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I like the girls over at Write Minded, and although I don’t comment much, I do like to visit their blog every now and then. I even try and buy the books that they publish just because I like ’em so much.

Anyway, I was looking at the number of books that they had written individually, and although mostly all of them have done well, books-wise, some have obviously done better than others, for example, Sharon Long/Maya Banks and Larissa Ione (I’m excluding Jaci Burton, because she only recently joined them).

Because my mind tends to lapse into various uncharted streams of consciousness, I ended up wondering how the other members of Write Minded really felt about the successes of the other group members. I don’t mean the surface, “I’m so happy for my friend and pal and crit partner”-tokenism that I randomly see every now and again, but the deep-fried, not-for-public-consumption feelings, that tend to include emotions like envy and jealousy, which are in turn, bound to lead to feelings of inadequacy. I wonder if deep down, that’s one of the reasons that Jan Kenny left the group. I couldn’t help but notice that out of the original members, she seemed to have struggled the most, in terms of getting her books published. (This is only presumption on my part of course, she may have only had two books in her over the last two years)

I imagine every author goes through these feelings at some stage or another. Seeing your writer pals get big contracts, seeing them hit the NY Times or USA Today best-seller lists, whilst you struggle to sell-out, must wound the psyche to some degree. How could it not? Can you imagine how hard it would have been to be Nora Roberts’ best author friend back in the day, or even one of her peers? Look where jealousy and envy led Janet Dailey. That bitch just plain tried to copy from La Nora.

It must be much worse for those one-book authors. You know the ones, they wrote one book, that bombed, and now they’re finding it hard to sell their second book, never mind make it onto any of The Lists.

I recall having similar thoughts when Dear Author did that viral marketing thing with Nalini Singh’s wonderful book, Slave To Sensation. I wondered how many authors felt just a little green that she was getting all that attention for her book. Lots and lots I suspect, no matter how much they deny it.

(Slightly off-topic, but hey Jane, seeing as Nalini is now a NY Times Best-seller, does that mean your viral marketing worked? *g*)

Humans are naturally competitive, but I sometimes wonder, if that competitiveness, rises to its optimum, when women compete against other women.

22 Comments »

  • Of course there’s jealousy, there is always jealousy in this business. We’re told over and over again not to compare ourselves to other writers, but we do it anyway. I think it’s the nature of the beast.

    That said, we all walk a different path and we all have burdens to bear (bare?)…you know what I mean. Recently I was reading a Fist Call story for CJ Lyons–her first book was pulled 100 days prior to it’s release. I can’t immagine how painful a blow that was. And it’s a pretty well known fact that Larissa lost everything in Katrina and it’s damned hard to be jealous of someone who’s been through something like that.

    Caveat: Yes I’m a friend of theirs (the WM girls), but I’m not saying anything I haven’t said before. 🙂

    I think jealousy is only bad when you let it eat you up. When it drives you to work harder, and push on, then I think it’s a good thing.

    BTW Karen…great post! Very thoughtful. 🙂

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  • PS you better believe I’m jealous! 😀

    I WISH I had their output–that said, I’m a single mom with a day job and two kids. I’ll probably NEVER have their output and/but I’m okay with that. Like I said, we all walk a different path and we all have different burdens to bear whether we’re writers or not.

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  • You had me ’til you mentioned “I sometimes wonder, if that competitiveness, rises to its optimum, when women compete against other women”. I wouldn’t bring sex into this. Jealousy is an equal opportunity emotion, not sexist at all. Anyone’s capable of being envious of someone else’s success–even a close friend’s–as much as he/she might wish he/she wasn’t.

    We’re animals who like to win underneath the veneer of civilization. Doesn’t mean you actively want a competitor to trip and break a leg on the way to the finish line, but it does mean you’ll put on an extra burst of speed to leave her/him in the dust. Competition is healthy and makes you strive harder.

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  • For me it’s not jealousy but rather envy… wanting what they have.

