Publishing’s Dark Side

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: May 10 2007

I know I should be heading home but before I go I needed to log in and talk a little bit about the negative side of getting published. I know I’ve touched on this before, but I think it bears repeating. I spent almost my entire day boosting the confidence of some of my clients. Writers who are smart, creative and dang good. Really, I’m not just saying that. When I read one of my clients’ published works I’m impressed. These are amazingly talented writers. And yet, after talking, blogging, conferencing and networking with other writers all of them (with completely different experiences) came back beaten.

I think of myself as an optimist so I hate to say this, but the downside of getting published is that almost universally authors confront jealousy and negativity. They have to deal with other authors (and I imagine editors and agents too) who feel that it’s their responsibility to “set them straight.” Suddenly no one is cheering them on. Instead they’re tearing them down. And it drives me crazy!!! And it makes me mad.

Do you know that I honestly want to see every author succeed? When I reject your work it’s not because I want you to fail it’s because I don’t think I am the one who can bring you the best success. And I would think that as fellow writers you could put the green-eyed monster away and truly wish each other well. This is a really, really tough business and we all know that success today doesn’t necessarily mean success tomorrow which is why it’s important that we all support each other and cheer each other on. After all, that author who gets the contract today might be the same one who gives you an amazing quote tomorrow.

I hope I was able to remind my clients that they truly are deserving of the success they are having. This is why I’m here. I don’t just sell books and negotiate contracts I also listen and mend wounded psyches. I started this blog as a way to help everyone achieve success and I hope that all of my readers will make some attempt to pay that forward. Support each other and if my pep talk doesn’t help, think of it as good karma.


17 responses to “Publishing’s Dark Side”

  1. Jessica, I just posted today (as an unpublished writer) on the virtues of having an agent and how agents earn their 15% and this is an aspect of agenting that I never even thought of. Everyone needs a cheerleader sometimes and I don’t think it ever occurred to me that cheerleading might be part of an agent’s job description.

    I definitely get jealous but I keep it in my head. It’s only human nature, I think. It’s just something we need to be cognizant of. More than anything, though, I feel a need to support fellow authors. I have a list of the books I want to read but I simply can’t afford them all and I feel guilty borrowing them from the library because I’m not supporting the authors by buying the books outright!

  2. Avatar beverley says:

    Right now my life is pretty darn good. I love writing. Have always loved writing. One day I hoped to be published, as most of us do. But jealousy, hmmm, maybe more like envy if I’ve been writing for 7 years and an author with only one manuscript gets published before me. Just wishing I was in her place not wishing her to fail or sell less books. Would just love to fulfill my own dream but certainly not at the expense of someone else.

  3. I too have problems with envy, but I can’t imagine tearing someone else down. If I’m really feeling low, I’ll avoid people (online too), but I try hard to offer congratulations at least. And am just as likely to go buy their book if I can manage the cost. As for my own career, I try to think in terms of there being a larger reason why I haven’t broken in yet!

  4. Avatar Michele Lee says:

    I admit I can get jealous. It’s frustration at the work to pay off ratio. But I can tell when I’m getting like that. I can feel it. So I avoid people then. I rant in my private journal, or stay off the net for a few days. I batten down the hatches and work on my own piece, my own plans.

    What gets me is when people throw “you’re jsut jealous” in my face when I’m not. When I just plain ole didn’t like their story, or their attitude.

    Absolutely just getting to the point of published is something to be crazy proud of. Even when I don’t like a story I always look at other things, like nice tight writing, or something that is new.

    It takes a lot of balls (metaphorically speaking) for people to step out there and put their work in the public eye, knowing that sure, people may love it, but people live to be mean more.

    Tell your writers that if someone feels the need to try to “put them in their place” or tear them down that the perpatrator feels threatened should mean more than all the nasty words in the world. It’s hard to remember sometimes, but it’s true.

  5. Avatar Kimber An says:

    I’ve caught some of this already and I’m not even past Stage 2 of the Rejection Evolution! I try to remember it’s people venting and not to take it personally. The nice thing about cyberspace is I can delete it with a simple click of the mouse. I imagine having to deal with it face-to-face at a conference must be horribly disheartening. My sympathies to your clients.

  6. Jealousy is a tough old bear. But I think part of the problem is that people don’t *realize* that what they are feeling is jealousy or envy or whatever. They don’t recognize the negativity of their own behavior.

    I’ve been a teacher all my life — whether I’ve been teaching a subject or just helping people along in a less formal way — and I hope that I will always be able to do that. I don’t see my behavior changing when (power of positive thinking) I get published, though I know it’s possible.

    I just hope that I’ve done enough navel gazing to recognize the green monster when he eats my lunch. I was just talking with another woman in my Sisters In Crime group today about an author whose books we don’t particularly care for, but who we adore as a person. Both my friend and I support her in everything she does to help younger authors.

