when I receive a fan letter or email from someone, I treasure that correspondence. I recently received a lovely note from an 81 year old man who took the time to send me a handwritten letter, telling me how much he enjoyed ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN and was looking forward to the next book in the series.

I’m contemplating adopting that gentleman. Total strangers going out of their way to tell me how much they enjoy my books when some of my own friends and family have shown how little they care? That to me is priceless.

What about the rest of you? How do you deal with friends and relatives who act the way some of mine have? And for those of you who aren't writers, do you have family members and friends who have hurt and disappointed you in some way? How have you dealt with that hurt and disappointment?


Dru said...

I know exactly what you mean and how you feel. I made a relative a quilt and it came out beautifulf that I wanted to keep it, but I sent it to her. Do you know I'm still waiting to hear if she received it, (I know she did because she had to sign for it) and if she liked it. Nothing and it's been two years.

Friends I send quilts to will let me know how pleased they are about receiving one.

I've learned to get over it and I'm more likely to give my quilt to strangers than family.

I also can't wait to read your next book.

Irene said...

My husband hasn't read my books!!!

larry said...

I can relate well to this lament. None of my friends have read my book. One of my brothers did read it and even posted a review of it on B&N; the rest of the family couldn't be bothered. Even my daughter, a voracious reader, who insisted on an autographed copy has yet to read it.

I think people who know you simply can't see you as an 'author' or dismiss the notion that it's your 'hobby.'

I've published a couple hundred articles in magazines, made a living as editor-in-chief for a major magazine and yet, my daughter wanted me to take her to a book signing so she could meet a "real author." Sigh...

Kelly McClymer said...

Most of my family hasn't read my books (including my own children). I don't take it personally. Most of them read other things (my mother would definitely read it if I wrote an edge-of-your-seat thriller, but that's not my kind of book).

I suspect it is a combination of family breeding contempt and an unwillingness to have to rethink the pecking order (my place in the family is the quiet, bookish, non-ambitious one).

They all wish me success, and that's more important than whether or not they've read my books. After all, if they say they like my book, then I'll always wonder if they really do like it, or just don't want me to put extra pepper in the deviled eggs at the family reunion.

Sarah Glenn said...

My sister-in-law is one of our best customers, but she doesn't actually read the stories. To be fair, though, she doesn't read anything else, either.

I had a relative who told me that one day I would write my 'real' book. I know one thing: if I do write a book she likes, she can pay for it like everyone else. (Bitter? Moi?)

Robin Allen said...

I think I've been pretty fortunate in that most of the friends who have bought my book, have read it--even the guys.

My brother hasn't read it, though. He supports me in a lot of other ways by coming to my signings and taking pics and video. He's heard the first chapter at least three times, and even that hasn't made him pick up the book. "I'm not a reader," he says.

To what Kelly said about family contempt and pecking order, I'll add professional jealousy. A writer friend stopped speaking to me when I announced I had an agent. I'm pretty sure she hasn't read my book, so she'll never see that I thanked her in the acknowledgments.

p.s. Dru - You made a QUILT for someone and she hasn't even mentioned it?

Kathleen Ernst said...

I think some people just don't understand how much heart and soul (and time and effort) get poured into a book. I generally don't ask family & close friends if they've read my books!

Lois Winston said...

Dru, I'm not sure I'd be able to speak to that relative ever again. What an ingrate!

Irene, my husband has read all my books. He and his sister are the only relatives who have, as far as I know.

Larry, I guess until we make the NY Times list, we're not "real" authors as far as some people are concerned and even then, maybe not. Have you ever asked your daughter her definition of a "real" author?

Kelly and Kathleen, I never ask if friends and relatives have read my books, but it does often come out in conversation that they haven't.

Robin, it's amazing how some people can't be happy for other people when good things happen to them. I'm convinced that's when you learn who your true friends really are.

Beth Groundwater said...

Boy, you hit a nerve with this post, Lois! I've given my grown children copies of all my published books, usually as "extra" Christmas gifts, and the reaction is "Gee, thanks, Mom. Another one of your books," accompanied by a barely disguised eye roll.

What really hurts, though, is the reaction of most of the women in my book club. We've been together for years and discussed many books together. A grand total of three of them have bought one or more copies of my books, while the others say they only read "literary" fiction.

Like Larry, I have the problem of the book club ladies, relatives and friends treating me as "just Beth" and not a "real author." I, too, treasure those emails from readers who enjoyed my books, and some have become personal friends after I've met them at conferences or signings.