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  • Hi Karen –

    Cece (Amie) pointed me in the direction of this post – and although I do read your blog I’m definitely a lurker 😉

    I think it was Nora Roberts who said that she has the same writer friends now as she did when she was unpublished. I’m happy to say that holds true for me as well. I’ve had the same support system before and after publication and for me that’s made a huge difference – when you’ve struggled with the same things, when you know what their family’s struggling with – when you know that the book deals didn’t appear without angst and late night emails and other kinds of behind the scenes career panics and such. I’ve also been lucky enough to have mentors like Alison Kent, PBW and Holly Lisle, who’ve all been very open about the ups and downs of the writing business.

    I’m very open with my jealousy of my friends’ writing ability – for instance, I will tell Larissa often, in private and will announce it in public that when I read her stuff, I want to throw it against the wall because it’s that fantastic and I want to be able to write that way. And just the way Cece says above about being jealous – it’s said in a different spirit than the kind of soul-sucking jealousy that can eat away at you.

    But jealous of deals and successes of my friends – nope. That’s stuff to celebrate. And for the writers I don’t ‘know’ who enjoy success – well, I can’t worry about that – I can only compete with myself. Sounds simple, I know, but in this business, it’s really the only way to keep your sanity.

    I think, with the Writeminded crew, we also got VERY close when we held the Katrina auction for Larissa.

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  • oh, Christ, and on my first comment it looks like I broke your blog somehow…

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  • Excluded? I’m excluded?

    You don’t like me?

    Not that I’m at all paranoid…..

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  • This is only presumption on my part of course, she may have only had two books in her over the last two years

    And this is what’s wrong with the industry and with readers if we think two books in two years is a meager output. I’ve long been flummoxed by the romance genre’s 1) need to flood the market and 2) push authors to publish 25 books a year. You just don’t see it in other genres. My observations only, but a book a year is pretty darn average for say, the mystery genre. Is it because romance is so highly competitive that there’s this unspoken demand on authors to write, write, write until their finger-tips begin too ooze?

    Sigh, although this is probably a subject for another blog post entirely. I just don’t see “2 books in 2 years” as anything to be ashamed of. But that’s just me…..

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  • In response to your question, there are always going to be those who get bigger and better deals, who hit bestseller lists, who have successes left and right. You can hate their success because it isn’t your success, or you can celebrate your friends who hit the big time, who get the great deals, and be happy for them because they deserve it. And if you hit the big time and get the great deals, it’ll be because you deserve it. Sometimes things don’t happen at the same time as your friends or peers get theirs. But if it’s your destiny (I sound like Obi Wan Kenobi now..heh), then it’ll happen.

    As a writer, you have to focus on your own world, your own books, and never compare yourself to anyone else. Competitive, ugly jealousy can eat you up inside, prevent you from doing what you should be doing-writing the best damn book you can. And if you stop doing your best because you’re always worrying about what everyone else is doing, it’ll inevitably destroy your career.

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  • Karen Scott
    March 8
    5:39 pm

    My observations only, but a book a year is pretty darn average for say, the mystery genre.

    I was actually comparing her output to those of the other group members. It could be that it’s her choice to only publish one book per year, after all.

    But having said that, I think it depends on the type of book. If it’s a category book, then yes, I do think that two category books in two year isn’t sufficient. I’m not as likely to follow an author who brings one Blaze book out per year.

    If it’s a Black Dagger Brotherhood -type book, then I tend to think it’s perfectly acceptable to only write one book per year. My reason for that is because the author has created a world that the reader wants to follow. They want to know what’s happened to whatshisname, and if he’s going to get together with whatsherface.

    Now I know that there are category books that are part of a series, but personally, in the past I’ve tended to read Book 1, and never go back if there was too much of a gap between the first and the second one.

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  • Gail Faulkner
    March 8
    5:42 pm

    Jaci hit it right on the head. A writer’s success is always hard earned and unless they stole the work, they deserve every bit of it.

    I want my own success and it might not be the same thing as my friend.

    If I have time to be nasty about it I’m not enjoying writing, so why do it?

