My friend—we’ll call her A for reasons that will become clear—belonged to an online support group for unpublished authors. Everybody was nice and, as the name implies, supportive. Members even met in person and became true friends, like A and one of the women she met in the group (we’ll call her B). But then something happened.
A got an agent.
B got bitter.
And stopped speaking to A.
Wait a minute. Wasn’t that the whole point of the group? To encourage each other, to cheer each other on toward their shared goal of publication? B must have missed the memo. Or did A neglect to read the fine print?
I’ve seen this sort of petty jealousy among authors more than I’d care to admit. Don’t get me wrong—most of the authors I’ve met are gracious, supportive, encouraging. But some are not. And I want to challenge every author out there, published and pre-published alike, to pull other writers up.
I remember what it was like before I was published. Of course it hurt to be rejected over and over again, and I did feel jealousy and envy. That’s normal. But acting on that jealousy and envy is unacceptable. There will always be authors above and below me both in sales and in talent, but I believe it’s part of my job as an author to take as many writers with me as I can carry. I want us all to get there, to have success. My agent always says “High tide floats all boats,” and that’s the truth. Someone else doesn’t have to fail so that you can succeed. We can all succeed.
Last summer I attended Thrillerfest in New York City as a debut author, and Steve Berry (yes, THAT Steve Berry) herded all of us newbies into a room and talked to us for two hours about our careers—how to manage them, how to be more successful, how to help other writers. Steve never turns down a request for a blurb, did you know that? Here’s a guy who’s sold more books than most humans put together, and he still takes the time to read others’ work and promote it with his good name. That’s what I aspire to be—generous and helpful (and, okay, spectacularly successful too).
Believe it or not, helping other writers can help you manage your envy and jealousy. It’s a universal truth that the more time and energy you spend on others, the less time you’ll spend feeling sorry for yourself. And remember—none of us has to do this, to be writers. We get to do this. Never forget that.
So how do you help other writers? Below is a list.
- Be a mentor. Volunteer to be part of online pitchfests by being a mentor to an unpublished writer. I did that the first time the year I got published, and the woman I mentored ended up getting a contract. Not because of me, but I was there cheering her on, and now we’re great friends too.
- Write reviews. Some will disagree with me, but even not-so-great reviews help authors. They lend the good reviews more credibility.
- Read and review books by lesser-known authors. It’s easy to read what Amazon’s pushing, or what’s on the front page of Audible, but make the effort to drill down a little farther. It’s a delight to discover these authors.
- Mention books you enjoy on your social media by authors large and small.
- If you’re asked to write a guest blog post that includes a list of favorite books, be sure to include non-bestsellers. Help readers to discover those gems that haven’t gotten the love they deserve.
- Nominate authors for awards. Participate in awards voting.
- Befriend pre-published writers you meet at conferences. Stay in touch and offer to hold them accountable for their goals.
- Offer to be a beta reader and give honest but tactful criticique.
- Volunteer to judge contests for pre-published authors and offer honest but tactful criticique.
- Advertise opportunities on social media. Pitchfests, workshops, conferences, mentorship programs, contests—all of these push writers forward.
- Coach writers on how to make a book pitch.
- Get involved in writers organizations. Volunteer for board positions.
- Introduce pre-published writers to agents, editors, media people, and other writers.
- Don’t discourage pre-published writers by citing the massive odds against getting published. Author Grant Blackwood has the right idea—when he speaks at conferences, he says, “The odds don’t apply to you.” Tell the writers you meet the same thing.
- Be a cheerleader. Be an encourager. Be positive and rejoice over every success. It doesn’t cost a thing.
The writing community has its share of bitter cranks, but the list is full. There’s no room for you on it. Everyone who makes it has a lot of help getting there. I know I did, and I’m grateful to every single person who gave me an encouraging word, an introduction, a hand up, the tiniest kernel of hope. In the end, that’s the greatest help you can give to other writers. You can give them hope.
LS Hawker is the author of the thrillers THE DROWNING GAME, BODY AND BONE, and END OF THE ROAD, published by HarperCollins Witness Impulse. THE DROWNING GAME is a USA Today bestseller and finalist in the ITW Thriller Awards in the Best First Novel category.
Visit LSHawker.com to view her book trailers, listen to her podcast with daughter Chloe, The Lively Grind Cafe, and read about her adventures as a cocktail waitress, traveling Kmart portrait photographer, and witness to basement exorcisms.