Thursday, January 23, 2014

In 20 Years, You'll be an Overnight Success!

by Giselle Renarde

I've never been entirely clear which generation I belong to--X or Y?  According to Wikipedia, Generation X spans birth years from the 60s to the early 80s and Y is early 80s to 2000.  I'm in my mid-thirties. I was born right on the cusp.  Maybe that's why I've never seen the qualities typically associated with either of those generations in myself.

This is going somewhere--I promise.

When I worked in the business world (this would have been maybe 2002-2006?), I couldn't get over the number of V.P.-by-thirty types.  They were everywhere--in my company, my clients' companies, my clients' clients' companies. The kids were in charge.  Twenty-somethings were the bosses. It was... weird.

Me?  I never wanted to leap-frog ahead.  I've always believed in climbing the ladder, and that should take time and maturity.  When I think of myself just out of university... WOW!  I was incredibly juvenile.  My interpersonal skills were terrible because I hadn't learned how to relate to other people with compassion.

With every year that goes by, I realize how much I didn't know the year before, and how very much I have yet to learn.

That's why I've never been keen to rush my writing career ahead of its natural pace.  Don't get me wrong--I would love to sell more books and earn more money, but I don't feel that I "deserve" huge success right away. I don't think anyone deserves that, necessarily, but seems like there are a lot of authors who will do whatever it takes to make it big.

I don't want to be critical of ruthless self-promoters.  When it comes right down to it, they're just more driven than I am.  Honestly, I wouldn't find myself so irritated with authors whose twitter streams are a steady flow of books ads and "Yay! My book has a hundred million 5-star reviews!" if I weren't so jealous of their ability to do so. I have trouble selling myself.

This is obviously an antiquated notion, but I believe success should take time and effort. Feel free to say it's envy talking--it probably is--but when authors achieve wild successes by morally questionable means, it bothers me. Why?  If readers weren't inspired by a bunch of sock puppet 5-star reviews to buy other books, would they be buying mine instead?  Probably not.  So why do I even care about other authors' ethics and practices?

I guess I just feel like we should all operate on a level playing field.

The thing is--we do.  In any industry, some people are going to cheat to get ahead while the rest of us schmucks toil away to scrape enough cash together to pay the rent.  For someone who's led a fairly immoral personal life, I have surprisingly high ethical standards when it comes to my writing business.

At the end of the day, I guess I'd rather eat oatmeal three meals a day and go to bed with a clear conscience. I can't control other people's actions. Only my own.


  1. In what sense have you led an immoral personal life? Nothing you've shared so far suggests anything other than the highest standards of integrity!

    Anyway, I really like your message, even if it's antiquated. ;^) I find myself telling my students that cheating will hurt them, ultimately, and then realizing they'll never, ever believe me.

  2. There's so many ways to cheat in publishing it makes me crazy. I know of a company that tracks the most popular books, creates an outline of them, then distributes the outline to their 'authors' who take it from there. A woman I know quit the start-up because she could't work for a place that did such things. When they hired her in the production department, they told her nothing of their so-called process. They even copy cover designs. They get imitations out within a few weeks, from concept to finished product.

  3. Giselle, I totally agree with you. (Maybe it's because I'm definitely a post-World War 2 Baby Boomer, which means it's already taken me awhile to get to where I'm at now.) I comfort myself by speculating on which writers of today will be read 100 years from now -- assuming there will be any readers left. Based on what I know of literary history, the people who post sock-puppet reviews will probably be forgotten after they die, if not before.
    Maybe it's cold comfort, but some writers who were absolutely unknown in their lifetimes (e.g. Emily Dickinson, circa 1860s) , or whose work was out of fashion and out of print for roughly a century (e.g. John Donne, contemporary with Shakespeare) are doing well in our own time. Writers never have to give up hope of becoming famous in the future.

  4. Thanks for the post, as always. I sometimes wish I enjoyed greater success, but the (very) small tastes I've had have been pretty scary. For example, it's hard to be discussed on the Internet. Ultimately, I'm glad to have had the chance to develop as a writer in relative obscurity. I'll never be sorry to have learned a few more things.


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