Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Green-Eyed Monster

I am a competitive person, no doubt about it. My husband is the same, and in our particular case, this is a good thing. We drive one another toward success. If one is achieving more in the writing career, then the other fights to catch up and surpass. In my opinion, this is good. This is healthy. We compete to better ourselves, and we celebrate our accomplishments. Will I be jealous if his book sells first? Sure. Of course. But I'll be thrilled for him, too. And I'm certain he feels the same. It's not really jealousy of him so much as disappointment for me, I suspect.

Because we aren't REALLY competing with each other. We're competing to see which of us can obtain our own new personal best faster. And each individual's personal best is different.

This is something I think many writers fail to recognize. The path to each writer's publication will be different. The achievements obtained along the way will be different. The speed at which goals will be reached will be different. And often this has nothing to do with personal speed. I write fast. The hubby, well, doesn't. But I suspect he produces a more polished project in the end. Regardless, he may very well sell first, even though I have more to sell and have been represented by my agent longer. His market is better. His writing is less "niche". Is this my fault? Well, I suppose I could try writing something hotter in today's market, but that's not where my heart lies, and I doubt I'd do a very good job. So, no, it's not my fault.

So, if he sells first, there will be disappointment for myself, yes, but not jealousy. At least I hope not. Because there's really no need.

We aren't competing AGAINST each other.


If you are GOOD, if you are GOOD ENOUGH, and you DON'T GIVE UP, and you STRIVE TO KEEP GETTING BETTER, you WILL SELL. Eventually. But it's the "eventually" part that many stumble over.

So many writers I talk to seem to think the publishing world is finite. "If so-and-so lands an agent, well, there goes my slot."

Nope, don't think so. Yes, it's true, agents only take on a few (if any) clients a year. But there are a lot of agents out there. And even if your best writerly friend just snagged the agent you've been hoping for, it's not going to stop you if your work is GOOD ENOUGH and WHAT THE AGENT IS LOOKING FOR. Because I don't know any agents who would turn down a fantastic manuscript they think can be sold, even if their client list is full. Okay, maybe they would if your book is too similar to your friend's, but then there are many, many more agents to query. And if you do get turned down, it's because it wasn't good enough, or not what the agent was looking for, NOT because your friend took the last agent client space in the universe.

I've also known other writers who get totally frustrated at conferences because certain writers "hog" all the agents.

Well, I have two views on this.

1. That's how the networking game is played. A good, professional conversation now can mean a partial or full request later. If you're comfortable walking up to strangers in the business (agents/editors), and chatting them up, then you should do it. Don't resent those who are better at it than you. Get better at it yourself. The old saying, "It's not what you know, but who you know," does apply, to some extent in publishing. Though again, I say that it doesn't matter how good a conversationalist you are. It's the writing that will really count.

And that said, I will remind everyone that while I'm not the least bit afraid to chat with agents and editors, I got both my agents through query letters initially and met them later.

2. If you are NOT good at striking up conversations with people you don't know, if you AREN'T outgoing and have tried to improve on this and failed, then choose a different way to make these connections. Again, some people are naturally good at this. Some people can teach themselves, like I did. (I'm extremely shy by nature, but you'd never know it at a conference.) But if this isn't you, then pick another method--Twitter is great for less-threatening contacts, so is posting on agent blogs, and well-written query letters are about as non-threatening in a social sense as you can get while still being very effective. You may not get a free pass to the top of the slush pile like an in-person contact might get you, but GREAT writing WILL attract attention, eventually (and there's that word again).

Just don't get angry with other writers who happen to be more outgoing. You're you. Be you. And let them be them. And don't let the sometimes perceived "unfairness" at conferences get to you, either. A friend of mine was in this situation recently, and she apparently handled it pretty well, but many don't. Will conference organizers introduce their friends to the agents and editors? Of course they will. Will paid editors and book doctors make sure their clients get agent/editor face time? Absolutely. Is this fair? Nope. How do you deal with it? You either play their game and make nice with these "introducers," or you change the rules and go your own route.

Whatever you do, don't resent friends, family members, and acquaintances who are successful, those who get the requests, the agents, the book deals.

Because these are YOUR new contacts! Every success a spouse/friend/acquaintance has is a potential success for you! A new connection. A new introduction to an agent or editor. The books they sell will not be the last books ever sold until the end of time.

So, celebrate EVERYONE'S success as if it were your own, because in the long chain of events that leads to publication, it very well could be. Eventually. (grin)