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  • Hell yes Im jealous. I call them whores all the time. Just ask them *g* Steph is supposed to order a T-shirt that says “Maya called me a whore and I liked it.”

    But they motivate me. I want to be as good as them. I want to BE them when I grow up.

    I have no qualms about them seeing the uglier side of me when I’m whiny and not feeling good enough because I’m extremely honest with them about thinking they’re whores heh and because they know I am so freaking proud of their accomplishments.

    When we started WM, NONE of us were published. I watched each and every one of them land deals (I was the last) and yes, while I wanted it to be me, I knew they deserved every ounce of their success and I wanted it FOR them.

    I hate to discuss personal details in public, ever, but I’ll make an exception here because I’d hate for anyone to ever think Jan left WM because she was jealous or because she in some way felt inadequate. She’s been with me and AMy as a critique partner for years and she’s still with us in that capacity. We talk via email every single day, so while she’s gone from WM “publically”, behind the scenes, nothing has changed. She’s had a very difficult year. Her mother had a very long illness, and she finally passed away some months ago. In that light, blogging just wasn’t a priority. And it shouldn’t be.

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  • Jaci is totally right – there will always be authors who sell better, who write better, who get bigger deals, better covers, more promtion from the publisher, better reviews, whatever. It’s just a basic in life, period. If, as an author, you spend any real amount of time thinking on what other authors have, it will tear you apart.

    Still, when you’re working toward somthing and someone else achieves it and you’re struggling, there’s a pang in your gut when someone announces a new deal and you’re still waiting. I wouldn’t say it was jealousy, more like I don’t know, angst maybe? Sadness sometimes for yourself. Frustration, sure.

    In my very immediate group of writer friends, two of the three sold and got great deals while I waited. I absolutely think my friends SHOULD have sold and every time I see their books on shelves it makes me happy because I love them and they deserve their success. When they told me of a new sale, I celebrated and rightfully so – even if it did make me a little sad that I hadn’t yet.

    But this business is interesting so what is true today may not be true next week. So while in any group of author friends there will be one or two who is just selling like gangbusters and a few not so much, that can flip in a relatively short period of time.

    In the end, what really matters is how you treat the people around you and how you value the people you love.

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  • In the end, what really matters is how you treat the people around you and how you value the people you love.

    I agree with Lauren on this… but it should also be stated that it’s also how you treat those who aren’t necessarily “around” you nor those you love. If you know someone in an off-handed way and wish them luck, awesome. But, if you know someone in an off-handed way and wish them ill-will/lack of success or say something like, “That deal should have been mine. She’s not good enough.” Well, then you need to take a long hard look at yourself because in truth, if you feel that way, you really aren’t worthy.

    It really is damn hard when your friends sell and you don’t. You stand there and applaud them because damn it, they rock and deserve their contracts and book deals and huge freaking congratulations for their success. But, you sit there wondering, when is it going to be my turn? That, to me, is normal. It’s not vindictive, petty, or mean… it’s frustration and it’s natural.

    Like they say in Galaxy Quest *Never give up, never surrender*

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  • I agree with Lauren and Marissa, and like how they summed it up. Jealousy can consume a person; eat away at their creativity and uniqueness. On the other hand aspirations, hope, faith in one’s self and yes, even frustration can be assets. Writers just have to make the choice of which we prefer to live with.

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  • It’s something that going to depend on each writer.

    Lora Leigh is one of my best friends. She adopted me back when I first started selling at EC. She offered me advice that I wish I would have taken~mainly just to worry about the books or not to caught caught up in some of the drama that’s behind the scenes. She’s my sounding board for ideas, my ear when I need to scream, my shoulder when I’m down about the biz and need to moan and whimper.

    She’s also shot straight through to the stratosphere in popularity.

    Here’s my feelings on that.

    She works hard. She works a hell of a lot harder than I do. She busts her butt on promo and I’m just now making the effort to do much promo. So when I see her name on the NYT best seller list, do I get a little jealous?

