The Burning Jealousy of the Not-Quite-There-Author

Let’s talk about jealousy. I have it.

Of course I have it for the biggies, the JK Rowlings and the Stephen Kings and the Shakespeares and the Jane Austens of the world. That’s a given, but that kind of jealousy is motivational: those are the success stories everybody looks up to.
To a lesser degree, I’ve got that for the Hugh Howeys and the Suzanne Collins’, our most modern wave of authors who, one way or another, adapted to the changing face of publishing and owned it.  But even so, that’s not the kind of jealousy that seeps in under your skin and makes your heart clench up.
No, that kind of jealousy is more intimate… reserved for the people who you (or, at least, I) think I’m at least on par with, maybe in terms of skill, or concept, or–mostly–in terms of starting point. The other newbies; the ones who get just ahead of me.
The shoulda-been-me’s.
I feel spasms of jealousy periodically on twitter, when someone I don’t even actually know announces a book deal or landing an agent or winning a contest. But lately, I am struggling with a big weighty ball of jealousy brought on by a real-life connection.
See, someone I have known pretty much my whole life has just self-published. She wrote the book in less than a year. Months ago, she asked me for the basics on advice for how to get published, and I gave her the Cliff Notes version: you can do the long slog or you can self-publish. She said self-publishing sounded more like her speed, and I pointed her to some resources and offered my editing services at a “friends” price. She turned me down, and I didn’t hear much about it, until she asked me to be a beta reader on short notice. I’m a little overbooked right now, so I declined and wished her well.
Two weeks later, BOOM, there’s her book out on Amazon, and she’s promoting it like crazy. She’s doing interviews, working her contacts, shilling that book everywhere on Facebook–you know, the stuff you do when you’ve just published a book on Amazon and you’re trying to get the numbers up.
But, oh, does it burn me.
I’ve been to the conferences, I’ve read the books, I’ve built a blog and joined Twitter like I was told. I’ve gone the traditional route because of promises of greater potential. I’ve entered the big open submissions opportunities. I’ve written the succession of query letters and dutifully waited while working on something else.
In other words, I followed “the rules.”
It feels like a sharp and painful contrast to this woman, who right out of the gate “broke” the rules: she compares her book to a game-changing classic; she didn’t have any internet or social presence before publishing; she never did a contest; she’s never written before at all!; she didn’t get a professional editor to work on it; and, of course, she self-published.
But people in our circle are talking about her. She gets glowing praise on her Facebook page. She can call herself “an author” and not be questioned.
It burns me right up.
But I realize this kind of jealousy isn’t helpful. This is my problem, and her being different doesn’t mean I’m illegitimate.
(However, I will say that much of the claptrap super-small authors or aspiring authors pump out about “there’s room for everyone” and “your time will come” and “celebrate everyone!” feels like a lie right now. I have a hard time believing “anyone” can be an author…)
So I need to get over this. I may have to start by buying her book.
How do you cope with author jealousy?


Filed under Publishing, writing

7 responses to “The Burning Jealousy of the Not-Quite-There-Author

  1. Don’t worry, we all get the jealous feels. Just remember that yeah, “rule-breakers” can make it big, but you’re far, far more likely to be successful if you act professionally. If you’re on the right track, there’s nothing more to be done other than to keep to it!

  2. Harry Heckel

    I completely understand the feeling. I have an acquaintance who wrote a first time romance novel that has earned her enough to leave her day job. I can’t even dream of that. For what it’s worth, I really enjoy checking your blog and based on your writing, I intend to buy whatever you publish. You are doing the right things. It takes a lot of that and then you need to get lucky. I know it’s hard, believe me, I’ve been doing this for almost 25 years. Once things start happening, you’ll be able to take full advantage. All the best!

  3. How do you cope with author jealousy? I recommend you mix yourself a stiff drink (if that’s your flavour…alternative is get yourself to the very edge of a sugar coma), then park yourself behind the keyboard and plot your revenge, be it murder, stealing her guy, or conning her out of her novel royalties. With that out of your system you’ll hopefully be able to get back to the real work.

  4. I can’t speak to author or writer jealousy but jealousy in general I can offer my own insights.

    If I am in a good place I applaud them the way I should and try to refocus my efforts and use what they did to maybe inform what I should do or attempt. I rarely copy wholesale what they did but I use it as some inspiration.

    If I am in a bad place I normally retreat into “not-so-healthy” fantasies and beat myself up over it.

    And I read your blog frequently. Even if I don’t comment I am always reading.

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