I’ve been watching with sad fascination over the past couple of years the commentary around success of new and self-published authors. “Serious” writers, who I always thought would be the most supportive and encouraging to newbies (because, after all, they know how hard it is to break through) turned into petty high school girls and started picking apart the success of those they considered less worthy.
Every time one of the new authors would receive significant, widely-publicized words of praise, you’d see superiority rear its ugly head, and the “established” authors make snarky, un-befitting comments.
Every time the new authors received negative reviews, you’d see the false triumph of “Ha! I told you so!” plastered all over.
Amanda Hocking is the poster girl for green monster attacks. I’ve read two of her series, and I think she’s a good story-teller. She’s creative and funny. She most certainly has terrible editing skills, but that’s something she can fix (and has fixed now that she works with St. Martin’s Press). Regardless of what I think, however, over a million readers loved her books and can’t wait for her to publish the next one. I don’t think there’s more validation an author can dream of than the unabashed support of her readers. The people who spent their hard-earned money on a book, and took the time to tell someone else how much they loved it.
Another example is Stephenie Meyer. I started reading her books right when they were on the cusp of gaining traction and followed her progress with great interest. She had a contract with a publishing house. Editors. Advisors. People to watch over her work. And even then, the establishment mocked her books with passion. How dare she be successful with books they don’t find all that great?
I don’t think the “establishment” writers realize that every time they smirk at a young mass market author’s success, they also smirk at all the readers who support that author’s work.
Clearly, Amanda Hocking doesn’t need me, or anyone else, for that matter, to defend her. She’s proven to be not only a successful story teller, but also a smart business woman. She had confidence, and realized that those who rejected her books were just people, not gods, and she owed it to herself to put her books in the hands of readers and let them decide. Or maybe it really was all a fluke and she never thought anything would come of it. Regardless, I have nothing but respect and admiration for her.
But I need me to speak out. Because new authors are fraught with insecurities. Beyond the regular, human being insecurities, there’s that feeling that someone will take the most precious part of you–because your soul is on those pages–and trash it, rip it to pieces, and blow it in the wind. For every Amanda Hocking there are thousands of writers, if not more, who will never see a fraction of her success. And most of them, when they see the vitriolic words of people who have already published books and enjoyed success, sink a little deeper, and lose another little piece of the little confidence they had to begin with. They become shamed into not following their dreams.
Establishment writers who wear their elitist snobbery as a badge of honor, should ask themselves, “Am I being fair, or am I simply trying to bring someone else down, because I don’t think I have what it takes anymore to rise up?” Because if they have what it takes, why does it matter if another writer, whose work they don’t particularly enjoy, is successful? The reader market will speak for itself and give them the recognition they feel they deserve.