Monday, October 20, 2008

Knowing When To Say When

Working Stiffs welcomes guest blogger Krista Davis today!

by Krista Davis

When my agent called with the good news of my sale, many of my writing friends were genuinely overjoyed for me. After all, I had worked toward that goal for many years. I wasn’t a newcomer who got lucky with a first manuscript. I had been through the drill with three agents, many manuscripts, plenty of rejections, and wrenching self-doubts.

But after the sale, all sorts of exciting things happened -- discussions about titles and covers and marketing. I got to say “my agent” and “my editor” in sentences that weren’t just imaginary. And there soon came a point when I wondered how much I could really say to my friends who were trying so hard to be published. Did they grit their teeth every time I mentioned the book? Was I rubbing salt in their unpublished wounds?

I had heard my share of complaints from authors before I was under contract. After all, a contract doesn’t mean life will be perfect. It’s another step forward, a major step, but sometimes things don’t work out the way one hopes. I remember all too well the reaction of the unpublished to the whining of the published. How dare a published author complain? After all, she won the brass ring.

On a listserv the other day, someone introduced herself and mentioned that she didn’t “crow about her writing.” I have no way of knowing if that little barb was aimed at me. I hope not. But even if it was, I’m not offended. It prompted me to sit back and consider my posts. I would hate to be the annoying one. It reminded me of a new author who bombarded other writers with announcements every time her book burped. Making matters worse, she cross-posted so extensively that we found identical announcements in our mailboxes five and six times since we belonged to a lot of the same groups. I’ve tried very hard not to pummel my friends with posts about me, me, me.

Now reviews have begun to come in. Some wonderful, some delightful, some okay. None too terrible -- so far -- knock wood. I’m also getting fun feedback about the book. And where do I go to share my news? To my friends who aren’t writers. Ironically, while they’re very happy for me, their enthusiasm is often followed by the question “and what does that mean exactly?”

I worry that my old pals think I’m being oddly silent. But will they think I’m complaining if I express disappointment about something? Is it crowing to share good news? Do they cringe when they read the words “my editor”? When does an author cross the line? How much do the not-yet-published want to hear about a friend’s book when they’re mired in a search for agents who seem as elusive as Bigfoot?

It’s a tough call to know when your not-yet-published buddies have had about enough of you and your books. My critique partners have instructions to clobber me if I become annoying. I hope they do.

Krista Davis is the author of the Domestic Diva Mysteries. The first in the series, THE DIVA RUNS OUT OF THYME, has just been released by Berkley.


Annette said...

Hi, Krista. Welcome to Working Stiffs. Personally, I don't mind at all hearing about a new author who has been struggling and now has some degree of success. It gives me hope! It also clues me in on what I might expect when (not IF) my turn comes.

One of the things I heard over and over at Bouchercon was how mystery authors support each other and try to help each other up. Your success doesn't limit my chances. Heck, if anything, each time a mystery author does well and has good sales, it shows the market is strong and maybe...just maybe...encourages publishers to sign MORE mystery authors.

Crow away, Krista! Enjoy the ride and let us share the experience.

Tory said...

I'm reminded of talking with a friend of mine last summer, who was whining about all the preparation she needed to do to get off on her trip to Finland, England, and France. I said to her, "I'm sorry, Chris, I have absolutely NO sympathy for you. I would LOVE to be able to go on the vacation you're now so busy complaining about!"

A few months later, I was about to go off on a (much smaller: 4 day, in-state) vacation and started joking with a different friend about packing and getting ready, saying, "I'm sure you won't give me the slightest amount of sympathy, but . . ." She laughed and said, "I know what it's like!"

I think that's what we all need to remember: even when we get what we want, there can be a certain amount of whining involved, as all those steps forward involve a certain amount of anxiety, too. Good friends understand both sides of the equation.

Tory said...

P.S. Welcome, Krista!

Joyce said...

I love to hear about new authors. Like Annette said, it gives us hope.

However, I do agree that there are a few who overdo it on the promotion. It's so easy with email and the many listservs to send things out in bulk. I doubt these authors realize they're annoying anyone.

Joyce said...

I forgot to mention that I love your book cover, Krista! I think Berkley has the best covers around right now.

Martha Reed said...

Krista, welcome to the working stiffs and sharing your publishing experience with us.

It is an interesting conundrum: how much information is too much? Personally, I like hearing about other writer's success stories - I can pick up bits of advice on how to direct my own journey. I understand that writer's nowadays have to beat their own drum - a bit. It's finding the right line that's tricky!

jnantz said...

Ms. Davis,
I don't consider it annoying at all. In fact, I'd say that whiner who is worried you're "crowing" too much needs to grow up. I'm unpublished (ok, a story coming out, but no novel), and I think it's fabulous that new people get published. Like Ms. Dashofy and Ms. Tremel said, it gives us hope.

You know, everyone says you need thick skin in this business. It's not just the people getting rejections, it's those who whine too much (published or unpublished) about things they can't control.

"But, but, why did she get published and not me? Why don't they like me? I'm good too!!!"

It's so High School (and I would know, I see it every day). It's drama, and they need to grow up and grow thicker skin.

Wow, world looks different from on top of this soapbox...

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Welcome to the Working Stiffs, Krista. