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July 25, 2006

The Green-Eyed Monstress

By Sarah

There should be a rule that all talented bestselling authors - especially those who hit The List first Jealousy time out of the gate - must be morose and ugly or at least have spent most of their lives being miserable until that moment when they wrote The Big Novel. I'd be okay with that.

Petty? You bet. Because as much as I've fought this urge, convinced myself I wasn't, that my mother's daughter couldn't be, I have to admit that I am easily made, swallow, jealous. And this is a very bad thing to be, especially in this business.

I don't have to tell you, loyal and noble readers of The Lipstick Chronicles, that jealousy is wrong on Jealousy_230x150_m all sorts of levels. Jealousy is an evil emotion. It corrodes the soul. It turns you into one of those bitter, smoking, hard-drinking, scowling authors at conferences who sneers at the young prodigies bouncing onto the dais to receive his/her award. Jealousy makes you nasty.

But worst of all, it ruins your writing.

If you're jealous, you're focused on something else besides your characters/plot/setting when you're sitting down at the computer. (Or writing in my head while painting the hallway, as I've been doing this week. At least that's my excuse.) If you're jealous, you're not supporting your fellow writers in the roller coaster world of publishing. You're not creating good Karma, a word my husband says I liberally - and incorrectly - toss around like salt on buttered corn. He's probably right.

That lecture over, it is so hard not to be jealous. I remember when I first started sending out my stuff, i.e., first started getting rejected, and the authors I used to admire suddenly transformed into mockeries. How come they got published? What do they have that I don't? (By the way, don't answer that question about yourself - ever!)

It didn't stop after I got published, either. The moment of joy was fleeting when I learned there were such things as sell-throughs. Suddenly, I found my name on all types of lists. Barnes and Noble. Ingram. Borders. Waldenbooks. Amazon. These were lists my publisher had every week, lists that compared how my book was doing to everyone else's. Whether I moved up or down on the list was virtually out of my control once the book was published, yet I was supposed to answer for its actions. All I knew was that there were plenty of writers above me. Writers readers liked more. Writers my editor would mention, asking in a curious tone why they were doing better than I was.

And I was expected to be happy for their success? Was I not human?

That was eight books ago (eight books?) and since then I've learned to deal, grown up a bit. I've had great role models, including the Tarts, who've taught me that the growth of fellow writers is something to celebrate, not envy. Nancy Martin, an international bestseller, is always gracious when someone hits a list or goes into multiple printings. And I've enjoyed, really enjoyed, watching Elaine go from paperback to hardcover and hit #1 on the Independent Mystery Bookstore Association bestseller lists with MURDER UNLEASHED. While Harley's ad in the NEW YORK TIMES for DATING IS MURDER and DATING DEAD MEN was so thrilling, it could have been for my own book.

Still, there will always be Emily Giffin. I've read all her books now and it's been torture. Never mind that she hit the New York Times list with her debut, SOMETHING BORROWED and that she's freaking gorgeous and thin. (This, I've decided, is just plain cruel.) But she can also, sigh, write. Shit.

Okay, this is my most ugly secret, the jealousy thing. And now that I've confessed it, I hope you Bliss_1 won't breathe a word to anyone. Because I would be mortified if it got out that Sarah Strohmeyer is a petty, jealous writer. Really, I'm working on it. The only reason I told you was because I knew you'd understand. Thanks for keeping mum,



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You can control your ratings, at least on Amazon. I read a piece within the past month, maybe on Slate.com, where a non-fiction writer gamed his or her ratings by spending something like $150 over the course of a week, buying maybe a dozen books. The book moved from something in the deep five digits into three digits. Now, maybe that wouldn't work so well with higher-volume fiction in a more-crowded field, but it can be done.

So, don't be jealous because Evanovich is higher than you on the boards; just attribute it to her need to buy gifts for her large, extended family.

Well, Josh, as much fun as it is to check the Amazon #s, that's not where the bulk of my sales are. Amazon sells relatively little compared to the chains, box stores and independents put together as a whole. The big elephant in the room is Barnes and Noble and it cannot be ignored. If BN loses interest in you, you're cooked. Fortunately, thanks to you and Kathy Sweeney and the whole Martin family and Debby from Adwoff and Mary Alice of Mystery Lovers, the Cinderella Pact has done better than any previous book I've written - at BN AND the independents. So that helps.
But it is nice to think of authors buying for themselves.

It is important to acknowlege one's own dark side in the quest for spiritual growth!

Jealous? If you let it, it can spur you on to do more and do it better than the rest. Yes, envy can get in the way of thought processes considering all the energy that goes into it but, turn it around and let it work for you.
I am jealous of you because you have the dicipline to sit down and make your characters come to life. You give many readers much pleasure and with your sense of humor, we get many laughs something sorely needed in todays world.

Sarah, good writing will always rise to the top. No, really. Emily Giffin being a case in point. The trick is fighting the depression & jealousy & frustration long enough to be successful. Those authors who are maladaptive optimists have it all over the rest of us!

I think you put your finger on the primary cause of Author Anxiety: Our helplessness when it comes to sales, while also bearing the complete responsibility for failure. Unfair, yep. A fact of life: OH, yeah!

On the upside: The Anthony nominations are out, and the Tarts are well represented! Kudos to Elaine (up for Best Short Story) and Susan, who's been nominated for Best Paperback Original! YOU GO, GIRLS!!!

As an unpublished writer, it is hard not to be jealous, especially when the others in your writing group ARE published. Even harder to congratulate them, but oh so necessary since we've supported each other for the past three years through all kinds of rejections, writers' block and "I give up" e-mails. And, I know they're good. Most importantly, I also know that when my turn comes, they will be the first (after my daughter) to say 'good job'.
I have however read books that make me wonder who the author knew in order to get something sooooo bad into print.That makes me jealous and then makes me get back to work. :o)
Congrats to Elaine and to Susan for the nominations. May good karma be yours when the winners are announced!

Sarah, you are a good person and good for you for fighting the good fight.

But - and I hope this makes you feel better - I think anger, jealousy, the thirst for revenge, and other related sins are under-rated. That's right, I said it.

My best supporting evidence that would appeal to this blog: Sue Grafton.

The first time I saw her (I think it was around 'F' or 'G') someone asked the question: "How did you come to write your first book." She was honest. She told us she was going through a nasty divorce, and spent some sleepless nights trying to figure out how to murder her ex and get away with it. Her plan became so detailed that she used it as the basic plot for "A is for Alibi". Brilliant and the rest, as they say, is history.

In my Italian family, I think it might have been bad karma NOT to indulge in several of the deadly sins from time to time. So you don't actually tell the object of your scorn what you're thinking, and you don't actually carry out your plan to have her hair color secretly infused with hydorchloric acid. But man, it's fun to think about it!

Sarah, thanks for being so up front about something we must all feel. God knows I do! It's a constant struggle not to compare - oh, everything.

I agree with Dave. Acknowledging the dark side is essential to spiritual growth.


To make matters worse (or better), Emily Giffin is very nice, a real sweetheart. I went to an event for her a few weeks ago, and while part of me was jealous at the number of people who turned out for her (many times more than ever show up for my events), once she got there, I couldn't make myself dislike her. I became a huge fan. And I love her books.

I have no doubt of that, Shanna. Her sensitivity comes through in her writing.

Sarah ~ as long as you channel said jealousy into your creativity, then it is all good in the end. Don't worry about those who get the notice. Also, are those purchases "keepers" or read 'em's and donate or trade?

If I have said it once, I know that I must have said it a hundred or more times...

"If I like a book, I am more than willing to share my opinion with others...including strangers".

Yep, I, who used to be incredibly shy and quiet, am now known as the kind of person who will walk up to any person near your section on the book shelf, and will gush. Yep. In one visit to B&N, I was actually able to sell three more copies of Cinderella Pact!!!

Uhm, Debby, I think there are authors who would pay for services like yours! Me among them!

Beautiful post, Sarah. I'm jealous.

Pay me, huh??? Interesting thought. LOL!!! Actually, I did have Mariah offer my services to a friend of hers as a pre-reader!!!

I think, though, that it may have been the brownies talking!!! :)

Just consider me the free publicity for my favorite authors!!!

Let's all bow our heads in thanks for Debby. Amen.
Okay, Harley, uh, hot enough for you? I mean, are you surviving?
Not that there's global warming or anything.

No, Sarah, you know me. Never happy until it hits 120 degrees.

And the wind comes whipping up the canyon.

Nah...I'd just say you're perfectly human, Sarah :)

gee...we are freezing down here in Florida at 88 degrees...

Harley, I had your 120 last Friday. Where were you?

Cinema Dave, at 80, we drag out the parkas.

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