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Things Non-Writers Say to YA Writers

You're a writer, right? Then without a doubt, you've been on the receiving end of a few (countless) cringe-inducing comments about writing, books, or publishing. Be it from a family member, friend, or an overly friendly guy on our plane, some are well-meaning, while others are just mean. Some are simply clueless, while others are downright offensive. Many are amusing -- looking back at them, anyway, as opposed to in the actual moment we're battling a colossal eye-roll.

I asked a bunch of YA writers about the most awkward/insulting/tone-deaf thing a non-writer has ever said to them. Prepare your shoulders: here comes the cringing!

"Do you think you'll write anything for adults?"  
-- Carrie Mesrobian, Sex & Violence, Perfectly Good White Boy

I got a digital deal and constantly get asked when it's going to be a 'real book.  
-- Sarah Harian, The Wicked We Have Done

I went to a famous artist colony after I had sold my novel IMAGINARY GIRLS but before it had come out. When I arrived on my first night, I introduced myself in the common room before dinner as a YA writer. A male novelist said with disdain, “Vampires or werewolves?” and a bunch of other artists laughed. I blushed. (No one laughed, though, weeks later, when I did a reading from IMAGINARY GIRLS.)  
-- Nova Ren Suma, Imaginary Girls, 17 & Gone

"So, um, you write that teen stuff? Like Twilight?"
-- Kaye

After doing a workshop with other writers, one of them said to me, "it must be so freeing to write YA." I gave her a look. She added, "Because, you know, your characters don't have to deal with the emotional issues that come with adult fiction." 
-- Lydia Kang, Control

A few years ago, I'd just gotten a call that CBS Films had signed on to make THE DUFF. My friend was like "Tell my mom your news!" So I did. She goes, "Ugh. I mean, that's great for you, but I hated that book." (By that book she meant MY book). She proceeded to tell me how she wouldn't be seeing a movie based on it. To top it off, she follows this up by saying, "By the way, I want to write a cookbook. Does your agent represent those? Could you ask her?'" 
-- Kody Keplinger, The DUFF, The Swift Boys & Me, etc

"I saw piles of JK Rowling's books in a bookshop the other day… Why don't they do that for your books?"  
-- Cat Clarke, Entangled, Torn, etc.

"Oh, YA is so big right now - you're lucky. It must be so much easier for you to get published." 
-- Kelly Fiore, Just Like the Movies, The People vs. Cecilia Price

"When is it going to be a movie?" followed by "so when are you writing a real book?" Like for adults?" (To the last one, I reply that my debut is actually a NA/adult romance and they go, "oh I mean, like, not romance either." 
-- Katherine Locke, Serenade

Always, always, "How are the books doing? Are they successful? How many copies have you sold??" Recently I joked how the money's decent as long as I don't break it down into an hourly wage. Family member's (well-meaning, I know) comment: "You just have to think of it as a hobby you get paid for!!!" 
-- Kirsten Hubbard, Like Mandarin, Wanderlove, Watch the Sky, etc

I love when people tell me I should self-pub my books because I'll make tons of money like XYZ did. My books are all self-pubbed in the US. 
-- Dawn Rae Miller, Larkstorm, Nightingale, Phoenix

"Why did you put self-harm in? Kids don't need to read about that."  
-- Deirdre Sullivan, Prim Improper, Improper Order, Primperfect

Early in our relationship, my husband (then-boyfriend) was watching me revise over and over again and said, "why don't you just write it right the first time?" 
-- Stephanie Sinkhorn

I've had a TON of people ask how I know my agent/editor/crit partners/etc won't steal my work and sell it as their own. 
 -- Kaitlin Ward, Bleeding Earth

My dad STILL tries to argue with me that "That ain't right!" when I explain how publishing works. "Sounds like they're cheating you!" and "Have you talked to a lawyer about this?"  
-- Kody Keplinger

The worst thing a person said to me was "You know you should really change all the oriental names in your book. They are way too difficult to deal with." To which I responded "And yet you are a Lord of the rings fan, strange how you have no problem with that made up language shit."  
-- Ellen Oh, Prophecy, Warrior, King

"You wrote a book? I should get my wife to write one." Like it's just something you do in an afternoon. 
-- Lori Lee

The day after my second book deal was announced my well meaning mother in law sent me a congratulatory email along with a list of local job openings.  
-- Julie Murphy, Side Effects May Vary

Before my first book came out, a lady asked if bookstores everywhere would be having midnight parties like Harry Potter for my book. I said no. The lady said, "Of course bookstores will be having midnight parties for you! Everybody knows they do that for all books." 
-- Miranda Kenneally, Catching Jordan, Stealing Parker

I had someone tell me to my face: "I've spent so much money on books I've earned the right to download whatever I want for free." 
-- Michelle Krys, Hexed, Dead Girls Society

I once had a friend offer to orchestrate banning my book so that I could "get more sales."  
-- Christa Desir, Fault Line, Bleed Like Me

"You write for teens? Do they even read anymore?" (I'm a librarian who works with teens. That's personally insulting to me! My teens definitely read!)  
-- Lauren Gibaldi Mathur, The Night We Said Yes

What's the most awkward thing a non-writer has said to you?
Kirsten Hubbard

Kirsten is the author of Like Mandarin, Wanderlove, and the middle grade novel Watch the Sky.

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  1. Oh gosh, these are priceless! Particularly Christa Desir's and Kody Keplinger's! My dad says similiar...hehe.

  2. One of my favorites is "So how much money do you make?"

  3. "Men write YA?" my face >> -_____________- followed by a sigh of frustration

  4. OMG, Ellen Oh's! That's ridiculous – though she handled it with less swearing than I would have used.

    The worst comment I get is "Oh you want to be published? You HAVE to know somebody."

    Shut up. Just SHUT UP.

  5. I like when people say things like, "You write? That's cool. If I had free time I would probably like to write, too." Because, obviously, my life is nothing but time.

  6. When Oprah was on the air, my mom would say from time to time, "We really need to get you on Oprah." Mom, just stop. Please.

    1. LOL, my mom always tries to give me PR advice. so well-meaning, so hard no to eye-roll!

  7. We have a thread about this on The Fearless Fifteeners board, and I was told I won the thread when I posted this:

    A headdesk moment with my brother--his girlfriend gleefully told me about the over 1,000 pirated books she has on her Kindle. When he saw the horrified look on my face, he said, "But don't worry, we'll buy your book from you. Directly from you so the publishers that screw everyone over don't get a cut."

    Aghast, I replied, "I don't think my publisher is screwing me over. For one thing, if I didn't like what was in the contract I wouldn't have signed it. It's not like there aren't other options, including self-publishing.

    "And where do you think I'll be getting my books? Whether it's one of my few free copies or I buy it, the publisher is a necessary step."

  8. After telling someone that my big dream was to have a book published.
    "Aw, you can write a book in two days! No - what's your BIG dream? Your REAL big dream?"

    Also, my mother is already dreamily planning my book tours and publicity stuff - and I'm not even anywhere near publication! Though I do appreciate her support...

    1. clearly it's to build a castle with all the books you've written in two days!

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  10. I once had a friend tell me she needed to stop reading so much YA and start reading "big girl novels." When I reminded her that I write YA she said, "Oh, but I'll buy your book and love it!"


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Item Reviewed: Things Non-Writers Say to YA Writers Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kirsten Hubbard