Search This Blog

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Commentary: The Shadow of Envy and Jealousy

"Another writer's success does not diminish your chance of success. Cheer on other writers." ~ Debbie Fuhry

Wouldn't our lives as authors go much smoother is the above quote were practiced more often? The quote is one of my favorites because it reminds me to not only keep myself grounded, but also be happy for my writers and colleagues when they achieve successes of their own.

While envy is a natural emotion, as writers, envy shouldn't consume us to the point where more time is spent trying to tear down other people and their work and less time concentrating on our own projects.

For each successful person - no matter what degree of success it may be - there's going to be several other who express jealously, especially toward authors. It's no secret who make it into print will be targets of jealous people, no matter if it's a major publisher or a small independent imprint.

We don't even have to be in print to be targets of envy and derision; the fact we've actually sat down written is enough for some people to get in a few cheap shots. Unfortunately, there's insecure people everywhere with some need to tear down others to make up for their own shortcomings. It's a sad thought, since such energy could be spent doing something positive in their own right.

It's been done various places - both on my work and others - the sniping, nasty comments aimed at authors, sometimes things that aren't even relevant to their work. I recently read a Facebook post about an author when, after signing a contract with a major literary agent, started getting nasty "review" comments on her book.

Another author reported a discontented person wasn't happy just posting a horrid one-star review on Amazon a few weeks ago, but posting the same "review" somewhere new every few days within the past week.

At one point, I even saw a comment under an article I enjoyed saying the person who wrote it wasn't a "real" writer and "sounded stupid" because English wasn't their first language. That caught me off guard, not only because it was the only negative comment among many positive ones, but also I couldn't see how someone's "first language" had anything to do with how their article was written (which was brilliant subject matter, may I add).

I had someone make snide comments about my voice after a radio interview (among other things), but so what? I was able to laugh it off, because that particular interview drew interest in my book and my web site. There's been other craziness too, but apparently none of it has affected hits on my site, social media requests, or book sales.

This is another aspect we authors need to develop a thick skin, realize the lengths some people will go to to discredit others, and not take such tripe seriously. You, your readers/fans, and your publisher/agent know your talent; aren't they the most important ones who matter? Plus, if you've made the best seller lists (yes, even if it's Amazon), you must be doing something right.

One still can't help but wonder, what do people who do such things get out of them? Do they really feel so inadequate about themselves that they have to spill their vile jealousy on one site after another, sites dedicated to creativity, support, and positivity? Frankly, if we wanted drama, we'll take in a film.

As with most people of this kind, they're usually aren't brave enough to put their real names on comments. The latter alone says a great deal about the person who posts such comments, since it's easier to hide behind a keyboard than approaching someone face to face.

We've all experienced jealousy several times in our lives, but is it worth it to destroy one's own professional image by publicly tearing down others rather than offering a positive comment - or even staying quiet?

Potential agents and publishers not only look at your manuscripts, many also check up on authors themselves, and chances are good they'd rather sign a mediocre writer who is supportive of their colleagues than an excellent one who spends time writing cruel, derisive comments about fellow writers. This is just one more area to consider when the "green feeling" of envy overcomes any of us.

Envy/jealousy aren't always bad things, however. Both can be motivators to help us improve or even try a new direction in our projects.

Let's say you polished the manuscript you'd worked on for over a year and sent it to an agent or publisher which you dreamed of signing a contract as long as you remember. Several weeks later, you received a rejection letter, yet your colleague gets accepted. The first reaction is you're going to feel a bit steamed and want to give your colleague a bad review on Amazon, right?


Sure, you're going to feel a bit envious for the colleague; that part comes naturally. However, the professional move would be not only sending a note of congratulations to them, but also looking over your own manuscript and taking the advice of the publisher/agent who rejected it, see what needs improvement, and then submit to other places. We do it every day. I did it for over a year despite being told my first book was "quirky." A lot of books were rejected for various reasons before someone stepped up and said, "We want to work with this."

See how envy and jealousy can work in the latter example? I'm sure many of you have done the same.

While we can't do anything to stop jealousy from others, we can control how we deal with it. How it's done is up to us, but whatever route you take, always be the consummate professional.


  1. Great post! And it hit a nerve with me because I recently had someone follow me around to post her less-than-glowing review on one of my books. She posted on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads and even followed me to a giveaway on someone's blog site, where she posted her review in the comments section!

    I ignored it, but I came up with plenty of replies in my head, lol.

  2. Excellent post Lori. I agree, but it isn't just books published by small, large or other publishers, the self published who o well come in for jealousy too, even more in some cases as we aren't 'real authors' in some eyes. Well, royalty cheques say different.
    Well said you