Monday, May 18, 2009


I don't know if it is universal among artists but jealousy among writers seems rampant. And it does seem worse than in other industries.

Aspiring authors rip commercially successful books at every opportunity. These books can't all suck that much. If you see a bestselling title mentioned on an agent blog, however, there will be a frenzy of messages attacking the book for everything from originality to writing style. The only thing I can think of is that unpublished authors assume that discrediting "great" books will make their book seem more appealing. "If a book like that can get published and sell then can you imagine what a really GOOD book, like the one I wrote, could do?"

I'm not a singer or a composer or a painter but I don't get the sense that artists in those fields are so vicious. Musicians routinely recognize others with skill, even the ability to just write a really good pop song. I don't hear painters or sculptors (and I have friends in both areas) slamming others in their field who manage to eke out a living as a successful artist. I guess in that community it would sound something like this: "Oh, yeah. She's alright. She sells a bunch of stuff to hotels. You know, nothing challenging."

So what is it about writing? Just in my own little bitty anecdotal evidence of an experience the "pickiest" feedback comes from people who write. Not so much stuff I can use, like is the pace okay? Is there enough tension? Too much of this, not enough of that? What phrases do I repeat too much? If you bought this book would you be sorry you spent the money? Would you buy the sequel? Most of the suggestions would change my book to more closely match what that writer would have written if it were their book. And no, I'm not talking about any of you.

On one agent blog he posted an "Agent For A Day" contest where anyone who wanted to participate evaluated 50 query letters and selected the five they would pick to represent. Three were query letters that went on to be published, including one NY Times bestselling title. None of those three made it into the top tier of queries the writers participating would have selected. Hmmm. Maybe writers aren't really the best qualified to evaluate what readers would buy. At least not unpublished writers ;)

At any rate, I published a review on Amazon for the first time ever this weekend. I liked the book but I had a couple of minor quibbles and thought on the whole it might have been better. A sequel is coming out next year and I speculated in my review that the sequel would be better, since the one I read was the first in a series and by the end of the book it was starting to rock. Setting up a story big enough to take up several books is pretty hard to do and that's what this felt like, mostly setup. Anyway, the author's husband read my review and responded. He was really cool about it although I got the impression he was disappointed that I didn't have better things to say. So of course then I felt bad and offered to pull the review (which was overall positive). He said no, it was totally fair and not to worry about it. Since the book is selling like hotcakes I'm pretty sure they don't really care what I think.

The only two negative reviews, though, read like they had been written by embittered authors. One accused the writer of plagairism and the other didn't even review the book, just said that the author was only published because of who she knows. That DID bother her husband. As well as the fact that people they considered friends a few weeks ago are not friendly to them anymore. Other authors she's been friends with for years. How sad.

Why do we support each other until one of us gets what we all want? It's crazy. There isn't a limit on success. If you succeed that doesn't mean I will fail. And if I do, it doesn't mean it's because you were successful first. Sure, I might be a little jealous. But that doesn't make me not want you to get what you want. I just wish I had it, too.


  1. Laurel,
    I agree. A friend of mine is also a neighbor, and a writer, and we have an unspoken agreement not to discuss our work with each other. I've felt a weird vibe coming from her when I get good reviews about something I write. It must be because some people think that if you get a piece of the pie, there will not be enough for them. Capitalism people! There's enough market for everybody!

  2. Yamile,

    Thanks! What a happy surprise to see you here...I'm not pushing this blog because it's really more of a journal for me to keep a grip on reality while I enter the fray but I'm delighted to see you here. I checked out yours last night. Looks like you have a fun life!

    I'm a capitalist pig, too. If what I wrote is good, there's probably a market for it and probably an agent who will know it. That's a good solution among writers. If you're going to get your feelings hurt just don't go there.

    I will always be a little jealous, I think, over people who have things I want. But I really and truly have never experienced being angry or begrudging someone over it. I'm glad when good things happen to people I like.

  3. I've noticed it too. Writers are a competitive bunch...and jealous. I wonder if actors are like this too? I thought it funny the writer's husband responded to your review...interesting. I think it takes a confident person and one who is entrenched in the craft (despite publication) to applaud friends, even strangers as they move forward in their writing career. On the flip side, I think it is weak to rip others down based on little to nothing. This post intrigued me!
    ~ Wendy

  4. Hey, Wendy!

    I thought it was sweet that her husband responded. If he's going to stay sane, though, he'll have to stop reading reviews.

    I think that is one of the things aspiring authors overlook. If we get what we want, and most of us want a successful publication, who else is affected? And how? Extremely successful authors suffer attacks on their work and sometimes their character. It must be very tough for their families.

    I personally don't usually care much if someone says something nasty to or about me but if they go after my husband, sister, close friends, or kids I come out swinging.

  5. Amen. It's one of the reasons why I love SCBWI. There still are some jealous authors, but a whole lot more are supportive. And the organization, as a whole, is very supportive.

  6. Thanks for the link, Laurel. Good post.