Skip to content

DON’T DO THIS EVER (an advice column for writers): “I’m not special enough!” edition

Posted in Uncategorized

This installment may be shorter and more blunt (blunter? That doesn’t sound right) than usual, but I’m rocking a 101 degree fever and I don’t have the strength to exercise what little tact I have, or to write a long blog post.

Ayelet Waldman went on a twitter rampage when her novel, Love and Treasure, was not selected for the New York Times list of the one hundred notable books of 2014. The Daily Dot has the tweets here, in which she she says “Fuck the fucking NY times,” who reviewed the book positively, and demands that her followers to pre-order the paperback version to make her feel better.

I had never heard of Ayelet Waldman before this incident. To be honest, I wouldn’t have heard of her even if her novel had been deemed “notable.” Because I don’t read literary fiction, or at least, not much literary fiction. I’m a memoirs and genre fiction girl, and I don’t often see those types of books praised as “notable.” I’m sure there are plenty of people who use the notable books list to inform their reading choices, but if those readers care enough about fiction, they will seek out books that aren’t on that list, too.

Too many authors see themselves as competing for readers. I’ve never met a reader who only bought one book their entire lives. There’s a thing I hear repeated often, that just because a reader buys another author’s book, that doesn’t mean they won’t by your book. There is a phenomenon wherein certain authors’ new releases will absolutely sink every other release in their genre around their publication date; I don’t know why that happens, but it totally sucks. But that doesn’t mean something unfair is happening to you.

Every author feels like their book is better than everyone else’s book, that we deserve to sell more, that we deserve special treatment from publishers, that we should be critically praised. We can’t control those things, and we certainly can’t change them by throwing a tantrum. I get it, complaining is tempting; I’ve done it myself in weaker moments, albeit not on the same scale as some. But we can make a choice to accept what we have and move on, or destroy ourselves with unhappiness.

I choose the first one. I will probably never make the New York Times bestseller list. In fact, I’m pretty sure I won’t make the USA Today list again, either. I’m not going to win awards, I’m not going to have world-wide buzz. If it hasn’t happened by now, it’s not going to. My biggest books are likely behind me, but you know what? I have a niche readership who appreciate the books I have out there, and I’m able to make a living from my writing (thank you, by the way). That’s good enough.

It should be good enough for everyone else, too. And if it’s not, they’re tools.

Did you enjoy this post?

Trout Nation content is always free, but you can help keep things going by making a small donation via Ko-fi!

Or, consider becoming a Patreon patron!

23 Comments

  1. Tammy
    Tammy

    Well I hope you do win awards and get on the NYT and what have you, but you’re absolutely right that one of the best ways to torch that dream is by having an internet temper tantrum because things don’t go your way. Waldman should take her own fucking advice and write in a journal to get whatever negative feelings you’re bound to feel in this business and move on.

    December 4, 2014
    |Reply
  2. Seriously, the whole Veruca Salt mentality some authors project is wearing thin. I can’t feel sorry for you if you didn’t make a list.

    December 4, 2014
    |Reply
  3. What is going on? Seriously? The Internet is making me disillusioned about authors. Why are so many of them so needy and douchey?

    I do read literary fiction (and non-literary fiction). But I also have noticed that these lists tend to be subjective and often include books I’ve read and hated (along with some I loved). So I don’t make my reading choices based on the lists. I read them sometimes out of curiosity only.

    And now I’m really feeling crappy because I loved Jennifer’s Weiner’s op-ed a few weeks ago about how authors need to cut this kind of crap out and I decided to give her a shot and I;m reading one of her books and it’s seriously awful. I want to like it because he attitude kind of deserves that. But I just can’t. I just can’t …

    At least I know she’s OK with that, though.

    December 4, 2014
    |Reply
    • Tammy
      Tammy

      I HATE it when that happens! Well, you are reading her work, just not the literary kind. That’s what I say to make myself feel better lol

      December 4, 2014
      |Reply
    • Ilex
      Ilex

      What is going on? Seriously? The Internet is making me disillusioned about authors. Why are so many of them so needy and douchey?

      Seriously. I think I was happier back when I knew next to nothing about the authors whose books I read, and what I did know came from edited interviews, not tweets.

      December 4, 2014
      |Reply
      • Yeah well. They are human and as such, some are bound to be awful and some okay.

        December 5, 2014
        |Reply
  4. Ilex
    Ilex

    I hate to say, if I’d ever thought of reading a novel by AW, now I think I won’t after reading those Twitter comments. I understand that it’s really disappointing to get one’s hopes up and then not get listed, but when I read those tweets, I just want to steer clear of the person who made them.