    Plus, we buy her books. Do we love them? Nope. Will we buy them in hardcover? Nope. But do we admire all the other work she does, the work she couldn’t do if her books didn’t sell and she had to go back to a grunt job? You bet. And that, as much as anything, is something we need to remember…authors are, above all things, people. And there’s more to any writer than the words on the page.

    It’s very, very important to understand, at least in my opinion, that one author’s success is *every* author’s success. The more people who fall in love with books by reading one author, the better it is for every other writer out there. People who read, read. They won’t only read my book or your book. If they like your book, they’re going to want more than you can provide, which makes room for me.

    And Jessica…from the quality of comments I generally see on this blog, I would bet that most of your readers *do* pay it forward.

  7. Rejection is sad but the writing sooths the broken hearts. As long as I have that I can get by.
    I think rejection is just part of being a writer. Every letter is just a notch in our belts. I have lots of rejection letters. (even one from you!) I keep them in a mickey mouse can under my desk. Someday when I’m published I will show them to an unpublished writer and tell them to never give up.

  8. Avatar jolinn says:

    When everyone is selling around you and you’re the only one struggling, it’s hard not to get jealous. But I don’t know everyone enough to know what they’re doing to become published. For all I know they sleep two minutes at night and write all day. I think it helps to have a friend you can vent to.

  9. This post made me realize something: statements that are completely appropriate for a reader to make are not necessarily appropriate for a would-be professional writer to make.

    Since I’ve started writing seriously, I’ve become a very picky reader. However, if I post a snarly review on my blog about a book I didn’t like, might that come back to haunt me later?

    As a writer, the review stops looking like my opinion and starts looking like sour grapes. I also run the risk of ticking off a potential contact in the industry if my review offends the book’s author/agent/editor.

    I guess the lesson is that while a reader is entitled to her opinions, a writer needs to learn when to shut up and smile encouragingly.

  10. Avatar B.E. Sanderson says:

    Add me to the list of people who get jealous. But jealousy cuts both ways for me. Some days it’s just depressing (like today), but most days it lights a fire under my butt, and gets me working harder to improve my writing.

  11. Avatar Joe Moore says:

    I believe that regarding jealousy, no other writer’s success can or will impede your own. Celebrate the success of other writers for they confirm that the marketplace is healthy.

  12. Avatar Kate Douglas says:

    Since it took me twenty years to get that long-dreamed-of NY contract while I watched many of my friends move forward with successful publishing careers, I probably could have become really jealous and resentful, but what kept me from that is the fact that I looked at their success as proof I could do it, too. I decided a long time ago that negative feelings replicate negatively. I made a conscious decision to remain positive and upbeat, to continue with my own, personal code of paying it forward and helping other writers in whatever way I could–and believe me, in twenty years of TRYING to get there, I’ve learned a lot I can pass on! Many of them sold before I did, but I looked at their success as a challenge, and further affirmation that I could do it, too. If my attitude sounds disgustingly Pollyanna-ish, that’s probably because it is, but, it works for me. In a way, I think I’d rather fail knowing I tried my best and left behind nothing but good feelings among my fellow authors, than to think I made my success through cruel comments and hurtful acts. In the long run, though, jealousy only really hurts one person–the one who feels jealous. The same with bad reviews and snarky comments–and believe me, I get my share. I ignore them. Why should I give power or even any credence to someone whose intent is malicious? Life is too short to worry about things I can’t control and honestly don’t even care about. I’m enjoying a certain amount of success right now. I know that probably won’t last forever, but I intend to enjoy the present, prepare for the future, and, like Jessica, remain a full-fledged optimist. It gives me a lot more to look forward to every day!

  13. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Kate, you’re a wise woman with a terrific attitude.

  14. jj —

    You might find John Connolly’s comments on reviewing interesting: He addresses a lot of issues about being both a writer and a reviewer.

  15. Avatar Loreth Anne White says:

    Love this post, Jessica. Thank you.

  16. Avatar Tori Scott says:

    I’m in the 2003 Golden Heart group, a fantastic group of women who formed the Wet Noodle Posse. I’ve never been involved with such a supportive group. Over 70% of the members have sold, and while those of us who haven’t desperately want to, I don’t think any of us are jealous of the ones who have. We celebrate each and every sale, we buy their books, and we cheer them on at the Ritas.

    That said, there are authors out there who can get down right ugly. I smile and remain polite, then remember their name so that I don’t accidentally buy their books. Sad to say, but that list seems to grow daily. 🙁

    Then there are other authors who are gracious and kind. Those go on my auto buy list. It pays to be nice.

  17. Avatar CC says:

    Talent is important. But being at the right place, and at the right time is critical.

    How can anyone be jealous of that?

    I don’t do green, except in my garden. No room for such petty feelings as jealousy or envy.

    But then, I’ve been told before that I am an odd bird. 🙂