I know I’ve talked about writing and publishing before, but today I’m not talking about getting started in this business. I’m talking about surviving in it. Two very different things.
So much has changed in the six years since we sold my first book. Six years. Somehow it feels much longer. After all, Cheating at Solitaire was a midlist chick lit novel published in chick lit’s darkest days. I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You was a YA published before all the soccer moms fell in love with Edward Cullen.
Trends come. People go. And I feel very much like an “old timer” these days—so much so that I feel obliged to gather you all around…
And warn you about The Crazies.
What are The Crazies?
Earlier this year I went to dinner with some other writers at a conference. It was a beautiful night, and we all sat at a table outside, talking about The Crazies.
The Crazies are a hard thing to define, but most of us have had them—the what if this book sucks, what if this book tanks, what if my career is over, what if my career never really starts anxiety that comes with this business.
Now, many new writers might think that The Crazies go away after the first book, or after you hit “the list” or after…or after… And maybe they will diminish someday or at some time, but I can safely say that six years, seven books, five New York Times bestsellers and two major motion picture deals later, my Crazies are still here and stronger than ever.
Crazies Management: what not to do
I don’t know where The Crazies come from exactly, but I suspect they have their root in insecurity and are magnified by helplessness.
After all, once a book is finished, writers have very little control over its success or failure. And still we want to DO SOMETHING, so many writers try to fill that void with promotion and “networking” and Google. So much Google.
I am as guilty of this as the next person—probably more guilty than many. But I am also certain that The Crazies are the disease. Blogs
and Twitter and Google are a few of the drugs we do to dull its pain.
But drugs are just that…drugs. And obsessing over Goodreads reviews or Twitter chatter will only make The Crazies worse. Much, much worse, largely because it is a cycle.
Someone will always be getting more exposure. Someone will always have a better cover or more Facebook friends or be getting Twitter replies from “cooler” people.
Do not be confused. The danger in these “drugs” lies not in what they can do to the YA genre.
The danger is what they can do to YA writers.
If you’re worried that all of this talking and twittering and blogging is going to hurt YA, don’t. That’s like saying that people really into fantasy football have the potential to hurt the NFL.
The genre is going to be fine because for every writer who is currently medicating their crazies by obsessing about the online YA world there are 10 or 20 or 200 who are out there…writing. And those will be the people who are creating the trends that don’t exist yet.
Those are the writers who hold the future of the genre in their hands.
The Crazies: how to fight them
Lesson #1 in Crazies Management is simple: Don’t worry about what (or how) other people are doing.
The number of Twitter followers you have is an indication of how many people are following you on Twitter.
The quantity and quality of the blog reviews you’re receiving is an indicator of how much bloggers like your book.
An author’s online presence (or lack thereof) is not a predictor of success.
Suzanne Collins has an unfrequently-updated website. To my knowledge, she isn’t best buds with Rowling or Meyer or King. She did not “network” her way into Hunger Games. She wrote Hunger Games.
Your career will be determined by the books you write, too.
Lesson #2 is just as big:
Friends don’t let friends have The Crazies.
I’ve heard the complaint a lot lately that the YA community is like a high school. That we’re essentially broken up into cool kids and geeks and there’s some kind of social hierarchy.
Well, I think that if more YA authors seem to be friendly it’s not because YA writers are cliquish: it’s because more YA authors are friends.
I have met some of the best friends of my life since I started writing YA fiction. These people are important to me not because of the blurb I can get or the blurbs I can give. Not because there’s some sales bump that happens every time Holly Black @-replies me on Twitter.
These people matter to me because they care about me and I care about them.
These are the sponsors who help me battle The Crazies.
The sheer fact that these friends live all over the world means that we tend to do a lot of our “hanging out” online. Twitter is our watercooler.
It’s also merely the tip of the friendship iceberg. After all, I talk on the phone with Jennifer Lynn Barnes almost every day.
Does that make us cliquish? I don’t know. Frankly, I don’t care.
And as long as your corner of the online social world is about friendship and not “networking” or “getting your name out there” or climbing
some nonexistent social ladder, then I am going to say something really controversial: friendship is good.
Living with The Crazies
Will my Crazies ever go away? Maybe.
But I think the easiest way for the Crazies to subside is if you have a very solid prediction of what is going to happen. But I don’t want my career to be stagnant. I don’t want to keep doing the exact same thing in the exact same way to the exact same results.
As long as I keep taking chances I think those chances will keep worrying and stressing and freaking me out.
And I think that’s a price I am more than willing to pay.