I butted up against professional jealousy for the first time in my career this week, and it has made me sad, not just for myself but for the other person involved. In an online forum we were in together, this now-ex-author friend apparently found me to be boastful because I like to talk about what’s gone right for me. I like to tell other authors—try this, it works. But I’m also quick to say what doesn’t work. I’ve talked a lot recently about the “racy” cover that derailed the sales of my latest book because Facebook found the sexy bare shoulders on my cover “pornographic.” I am open and honest about my career—the good, the bad, the ugly. I always have been. I always will be. I have absolutely nothing to hide, and I’m always willing to lend a hand to someone who’s struggling.
Apparently my comments were offensive to someone who used to be my friend, and that makes me sad—for her. I can’t imagine why in the world anyone would waste their precious time or energy begrudging someone else’s happiness or success. Of course I can only speculate as to the whys of this situation because the person in question has never actually spoken directly to me about it. She’s only spoken to others about me, which again has me asking why does she care so much about me?
But then again, I don’t have a jealous bone in my body so I have a very hard time understanding stuff like this. If my husband wants to flirt with another woman, I say have at it. He’s coming home with me, not her. What do I care if he’s cute or funny when talking to someone else? How does that threaten me in any way?
This week I saw Audrey Carlan, the Calendar Girl author, on the Today show and was bursting with pride for her, for our profession, for women and mothers who have the audacity to go for their dreams and get to see them come true. Not once during that interview did I think—Who is this girl? She came from nowhere with this new series and now she’s on the freaking Today show? No, I thought GOOD for her, good for ALL of us who write romance to be getting this national spotlight shone upon us. Every dream I’ve ever had has come true, and I don’t have the time or the desire to envy her success or anyone else’s.
I felt the same way when E.L. James burst onto the scene in 2012, seemingly out of nowhere, turning the publishing world on end with her smash hit Fifty Shades trilogy. I didn’t read the books because I was planning to write a BDSM series of my own and didn’t want to be influenced by hers or other similar books. However, I actively defended an author I’ve never met against people who accused her of writing trash or mommy porn or the many other awful things people said. Instead, I urged detractors to look at this woman who had hit the ball out of the park and had the whole world paying attention to the romance genre. I said THANK YOU to her when my sales soared as a result of the whole world paying attention to our genre. Never once did I think, where did she come from and where does she get off?
Why are women so god-awful to each other? Why are they so unkind to each other? Why do they get off on begrudging someone else their success? What do they gain from that? I’d really love to know. I suppose I’m lucky it took this long to be a “victim” of such a thing in this dog-eat-dog business in which we work. Back before self-publishing was a viable option for authors, this sort of thing was far more prevalent than it is now. There were a limited number of spots available on publisher calendars, and everyone was fighting for their spot. If I help give you a leg up, the conventional author wisdom held, I might do so at my own expense. So authors didn’t talk about their successes or their failures. They didn’t talk about the money they made or their deals with publishers or their contracts or the pitfalls to avoid. Everything was hush-hush—and very, very lonely.
Now that the playing field has been leveled by indie publishing, and we all have the same opportunities available to us, authors are far more forthcoming and generous with information, sharing what works, what doesn’t, celebrating each other’s successes (most of the time) and mourning the failures—together. I love that about our new and improved community. I love the sharing and the caring and the nurturing that goes on. I love that on the groups I manage, someone could fall straight off the publishing turnip truck and ask the most basic of questions, and someone else will help that author find the way forward. That’s how it SHOULD be, and I’m thrilled to provide two robust online forums where authors can ask those turnip truck questions without feeling intimidated or bullied.
And for God’s sake, we ought to be able to say—holy crap I’ve sold 5 million or 25 million books or 100 million books!! and not have to worry that someone’s precious feelings are going to be hurt because their books haven’t sold as well, because they aren’t a bestseller or a runaway success. I want us all to shout the good news from the rooftops without any fear that someone is going to think we’re boasting or arrogant or conceited because we’re thrilled with our lives, our careers, our readers, our books, ourselves. I’m freaking thrilled with my life and my career, and you know what? I’m never going to stop saying so. Ever.
If you’re not happy with your life or your career or your writing, do something to fix it. But keep your jealousy locked down. The only person you’re hurting with that negativity is you. The rest of us? We’re too busy writing our next great book and celebrating our success to let it touch us.