There’s a lot of discussions going on at the moment about ghostwriting, what it means to be an author and equal opportunities in publishing. I’m not going to talk about that, because people much smarter than I have weighed in on something that’s a very weighty subject.
But that’s the point:
Sometimes, being an author means shutting the hell up.
If you think back to the way writing used to be, writers didn’t have a voice beyond what they wrote. They weren’t writing articles about their books, they weren’t necessarily going to literary festivals, and they most certainly were not chatting to their readers on Twitter.
They wrote a book, and the book was loved or hated, or more likely, ignored, and the only feedback authors would get would be from the friends and family who read it, and if they were lucky, a newspaper review.
For anyone who ended up studying literature, it was ‘death of the author’ and all that jazz. It was the WORK that was important, it was the book that had to speak for itself, and say enough that a writer didn’t have to justify it. Yes, after a while, that author’s name might speak for them, but that was about style, consistency and output.
There are times, as with any job, when we want to have a moan. And just as you wouldn’t go into the break room at work and call your workmates arseholes, vocalising your dissatisfaction online is not the way to do it. This is a job. The other writers, the publishers, the bloggers, and even, oh yes, the readers, are part of a network of professional relationships.
Do authors sometimes have a little moan about the difference in grading systems, or how bad reviews with gifs on Goodreads get more likes? Do we get irritated when we get a bad review based on someone not downloading it properly? Do we sometimes get an isty bitsy teensy weensy bit jealous when we see other authors reaching heights in our career that we haven’t, or might not be open to us? YES, of course we do! Because everyone has issues with their job. Everyone works within a framework, and not everyone is going to be able to benefit from that framework all the time, as with any job.
But you know what you SHOULD be expressing as an author online? Gratitude, enjoyment, passion. You should share what you love, share things that will inspire new authors, ones that might even then be more successful than you are. And you know what you’ll do then? You’ll congratulate them and shut the hell up, because, to paraphrase an excellent film, it’s not personal, it’s business. Someone else doing well doesn’t mean you’re crap. Someone else being successful does not mean you won’t be too. There is enough room for everyone.
Now obviously, this is difficult, because authors are praised for their ability to be sociable, to self-promote and use social media to create relationships. It’s one of the pre-requisites of being a modern author, and those magical creatures who manage to be picked up without needing that are very lucky (I’m an introvert and I find all this chatting lark quite exhausting) because for most of us, if we’re not writing a book, we’ve got to be chatting about writing a book, or reading a book, or chatting about other people’s books.
Which is why I’m going to leave this blog post right here:
Treat it like a job – and talk about other authors and publishers as if you might meet them all at a party one day. We’re a community, and it’s hard enough to survive doing the thing you love without everyone around you seeing it as a race to the finish line.
And now, I’m going to go and take my own advice and shut the hell up. Because I have a book to write, and that’s my job.