Dominoes are awesome. I especially love the go-on-for-ages ones. There's something so satisfying about seeing one push, one flick, culmi...
On Why Being a Jerk is Stupid
The publishing industry is full of domino moments, and most of the time we have no way of seeing them coming. I've seen some beautiful crashes in my years in this community. I've seen a friend tweet a line from a book, seen another author say, "I WANT TO READ THIS!", then heard news of that same author recommending the book to their agent (an offer of rep and book deals followed soon after).
I've seen the same thing happen in contests I've participated in and contests I've hosted. I've seen those pivotal moments where ONE THING changed the course of an author's career for the better. It's mesmerizing, and it's thrilling. Partly because knowing those moments happen means knowing they could happen for YOU, and mostly because authors work so damn hard with so little recognition for so very long, and it's wonderful to witness the payoff. We celebrate every happy happenstance we hear of because we KNOW how well-deserved they all are.
Or we should anyway. I've met a few authors who grumble because it hasn't happened for THEM yet. Because that first domino hasn't fallen and damn it, why not?
There's no good answer to that question, and no good comes of asking it. But it's human to go there in your head. And it's human to vent to dear friends sometimes and say stuff like, "THIS IS TAKING SO LONG IT IS SO FRUSTRATING AND GAH WHY AM I EVEN TRYING ANYMORE I SUCK RIGHT? I MUST TOTALLY SUCK OR MAYBE THE INDUSTRY SUCKS OR MAYBE MY GUARDIAN ANGEL FELL IN LOVE WITH A HUMAN AND ISN'T WATCHING OUT FOR ME ANYMORE AND YOU SHOULD PROBABLY FEED ME CHOCOLATE NOW BEFORE I IMPLODE THANK YOU!
Venting is good. Chocolate is good. Not imploding is good.
What's not good, is saying that stuff publicly. I don't mean the fabulous, raw, authentic posts some authors write about how the industry is hard and you're not alone, etc. I love those posts. They are validating, bolstering, and comforting.
I'm talking about honest-to-goodness GRIPING. The kind of thing that sets off an entirely different kind of domino chain. The kind that culminates in a "bad reputation." I mean, we're a community of storytellers. Storytelling is what we DO. Of course word is going to get around.
If you cheat in an online writing contest (yep, this happens), the contest hosts WILL tell other contest hosts (most of us know each other--true story). If you complain bitterly when you're not chosen as a finalist and throw an online tantrum of some sort or another? We're going to raise our eyebrows and quite probably remember your name the next time you enter. If you trade critiques with someone, receive their notes, and never critique theirs in return? You lose a potential ally in the industry (umm, come to think of it, I owe critiques to a couple people--I should get on that).
I wish I were pulling those vague examples out of the air, but I'm not.
I don't think I'm much of a domino. I'm not agented or published (yet). But I still matter. So if you call my dear friend the b-word, I'm not going to choose you for my Pitch Slam team no matter how brilliant your writing is. And if you cheat in a contest I host, I'm going to warn people I know in the industry that they probably don't want to be associated with you. If you have a history of publicly complaining about agents and editors, I won't take you on as an editing client (I'll be polite about it, I'm Canadian after all, but I totally won't).
Will those consequences make or break you as an author? Probably not. But then again, we can't see those domino moments coming, can we? Maybe I'm a domino in your life. Maybe one of the people you meet through an online contest is. Maybe that writer you're thinking about saying something snarky to on twitter will become an acquisitions editor some day and hold your fate in their hands.
There are a hell of a lot of maybes in this industry, and in life in general. But DEFINITELY give some thought to being the kind of person who, when they accidentally knock over one of those metaphorical dominoes gets to shout, "YES!" at the end instead of whimpering in horror at the havoc they wreaked.
We can't control trends. We can't control subjective reactions to our stories. But we CAN control our words and how we use them.
Use yours well.
About author: Kimberly VanderHorst
Kimberly Vanderhorst wrote her first book when she was seven (it was totally awesome, but the world isn't ready for it yet), and her next when she was twenty-seven. When asked to account for the intervening decades, she likes to suggest the possibility of alien abduction with as straight a face as possible.