Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Word About The Green-eyed Monster (and I Don't Mean Godzilla!)

Fair warning, this post might get ugly. That’s because I’m talking about the green-eyed monster today. Not Godzilla but something far, far worse. 

Author jealousy.

 I’ve never blogged about it before, but I’ve observed hideous author behavior over the last couple of years, some of it directed at me. Some of it directed at others. I think it's time to take a stand and call it out for what it is: wrong, wrong, wrong.

Everyone, at one time or another, feels like they are not living up to their potential. It’s perfectly okay to look at another author’s success and think, wow, what could I change about my writing or business practices to achieve that?  I don’t think that’s jealousy. Real jealousy is when an author takes an action to sabotage another author’s success in order to make his or herself feel more successful or potentially gain traction on the charts.

Just in case there is any confusion, the following actions are deplorable displays of author jealousy. None of these are good sales strategy or “guerilla” marketing. I don't care if you read about it in an Indie publishing book or heard about it at a conference; these things are unethical

The Obvious

Leaving bad reviews of a competitor's book

Whether you’ve read the book or not, you have a conflict of interest. You cannot possibly rate a direct competitor’s book fairly. And, if your review magically contains a link to your own book, give yourself a big frowny face on your author card. Not cool.

Spreading rumors about an author or book on social media or in private groups

I recently had an author tell me that another competing author had solicited negative “helpful” votes on one of my books from a private group of authors. Apparently, I've heard this has become common practice for some authors and publishers. 

Reporting a book as having inappropriate content when it doesn’t

This one requires no commentary. Awful.

Listing or tagging a book inappropriately in order to attract the wrong audience (and therefore negative reviews) 
The specific instance I’m thinking of was the author of an adult’s only novel finding her title on a list recommended for ages 9-16.

The Not So Obvious

Telling a critique partner his/her work isn’t ready when it is, or that it is ready when it is not
(This one needs no commentary.)

Giving purposefully bad advice 
(Ex: “Don’t worry about hiring a copy-editor. Waste of money. People expect self-pubs to have some errors.")

Discouraging success 
(Ex.: "That blogger/conference/agent represents really big authors. Don’t even bother querying them.")

Attributing someone’s success to things other than their writing
(Ex: “Wow, you must be really good at marketing!” ...because your success couldn’t possibly be due to your writing. “You really got lucky going free around Christmas!” …because otherwise no one would have downloaded your book. “Smart to write a sci-fi when everyone else was writing romance. Now there’s no competition is your genre!” because if there was you wouldn’t be ranking.) These types of comments insidiously undermine an author’s confidence.

Which leads me to this…

Five Reasons You Should Avoid The Green-eyed Monster
  1. Success begets success. Good writing in all genres attracts interest in that genre. A good angel book gets readers interested in buying more angel books. The Hunger Games launched a huge following for dystopian. Sabotaging books like your own only sabotages YOU.
  2. Scheming Undermines Learning. All that time you are spending to feed the green monster could be time spent writing your next book or reading a book on craft. The green monster is a huge time waster.
  3. No one defines your success but you. If you are not happy with yourself selling 300 books per month, you won’t be happy selling 30,000 per month. Self satisfaction comes from within, from knowing how much of yourself you poured into a book and how far you've come.
  4. You miss out on being a part of someone else’s success. It’s a great feeling to watch someone you know really blossom. Even better if you get to be the wind beneath their wings.
  5. It may come back to haunt you. Amazon and others are getting much better at tracking inappropriate activity. No one wants their name associated with an article like this after all. www.forbes.com/sites/suwcharmananderson/2012/08/28/fake-reviews-amazons-rotten-core/ 

What about you? Do you feel author jealousy is a problem? Have you experienced this on your own publishing journey?


  1. Apparently some people's lives are so [fill in the blank] that they have to resort to things like these. I'd speculate that they don't have many friends, if any.

  2. I haven't had anything like that happen to me yet. Should I be jealous because I haven't done well enough to attract that kind of attention? ;-)

    On the other hand, I'll readily admit the relative success of one of my books was due to luck as much as anything else. I certainly haven't been able to reproduce it with anything I've done since. Eh, I shall keep plugging. And catch up on my reading.

  3. We all feel a little bit of jealousy when someone is successful and we're not, but I think it's because people feel discourage by the success of another author instead of encourage that there is a market for what authors are producing. Instead of feeling like you're a failure, it would be better to look at what the successful author is doing and learn. Positive connections, learning from the experience, is far better than the negative tactics you've noted above, and it saddens me that some authors feel like they have to create negative rivals, instead of creating a positive support system.

  4. I'm with Larry: jealous that I'm not attracting that kind of attention. :D

    As has been said, the best marketing for your book...is your next book. Wasting time, as you point out GP, on self-defeating tactics rather than writing is...self-defeating. (Way to go, Kevin. As ever the wordsmith.)

    A great list of what not to do, GP. Sad that some (or all) of it has happened to you.

  5. It amazes me how some people can do things like this and live with themselves. I know it goes on but I'm especially appalled when the attacks come from other authors. We all struggle with our writing, no matter how well we sell, and heaping negativity on someone might be the final act to push them over the edge. It's disgusting. Good for you, GP, for highlighting it.

  6. I agree with you totally except on bad reviews. Writers are readers too, and it's thanks to readers that books even get reviewed (for better or for worse). It's one thing if the writer CHOOSES not to review books that they don't like--but no one should be condemned for doing so. That becomes censorship. Reviews help other readers find books they'll like and avoid books they won't like, and writers as readers especially have an interesting perspective on a book--they know the genre in a different way.

    I think it comes down to the conflict of interest assertion. I don't believe writers are in competition with each other. As you pointed out, another author's success in my genre is success for me, too. It brings in more readers and opens up more access to our audience :) If we believe other writers are our competitors, then it makes the jealousy part happen, because we feel like part of the pie that could have been ours has been taken by someone else, even if that's not true.

    It's really the less obvious, more insidious things that are frightening.. I've experienced the "suggesting work isn't ready when it is" before and it sucks to realize that later. Good list! Good advice.

    1. To a certain extent, reviews will do that, although reviews are opinions of what the reviewer thought of the book/movie/whatever, and should be taken as such. I take reviews with a grain of salt. Only *I* can decide if I like, or dislike something.

    2. I think the difference is that people who do this set out with ulterior motives. In other words, the behavior mentioned in the Forbes article linked above is not made better by the person reading the books in whole or in part because the sole intent is to manipulate the charts

  7. Ugh! Someone has actually done these to you? Do you need me to go beat them up? I can name one of my villains after them.

  8. The setting in which I've most often observed petty, destructively envious behavior by one writer toward another is the writer's critique group. I've seen relatively little outside those circles. Whatever the actual distribution, it's deplorable and bespeaks a shriveled soul.

  9. This is a WONDERFUL article, Ms. Ching! Thank you for having the courage of your conviction to write it!
    The same could be said for going ahead with Dane's and Ethan's relationship in your Soulkeepers series, BTW. I rated the 4th one higher than the others for that very reason! I'd probably be rating all of them even higher if I were more the target age range ;) My 20 year old daughter turned me on to your work. I'm 42, but I stil think they are great books, and it's YOUR fault I haven't been going to sleep on time the last few nights (can't put the darn Kindle down!). ;) I'm looking forward to readig more of your work, and eager to see if you have/are going to branch out into older adult fiction as well.


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