    Absolutely. But I’m also so fricking proud of her I could bust. I see one of her books in the store on an endcap or something and I’m almost like I am with my kids, I feel grabbing the book and showing it to everybody who walks by and say…

    I know this woman. She’s AMAZING.

    She’s worked hard. She earns to be where she is.

    Other people who maybe haven’t worked as hard? Could I get jealousy and stew and brood and get depressed? I guess I could. But how is that going to help me? How’s it going to improve my writing and maybe bump me up onto the lists?

    It won’t. So I’ll just focus on that and hope that maybe I’ll get my chance at them.
    🙂

    PS If the Ja(y)nes ever feel the need to do another blitz experiment, I’m a willing victim…. 😉

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  • I had to think about this, and I’m not so sure its competitiveness with others that brings author’s moods down but the competitiveness with ourselves. We’re told to set goals and strive for them. The problem with that is that there is only about 10 percent of the “getting sold” process that’s within our control. The other 90 percent just flits about taunting us, drifting in and out of reach, so when one author sells and another doesn’t, while the unsold author truly wishes the other well, that other author’s sale gets internalized as a personal failure for the yet to be sold author. Because they didn’t make their goal. Which is also why I think author’s can get so down when they don’t sell because the supposed “failures” tend to pile up in their mind. And while they’re not failures, when one thinks in terms of gaols, the result tends to be measured one of two ways, success or failure.

    A goal oriented mind set can be a tough one to ascribe to in the creative fields with all their variables and will-o-wisp paths to success.

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  • Kayleigh Jamison and I compare our relationship to that of sisters. We are both proud and jealous of one another at the same time. We encourage each other even as we try to one up the other. We are there to offer moral support when needed, and to give the other a much needed bitchsmack or reality check when needed! It’s a healthy sense of competition, though, one based on friendship and respect rather than rivalry. I can’t say the same of how I deal with my other peers, be they ones I consider friends or “competitors”. When I feel the green-eyed monster or a case of cattiness coming on, I continually remind myself not to act like such a girl. As Sarah pointed out (hey Sarah wow, I am agreeing with you on something! *heh*) I have to realize any negative feelings stem from my own insecurity or feelings of inadequacy. I vent to Kayleigh privately with my “OMG look at her butt it is sooo big” girls’ locker room sentiments, then get back to work and focus on what I’m supposed to be doing, which is writing.

    Now if Kayleigh comes in here and says basically the same thing, I’m going to jinx her, virtually sock her in the arm, and demand she “Buy me a Coke!” 😉

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  • To be honest, what eats me alive at times is when someone I can’t stand gets a big deal. Especially if I’ve read her work and can’t stand it, either. That kind of jealousy can lay you up for days.

    When a friend has a deal, though, it’s really more of a blip feeling. Then you start thinking what she’s done to get that success. Output more? Better promo skills? If she’s earned it, then you just gotta step up and follow in her footsteps. If she’s blind lucky, rub her belly. You never know. It works when you’re trying to have kids.

    Dee

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  • :::making note of authors whose belly I must rub at RWA:::

    Y’all been warned about impending belly rubbing. Just sayin’.

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  • There’s a big difference between turning into a raving bitch at someone’s success, hoping it will crash on them, and wishing simply and sadly that you could have it TOO.

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  • There are always going to be people out there who are selling more, getting paid more and earning more praise. It’s just a fact. If an author doesn’t think it’s fair, she has two choices: get over it or get out. There are many authors who got published around the same time I did who I look at and think: “damn, look at her go!” As an example, I commented on Jaci’s blog just the other day that I was in awe of her upcoming release schedule. It’s amazing. Jaci’s response was the exact right one. She said she writes them one at a time just like the rest of us. Me, well, I just sit back and let her accomplishments motivate me.

    The bottom line is that there is a difference between thinking “gee, I wish that were me” and “why is it always that bitch who gets everything?” The former is a healthy reaction. The latter is one where you need figure out what’s wrong with YOU not the author in question…then take some meds. My goal is to stay in the former group.

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