Why It’s Rude to Ask an Author About Their Sales.

How many books sales does it take to be a published author? I remember a few months ago someone asked me on deviantART how many novels I sold, and the question startled me. This was not a family member nor were they a friend. It took me aback because it was a complete stranger, someone I only knew a week. Instantly, I panicked. Am I selling enough novels? Does how many I sell prove my legitimacy as an author?

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What some people don’t understand is that this is akin to going up to anyone and asking their salary. In the US, it is a cultural norm to not talk about how much money we have.

Manners are self-reinforced.

In the US, it’s tacky to discuss your income. It’s a thing that is drilled into us at a young age. Who does that? Polite people don’t ask about any income, and an author’s book sales are not different.

People judge you based upon your sales.

Oh, you only sold three books this year? Well, no wonder you’re poor. You’re lazy, and you don’t know how to market. Why don’t you stop trying to be a novelist and get a real job?

Oh, you made 20,000 in royalties? No wonder you asked what kind of car I bought. You’re a snob. You make 3x more than us, and you don’t want to chip in for the three bottles of wine we drank because you don’t drink?

It is uncomfortable for people to see you as rich or poor. So, why give them that information in the first place?

Money differences will often create distance.

Most of your friends don’t make as much money as you. Some might make more; others, less. But they don’t make the same amount. So whatever your royalties, you’re now setting yourself apart from them. You are special.

Many consider bragging bad.

If someone announces that they went to an Ivy league college, people are quick to think they are “bragging” about their education. It doesn’t matter if the information applies to the conversation or not. Many graduates will say they went to school in the city that the university is in rather than the name of the university.

Some topics are thought of as elitist. High incomes are one of those things. Bragging is considered bad in the US because the arrogance that bragging breeds is bad. It is insensitive to others.

Learning another’s salary will often make others uncomfortable.

Even if you don’t judge people on their salary and you don’t think your friends will judge you, it still might make them feel bad about themselves (if you are out-earning them.)

As I think back to the situation months ago, I realize that it was a curious fan. It’s normal to wonder about such things, but as I read the comment, I wondered if she was young and didn’t think about such a loaded question. I simply replied that it was enough to support my family and left it at that.

Has someone ever inquired about your book sales? How did you respond? Comment below.

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Lydia lives in New York with her husband, a dark fantasy novelist, as well as their daughter. They are regular contributors to several charities, including the rescue of exotic cats from abuse.

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