And Dru,
I've seen your photos of your quilts, and believe me, I'd treasure mine if I had one!

Kathleen Kaska said...

This is a great topic. I've heard all those excuses, too, from close friends and family members, and it does hurt. Also, I have friends tell me that they love my books and pass them around to others to read. I bite my tongue over this comment, too. Although I appreciate their support, I'm amazed they don't realize that passing books around is preventing starving writers from putting grub on the table. I haven't yet figured out what to say to these people. But, those folks who've sent me hand-written fans letters, ALWAYS get a free copy of my next book. One of these thoughtful people was a housekeeping at the Arlington Hotel, the setting of my first mystery. The next time I stayed there, I sought out this hard-working sweeting and presented her with my second book. She was making up a room at the time, and it was all I could do not to help make the bed.

Keith Raffel said...

Good post, Lois. I have learned to have thick skin. I don't expect friends or relatives to have read anything I have written. If they do, it's all upside.

Shannon said...

I never get upset when someone declines to read my book. I'm ecstatic if they at least buy it. My motto is "So many books, so little time." I know lots of pubbed writers and buy lots of books I never intend to read. I support my friends with $ but not necessarily with my precious reading time. Not everything appeals to everyone.

Lois Winston said...

Beth, had I known back when I was freezing my butt off or getting soaked or fried during all those soccer and little league games, that my kids wouldn't take a couple of hours to read my books years later, I probably would have stayed in my dry, warm house!

Kathleen, I've had people tell me they've bought my book, read it, and have then circulated it around to dozens of their friends and family. I only hope that when the next book comes out, some of those folks buy their own copy.

Keith, silly me. I did expect that friends and family would WANT to read my books.

Shannon, I don't mind if people buy my books and don't get around to reading them, as long as they keep buying them.

Sally Carpenter said...

It's the notion that "real" authors live in NYC penthouses and have fabulous agents and movie deals and travel around the world--the kid sister can't possible be a "writer!" I'm not expecting my distant family members or co-workers to read or even buy my book and that's okay. I've build up a good network of friends and writers where I get support and I'm sure I'll find eager readers through marketing efforts.
Sally Carpenter
"The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper"
Oak Tree Press

Lois Winston said...

Sally, I hope your "network of friends and writers" don't disappoint you.

Yetta said...

Many years ago and on another planet, it seems to me, I did something like sixteen mystery anthologies (collaborations with some pretty famous people), then I did a bunch of books for the 'doll' and 'teddy bear' market. I don't think anyone in my family ever read any of them, and one was nominated for an Edgar. My ex-husband did at least 200 books, and I never read any of them. They were in genres I disliked: SF and Fantasy. He never read any of my books either, as mystery is not his 'thing.' If my daughter wrote romance, say, even if it were her prized effort, ya know, I'd have a really hard time reading it. My grand daughter, now, has written and will star in, a horror film. I will find it really hard to watch, though I am proud of her beyond description. She is winning major awards and she is -- twelve. My ex-husband said one thing that rings true: smile and collect the royalty checks. This is a business. Remember: nobody reads. My daughter tells me this all the time. Well, she says: "Dumb it down, Mom or you'll never sell that book. Most of the world is stupid or, like me, hates to read." Of course, she doesn't like my music either. You can't demand loyalty from friends, not for your books. Hey, I do buy books by many of my friends, just because. But I've discovered I don't always like their work. It's, well, not cerebral enough for me, just the opposite of what my daughter wants. But, see, they are selling their books. So I smile and say "congratulations." And I hope someday they'll do the same for me.

NoraA said...

And that's the reason why I don't talk to 2/3 of my relatives, neither do I attend weddings, bar/bat mitzvas or any other event. Some of them are 1st cousins whose homes I spent weekends and holidays in while Mommy Dearest was looking for fun and a new husband.

It's just not worth the aggravation.

Cheryl said...

It doesn't bother me. It takes all kinds, and you will always run up against those who don't read, don't read your genre, are jealous, or have some other hang-up. There are some in my writing group who write genres I don't read, so when they have a release, I send a hearty congratulations (writing is hard and deserves acknowledgment)and keep mum on my buying habits.
Take solace on the good wishes of those who do buy your books. They're the ones who count.

Camille Minichino said...

I'm SO glad to see this in print, Lois!

One of the most aggravating things is that everyone in my family, it seems, even third cousins, expect a free book. I get, "You have another book? I'll take a couple." They never offer to pay, and I never get a clue that they read any of them.

Let's hear it for "strangers!"

Shirley B said...

I can sympathize with those people who are being castigated on this site for not reading their friends’ books, even when these books were gifts. What a terrible thing to do.

How much more terrible would it be if friend bought and read and didn’t LIKE said book? And told you so.

How would you like that?

Not much, I suspect.

I find myself in such a situation right now. Times two.

Two of my good friends have written what may be considered by others to be excellent books. They’re both fine writers. Both have written other books which I have liked immensely. I just don’t like these two. Both seem to have been hastily written and the results show it. (I won’t bore you with my CV but I can assure you this is not a case of professional jealousy.)

How do I tell my friends these books just don’t do it for me?

What do I do with the fact that before reading either, I promised, assuming the latest would be up to the calibre of the earlier, to review both?


Bottom line, gang; much as it hurts I think we have to come to terms with the fact that not everyone, including some of our friends and relatives, even our nearest and dearest, is going to love our work.


Anonymous said...

I've resigned myself to the fact that most of my readers are strangers. It's too disappointing to expect your friends and family to be your fans - it just isn't so.

Patricia said...

WOW! Now I'm afraid of what's going to happen when my (humble) e-book comes out! Geez! I don't expect any of my family to actually read it. I'm just the one who sits in the corner of the couch and writes and revises and edits and sends out query letters. That doesn't metamorphose into "an author" for them.

Lois Winston said...

Thank you all for stopping by and offering your opinions. I guess as authors we need to grow yet another layer of thick skin beyond the ones we grew to suffer through all those agent and editor rejections.

I take comfort in knowing that there are many strangers out there who like my books, as well as reviewers. Just today I received another wonderful fan email. And I do have some very wonderful friends who have been extremely supportive, not only always buying my books but recommending them to friends and even giving them as gifts.

As for the relatives, I learned a long time ago that blood is not thicker than water. And I'll buy my Girl Scout cookies from the kids selling them in front of the supermarket.

jennymilch said...

As you know, I can't really weigh in on this yet since my book won't be out for a while. But my humble guess is that we all mostly read what we like--and that the 81 year old man adores clever cozies such as yours, while the people closest to you may not. I agree they could do it for the sheer sake of support--but I'll be you treasure that paper letter a lot more :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, Lois, what a post! I'm dealing with this topic at this very moment. My first book came out at the end of April. I guess I've been faring better than many who posted here. All of my family have read my book except my son, so that's so far 6 to 1--pretty good. As far as friends, that's been mixed. Some of the people I expected to snatch up my book immediately, didn't and friends I never expected to, did! Strangers have been wonderfully supportive, sending hand written cards, letters and e-mails, and selling me out of books at a couple events. Thank you for this post,Lois, it has helped me understand sort of where I stand--that there are so many others who have the same concerns, and maybe it's not as bad as we thought. I feel pretty good now! BTW, I LOVED Assult With a Deadly Glue Gun!!!!

Kari Lee Townsend said...

It's their loss, Lois. I loved Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun. They are totally missing out.

Lois Winston said...

Coco and Kari, cyber hugs and kisses to you both for loving ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN.

Jenny, I understand that amateur sleuth mysteries are not everyone's cup of tea, just as romance isn't. There is such a thing as mutual support, though, when it comes to family and friends. Whether they read my books or not, I would expect these people to at least buy a copy, given all the support I've given them over the years, whether from buying stuff their kids were selling to raise money for soccer uniforms or band camp or whatever and all those Bar and Bat Mitzvahs where I was expected to write a sizable check as a gift. My kids didn't need to raise money for school activities and were never Bar Mitzvahed, so it's not like there was any reciprocity going on at the time. So what I'm complaining about is that the support has only gone one way, and that's what hurts.

P.I. Barrington said...

And I thought I was the only one, LOL! I just move on. I can't wait for them to get interested.

Cathleen Ross said...

I think we as authors have to grow a thick skin. My daughter couldn't finish my novel because she said my heroine is fat at a size 12. My husband only reads the things I write if he is in it and my friends expect free copies. For some reason this doesn't bother me. I find it hilarious so perhaps in this area my skin is thick. Sometimes the way to get over things is to challenge the person if they want you to buy something from them with - did you buy my book to support me?
Just my thoughts. Best wishes Lois.