    Funny — I’m the same as you in that I never even look at these “Notable” or “Top” books of the year lists, unless maybe they show up on Tor or another genre-focused site. I’m just not that into literary fiction. (Despite my own novels tending to have a somewhat literary slant. They’re genre! And I’m proud of that, because it’s what I like to read.)

    December 4, 2014
    |Reply
  5. Megan M.
    Megan M.

    I’ve heard of her before, but never read her, because I’m also a mostly genre gal. But now that I know she’s so… delightful, I will continue to not read her books. And… $1 donation per pre-order, really? She’ll donate 1/10th or less of what she expects people to spend on her?

    December 4, 2014
    |Reply
  6. Stella Price
    Stella Price

    As usual, NAIL ON THE HEAD.

    Its completely insane the amount of authors out there that see others as competition, and its more rampant in the newer authors, the ones that have been writing and publishing less than three years. Tons of insanity including Street teams going out to sabotage other authors by giving bad reviews, talking smack and worse, emailing and threatening authors because they have the same release date, or worse, they write in the same genre.

    This mentality is completely insane. I shake my head every time I see it, or hear of it. This isnt high school anymore, and its sad a LOT of authors are treating it as such (but don’t get me started on the amount of stupidity that’s flying about in the ‘entitlement’ arena— we have spoken about this before). Readers see this… and readers remember. Authors need to quit seeing each other as competition. theres enough readers for everyone… And BTW, I’m also one of those that isnt a “big talent” (whatever) but I have my readers, the ones that support ME and encourage me. That’s really all I need. If others find the work and like it, and become fans, great, but I dont play games like screwing with a persons release date, back biting on authors or telling my readers to not read an author. thats just insane.

    December 4, 2014
    |Reply
  7. goddesstio
    goddesstio

    I put more stock in Buzzfeed’s recommended book lists than I do in that NY Times list, I don’t know why it’s worth having a hissy fit over.

    December 4, 2014
    |Reply
  8. Sonny
    Sonny

    When you consider how many writers out there would kill to get traditionally published in any capacity, complaining about not being on the bestseller list or end of the year favorites list is even more ridiculous. It’s like complaining that you didn’t win enough money in the lottery.

    I hope you feel better soon! Partially selfishly because I’m jonesing for more Buffy recaps.

    December 4, 2014
    |Reply
  9. unamadridista
    unamadridista

    I don’t know if it’s because I’ve only recently become established in English-language market, but I never thought (nor any other author that I know or admire) that these bestseller lists were that important. I don’t know anybody who writes just to win an award or be listed on these types of lists, so I can’t take any author seriously who throws a diva fit over something so insignificant. It’s flattering to get recognized in any national publication, but it shouldn’t be expected by any writer (no matter how many times you achieved that feat before and no matter how wonderful/innovative your novel is.) A friend of mine won the highest literary award in my former country and he never expected it, nor did he expect his subsequent work to get it or even be nominated again. I never heard of AW, but this attitude needs to change and makes the author look very petty and immature. We don’t write to get prizes/accolades/best seller lists. We write for our readers, however big or small that group is.

    Someone above had a wonderful comment how there are enough readers for all writers because everyone has different tastes. That’s why I don’t get the competitiveness aspect of some of these so-called authors because there’s enough room for everyone. No one ever wrote a book that everyone likes. It’s good to have as many writers as there are readers to fulfill different tastes and demands.

    Also, while I love you, Jenny, for calling out this awful attitude, I disagree with statement that ‘every author feels their book is better than everyone else’s…” I never felt like that and many authors I know have never felt like that. In fact, I think it’s wrong to think like that and true writers really don’t because being better than everyone is not a goal and doesn’t contribute anything to the world of literature. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, or maybe because the group I befriended doesn’t see publishing as competition, but where I’m from it would be a strange attitude to have and wouldn’t win anyone any peer support. We don’t do diva. Personally, I’m always looking to improve and no one should ever like they’re too good to learn something new or that they’ve reached their peak. I thought I would write in sports journalism my whole life, but now I’m living in a different country and writing fiction (I used only write non-fiction). We may think something is behind us or out of reach, but life has a sense of humor and will try just about anything to prove us wrong.

    I hope you get better soon, Jenny, and don’t worry about updating the blog, because health is more important right now.

    December 4, 2014
    |Reply
  10. Benjamin W
    Benjamin W

    On one hand, at least she acknowledges poor impulse control.

