Thursday, July 21, 2016

How To Overcome Professional Jealousy Without Really Trying

by Giselle Renarde

Last year I had a friendly disagreement with a fellow author about the meaning of success. No, I take that back--it wasn't friendly.

I was finally starting to make ends meet month after month, which is huge for someone who's been living out of a savings account for *mumble-mumble* years. I was also coming off a bout of depression, and my heart felt all gushy with gratitude for this ability to live life on my own terms--conduct my business on my own terms.

To me, that spelled success.

The aforementioned author tore a strip off me. She told me I had no right to be satisfied with my wretchedly low "making ends meet" income. Why didn't I aspire to be a big earner? I was just a lazy so-and-so.

If you're satisfied, you're stagnating.

Well, first off, don't tell someone with chronic depression they shouldn't be satisfied with what they have. It's kinda... ummm... counterproductive?

Also, I just plain disagree.

But I disagree as a self-professed lazy so-and-so.

I know authors who feel like failures if they don't earn $100k in a year. That's fine for them, although you won't find me beating myself up about it. I have zero aspirations to become a self-publishing millionaire. If that happens, by some unlikely stroke of luck, it's because I unknowingly captured some zeitgeist I didn't realize existed.

If I get rich, it won't be because of my business acumen and winning personality. Or even the quality of my writing. It'll be pure luck.

Does that mean my rich writer friends are just getting lucky? (heh--phrasing)

Nope. They're working their asses off. They're spending money like it's going out of style, baby. *raises Ray-Ban sunglasses. winks. takes a sip of Crystal Pepsi*

They are masters of Facebook advertising. They get BookBubs. They spend more on marketing than I pay in rent. That's not an overstatement. Easily double or triple what I pay in rent every month.

And they reap the rewards. Their books sell.  They make money.

All in all, I'm glad I had that little falling out with a colleague. From that day forward, I was better able to articulate why I felt professional jealousies (when I felt professional jealousies), and once that happened, they dissipated. Well, that's not true. But I had the tools to easily resolve them.

I used to hear other authors bragging about their successful book launches and think, "Dag nabbit, that woulda coulda shoulda been me!" I was full of ze, how you say, sour grapes, no? Why was everyone else reaping rewards and not me?

Then I started looking at things logically. When I heard about someone's successful book, instead of dwelling on that initial visceral sour grapes sensation, I delved into the makings of their success. I ended up with a kind of jealousy-repelling checklist.

Now I ask myself:

Does this book belong to a hot, in-demand genre?


Would I be willing to write in that genre?

Pretty much always, the answer is NO.

I have a friend whose book took off recently. It was a footsketbaseball romance. Footsketbaseball--that's a sport, right? Okay, anyway, it was a SPORTS romance.

And I said to her: "Eww sports!" And she said to me: "Eww I know! Sports are the worst! Took me three days to write the playing-field-surface-rink scene."

But she did her research. She knew sports romance was an up-and-coming subgenre. She put in the hours and wrote a book she wasn't interested in because she knew it would be a big earner. Her work paid off.

I don't begrudge authors writing to market. I totally get it. This is a JOB. But there are certain things I have zero desire to write about even for big money and you can't make me, nyah-nyah!

Okay, so let's pretend I saw a book doing well in my home genre. Say some heartfelt trans lesbian literary erotica tops the charts (HA!). Am I jealous yet?

Well, no. I might have a twinge of jealousy since this is a genre I've been writing in from personal experience for more than 8 years, but then I have to think to myself:

Is this author spending a shitload of money on advertising?


Am I willing to spend a shitload of money on advertising?

Nah, I'm too cheap.

Okay, say they're not spending a dime.

Is this author spending a shitload of TIME advertising the book?

Yes! Blog hops and marketing doodads and podcasting thingamaboppers... I'm just making up words now.

Am I willing to spend a shitload of time advertising my books?

Honestly? I'm way too lazy.

And the be-all and end-all question:

Would the benefits of achieving sales success with a similar title outweigh the cost in time, energy and money?

That's always up to each individual author to answer. I can't answer it for you and you can't answer it for me. And when we try to measure success for each other--that's when we get into trouble.


  1. I don't know how to gauge success beyond a sense of satisfaction with ourselves. That and how far have we have come in our efforts. I don't compare myself with others if I can help it. Whoever you compare yourself with can depend more on your mood than your personal achievements. If I compared myself to a popular author, I'd feel inadequate. Then I'll come upon a homeless guy at a traffic light.


    There's nothing wrong with pushing ourselves to do better in our chosen field. Some may write better if they see it as a competition, but we are really just challenging ourselves. Confidence may be key in that case.

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  3. Professional jealousy is a very strange thing. I noticed that when I was in RWA a lot of my chapter "buddies" were jealous of me, at a time when I was getting rejection after rejection from my publisher, and on top of that, my father was dying. I certainly didn't see myself as anyone who could rationally be the object of professional jealousy.

    One evening when I was standing outside the auditorium where the RITA ceremony had been held, I found myself chatting with Nora Roberts. She'd won her umpteenth RITA, so of course I congratulated her. She said, holding up her statuette, "Yeah, it's been awhile since I won one of these."

    Gobsmacked, I realized that Nora Roberts (NORA ROBERTS!!!) had felt professional jealousy when other authors took home the award she felt she deserved.

    Obviously she didn't perceive herself the same way others saw her and her career.

    Since that time, I banged into a fairly huge writer's block, and have seen writers who started at about the same time I did achieve enormous success on less talent. Why? A number of them spend a lot of money on promo and marketing--and they have backgrounds in promo and marketing. Others have--yep--gotten lucky.

    And they write more than I do. So am I jealous? Not really.

    Writing isn't the most important thing to me in life.

    It isn't even one of the top five.

    Life isn't meant to be lived in front of a computer, writing tales about imaginary people, their imaginary lives and their imaginary successes.

  4. How nasty your colleagues are!

    Jeez, if they think you're lazy, when you publish a new book every couple of weeks, whatever would they think of me?

    You've nailed it here. Yes, you can burn up all your energy and money on chasing the next fad and screaming your name to the rooftops.

    Or you can write, and think, and have a life.

    I know which one I'd choose.

    That being said, I'm hugely proud of the fact that you are supporting yourself on your writing, even at a very modest level. Despite what your so-called friends say, that's a major accomplishment. Very few of us could do that.

    1. Awww that's so sweet of you. My grandma is proud of me too. It means a lot. :-)

  5. If one component of success is having people envy you (I should look up the difference between envy and jealousy) then I envy, not your success, but your talent and ability to do all you do and even support yourself by your writing.. Maybe it would be more accurate to say that I admire you for it, but maybe that's a form of envy.

  6. Giselle, you seem to have carved out your own niche - and you're not the kind of erotic writer who writes the stuff sneakily, using a different persona (though there is Lexi Wood). :) You seem like a success on your own terms.


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