Being an author is a lot more than sitting down at a computer to write books. Transitioning from film making to writing fiction was an eye opener for me, to say the least. After 7 years in the game writing and directing scripts, I was not prepared for just how dynamic and difficult it would be to enter into the fiction world as a brand new author. I had, after all, paid my dues, gained my fans, and rested firmly on my laurels.
Well, after 4 solid years writing fiction, (bringing me up to 11 years writing full time, for those counting at home) I think I can speak with a bit of clarity about the subject of not being a douchebag. Like, it’s really important to not be a douchebag if you want your peers to take you seriously, help promote you to their friends and fans, and generally accept you into their fold as a member of whatever genre or multiple genres you write in (whether you admit to writing in those genres or not.)
Playing that social game, I think more than anything, is what makes or breaks an author. Being the most badass rebel imaginable will not make you a successful author. Alienating your peers because you’re too scared to admit you write in the same genre as them for fear of being seen as a poser, will not make you a successful author. This job requires social skills like tact, patience, humbleness, graciousness, altruism, and diplomacy. It’s taken me many years, some of which I was, wall to wall, a complete douchebag, to figure out a few things about not being a douchebag. Here are some things that will make you look like a complete douchebag to your peers, things we all learn the hard way not to do:
1. Shoving your opinion down people’s throats.
You’re a writer. It’s an amazing gift. Use it. Do not attack others publicly for not sharing the same beliefs, or the same level of activism as you concerning those beliefs. As a writer, it’s your job to use subtly, metaphor, and allegory to get your message across. Brash demands to follow your beliefs or fuck off and die won’t win you any fans and will show your colleagues both a lack of maturity and a lack of writing skill. Use your words, not your mouth. That’s why the gods invented pens, douchebag.
2. Acting like a wizened old veteran after a year or two as a published author.
You wrote something, and it got published! Great! If it wasn’t the ten commandments, then you still don’t know shit about what it means to be a successful author and you need to close your mouth and open your ears. Some authors find success quickly, for others it takes many years. Both types of authors will spend their entire careers defining exactly what that success means to them. Many authors burn out after a couple of books and a couple of years, no matter how much success they find. Writing is nose to grindstone, pen to paper, homework every night and it doesn’t stop until you die. This life ain’t for most.
Opening your own small press doesn’t make you a veteran. It doesn’t mean you know shit about writing and publishing. It means you have a pulse. At one point or another, all of us open a publishing house, figure out how much thankless work it is, and get the fuck out of it as fast as we can. That’s natural. What isn’t natural is selling a couple of hundred copies of a book and then acting like some guru because a half a dozen of your friends ask you to publish their book for them. That’s silly. It takes years and years to truly figure out what connects a book to a fan, or what your fan base really wants from you, and what you can realistically provide your fan base while maintaining your integrity and your sanity. Too many douchebags get a couple of friends together and act like they know everything about publishing. Learn everything about spell check before you pretend to know it all, douchebag.
3. Spamming groups of authors with your shitty self published books.
If people like your book, they’ll tell their friends about it. There are many ways to get your books into the hands of fans. Annoying the fuck out of them with spammy crap all across Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter is not one of those ways. Try trading books with an author you really like. Then try to do that again a few dozen more times until other authors are reading your books and telling their friends, “Dude, you have GOT to read this book!” This takes time. A lot of it. It takes years for people to warm up to a new author. They know your new book is out. We ALL know your new book is out. Telling us about your book 3 times a day every day has never made us want to read it more. It makes us think you’re a douchebag, because that’s what you are.
Douchebags come in all shapes and sizes. And at one time or another, like it or not, we’re ALL guilty of being that douchebag author. The good thing is, most authors get through their douchebag phase pretty quickly, and transition into productive citizens of the writing game, or quit along the way, if their douche-factor is too high. Almost every author I’ve ever interacted with has treated me with respect, warmth, and open arms. We are, after all, all in this together. Let’s try our hardest not to be douchebags.
And finally, if you think this rant is about you, you’re probably a douchebag. 🙂