    On the other hand, there are better ways to deal with disappointment. Like boning your way into blissful oblivion. Or getting hammered into blissful oblivion and playing video games about hacking cyborgs limb from limb. Or getting hammered into blissful oblivion and singing embarassingly histrionic songs and annoying the piss out of your neighbors. Or getting a hammer and smashing things you hate blissfully into oblivion until your arms fall off.

    Point is, it ain’t that hard to channel uncontrollable lament into Not Destroying Your Credibility.

    December 4, 2014
    |Reply
    • Ange
      Ange

      I like your ways. Hell I might even employ them when I’m NOT sad. Except for the hammer I guess, I like my stuff.

      December 4, 2014
      |Reply
  11. More and more authors are becoming afflicted with speshul snowflake syndrome.

    December 4, 2014
    |Reply
  12. Lyn Never
    Lyn Never

    AW is one of those people who is the embodiment of “complicated.” She’s a louder voice in male-dominated lit circles for women’s rights/justice and reproductive rights and that sort of thing, but she’s been going through (awfully well-timed, for promotion purposes) enfant terrible phases for 10+ years. A certain amount of her clout comes from being married to Michael Chabon, but she is capable of being eloquent on those topics all on her own in a way that is worth checking out if you’re interested, but I’ve never really been into her fiction.

    December 4, 2014
    |Reply
  13. It’s so strange to see this happening over and over again. As if somehow seeing other author’s behaving badly justifies it for the author in question and the cycle starts anew rather than the one of two big blow ups of old we’ve now had a series. Maybe it’s just the access to the internet and no one to manage said access when the author isn’t at their most constructive. Now that authors are arguably at their most interactive point ever it shows to be a detriment in cases such as these.

    December 4, 2014
    |Reply
  14. Petra Newman
    Petra Newman

    I totally agree with the earlier comment about how many authors seem comfortable putting stuff on line that I would characterize as’things you should only say in your head or to close friends and family who’ll love you even when you act like an egomaniac’. You have to wonder what brain fart occurred that stops writers like these from taking a moment before putting this stuff out there and think ‘ok this makes me look like an ungrateful nightmare’. Come on guys, it’s basic editing – something writers should have a bit of experience with. If this needs anything it’s a gif of Hagrid from the first Harry Potter movie, captioned “I shouldn’t have said that”.

    December 5, 2014
    |Reply
  15. Lieke
    Lieke

    I’ve read a book of hers: Love and other impossible pursuits. I had zero idea, btw, that it was supposed to be literary. I just considered it chicklit. (A genre I pretty much despise because all the women in it are either dumb, shallow or bitchy. What can I say? I liked the title of the book and decided to give it a try. It was not bad, but it was definitely not my cup of tea.)

    And, yes, those tweets make her come across like an entitled brat.

    December 5, 2014
    |Reply
    • Lieke
      Lieke

      Now that I’m on the topic of titles. If a book has a title I like then there’s a 99 percent chance that I’ll buy it. Sometimes that leads me to wonderful books (A complicated kindness/A short history of nearly everything/May contain nuts/I thought you were dead) and sometimes it leads me to not so wonderful books (The memory keeper’s daughter/Twilight). I’m also a sucker for beautiful covers, but I’m guessing that this is less uncommon.

      Is there anyone else out there who has a similar title fetish?

      December 5, 2014
      |Reply
      • goddesstio
        goddesstio

        I agree that a good title can be as catchy or catchier to me than a cover. Especially in the days of book lists everywhere and kindle stores and so on.

        December 5, 2014
        |Reply
  16. I blame the publishers who decided that, if their writers got their own Twitter feeds and blogs, they could save money on hiring publicists.

    December 5, 2014
    |Reply
  17. the-great-dragon
    the-great-dragon

    She keeps talking about how she knows it’s a good book and, like, if she KNOWS the book is good, why is she sobbing because it didn’t make a specific list in a specific newspaper? I get the desire to have people acknowledge the good work, but it already got that with a great review. AND it make a list in another newspaper (Washington Times, I think?)

    She’s totally entitled to feel disappointed in something that meant a lot to her, but this reaction is really intense and bizarre. If she truly knew the book was great, she wouldn’t need validation from the New York Times. She can think ‘hey, my book should have been on this list. Whoever made this is a putz’ and then move the heck on. Or channel her cryfest into another book. I just, I don’t get it. And I hope she doesn’t go back to being a defense attorney, because if she freaks out like this over an imagined slight, I’d hate to see her in the courtroom.

    December 5, 2014
    |Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *