The One with (debatable) Wisdom
I hope there's a time in my life where I'm not startled and completely blown away by the passage of time--or that I can resist the urge to blog about it. But, for now, I'm amazed that I'm three months away from my one year anniversary at my job. Amazed in the "HOLY CRAP, ARE YOU SERIOUS?" sense. There's nothing poetic or moving about it, just the realization that I've been sprinting along through life, when I thought I was taking a leisurely stroll. It's compounded by the fact that I feel like I'm only now getting a handle on things, both in terms of my job and the publishing industry in general. I sometimes get asked why I don't blog about my job or the ins and outs of the industry. The truth is, I spend so much of my time working with, writing, and talking about children's books, that sometimes I feel like it's my entire life. And there are worse things that can consume your life, but man--it's exhausting. There are so many wonderful things about being a writer and being an editorial assistant, so many great, rewarding moments... but it's a stressful time in the industry. Sales are down, ebooks and ereaders have left the higher ups running around in circles trying to figure out how to adapt and save ourselves, there are more people writing and trying to sell books, there's never enough time to do this or that... I spend all day working on books and then come home and spend another few hours working on my own book. It's great and lovely to spend your days with books, but it's also creatively exhausting! I know, I know, I shouldn't whine...
In any case, I've been getting a lot of emails asking for advice--both from writers striving to be published and people wanting to work in the industry. And, truthfully, I still feel like a baby, like I shouldn't be allowed to give them any kind of life advice because I'm only 23 and years away from fulling grasping the industry. But what I will say is that almost every email I've sent in reply to jobseekers and writers can be boiled down to one piece of advice: play nice.
Despite all of the effort publishers have put into modernizing their ways, the industry is still charmingly old-fashioned in some ways. When I say that this is still an industry in which everyone knows everyone else, I'm not exaggerating. Children's especially, which is still small when you place it next to its big sister, the Adult Trade Division. I get the sense from my coworkers that the atmosphere of the children's world has changed considerably with the introduction of bigger advances and mega-successes like Twilight. It's more competitive and stressful than in past years, on all sides. But the one thing that hasn't changed?
EVERYONE KNOWS EVERYONE ELSE.
It is AMAZING, but not all that surprising--editors work with so many different agents and vice versa. People jump between houses and careers. Authors join groups like The Tenners and talk about their houses, careers, etc. (I'm convinced my boss still doesn't believe me when I say I know Becca!) People share information and gossip (personal and professional). Fact of the biz, and fact of life. Lord knows I'm a bit of a gossip--it's one of my worst qualities--but I've met people with such loose lips, I'm surprised they haven't fallen right off.
I try to remember what my first agent told me right before BW went out on submissions when I'm tempted to blog about a book I didn't like, or poke fun at an author/editor/agent/what-have-you: don't. Resist. There's one big author in particular I don't blog about anymore--good or bad--because we're represented by the same agency, and, in the words of the wise Lindsay Davis, "You never know who you're going to meet at an event, conference, or who'll you'll be asked to speak with on a panel. You never know which editor you might be working with in the future, or which author you might need to ask a favor from."
I know several authors who turned down the chance to blurb a book because the author of said book blasted them or their works online. It happens all the time. I also know several authors who have blasted books not realizing that the author works for/with their own publisher/editor/agent. You get the picture. If only in public, be nice. Treat others respectfully. Don't dump the playground sand on someone's head just because you think it makes you look clever, or because you want to stir up controversy.
Does that smack of censorship or common sense to you guys? When I asked on Twitter how people felt about authors giving other authors bad reviews, most said it made them feel:
- uncomfortable - suspicious of the reviewing author's motives - that the reviewing author was being unprofessional - that authors reviewing authors was all right if done professionally (as in, magazines or newspapers, under the guidance of an editor) - that it was okay for authors to give other authors a negative review if it touched on some larger concern/critique of the genre - it was fine as long as the author made sure it was a fair and balanced review (as in, not just critical, I think?) - the reviewing author runs the risk of alienating the fans of that book from their own books
When my book appeared on GoodReads, I suddenly felt much less comfortable giving negative reviews. In fact, I've pretty much stopped giving starred reviews on the site all together, and only add the books I enjoyed to my "read" shelf, if only to give my followers a sense of what I'm reading. That hasn't been a loss for me, to be honest. Knowing the work and agony that goes into writing and publishing a book, I'm so sympathetic to an author's plight that it just doesn't feel right for me to get on up on my high horse and start blasting them. I'm realizing more and more the importance of being positive--of focusing on the things I love, rather than wasting time elaborating on the things I hate. Plus, isn't it just more fun to write about the things you like?
What do you guys think? Am I being a naive softie about all this?