Authors on the whole are a neurotic, anxious bunch. Okay, most aren’t quite as bad as me, but nearly all of us fret. A lot.
Maybe it’s because we’ve trained ourselves to scrutinise our words and the impressions they make, and that extends into over-scrutinising everything. Maybe it’s because publishing is like war – 5% terror and 95% waiting – and in those periods of waiting we inevitably overanalyse and catastrophise everything. Maybe it’s Ebola. I don’t know.
Whatever the reason, one of the consequence is that most of us suffer from author envy at some point. Maybe at every point. When you’re unagented, you’re jealous of authors with agents. When you’re agented, you’re jealous of authors with publishing deals. When you get a deal, you’re jealous of authors with bigger deals. When you get a big deal, you’re jealous of authors with… better hair, or something. Those coiffured bastards.
Who are they sleeping with, huh??
Publishing is so insanely competitive that it’s natural to think of other authors as our competition. Number crunchers estimate that one in 4,000 manuscripts ends up published, and once you learn that, the natural step is to find 3,999 other wannabes and destroy them along with everything they hold dear.
What? What do you mean, “No, no Anna, that’s not a natural step?” Go and marry that damn judge if you agree with him so much.
But once you have successfully murdered the competition and you get your deal, you’d think it’d be over. It isn’t.
There’s some trite saying about how happiness isn’t a destination but a frame of mind. And as trite as it is, the older I get the more true I realise it is. As a fatty, I spent many wasted years thinking my life would be great and I would be happy if only I could lose weight and be thin. Spoiler alert: I lost weight, but life wasn’t great and I wasn’t happy. Because being fat wasn’t the problem. Caring so much about what other people thought of my appearance was the problem. It was only when I stopped caring that I was actually happy. And I’m fatter than ever, by the way.
Publishing is the same. We’re all trying to reach our goals and we feel like if we get The Thing – the six-figure advance, or the starred Kirkus review, or the movie – that we’ll have done it. We’ll be a Successful Author and we’ll no longer worry and no longer compare ourselves to others.
It’s not true. There will always be a new goal, another author doing better. Find your readers, give them the best books you can write, and stop worrying what Author X is doing. Or how good his hair is. Wanker is probably wearing a toupee anyway.
And in the meantime? When you feel the green-eyed monster, go and publicly support another author. Leave a nice (and honest) review. Pre-order their next book. Tweet about how great you enjoyed their last book. Offer to beta read a manuscript. Not only will it slay the monster, or at least keep it at bay, but most of the time it will actually bring YOU closer to your own goals. Authors are nice. We’re supportive. When you support authors, authors support you back, and more readers find you.
If that doesn’t work, indulging in a little light murder every now and then is fine, too.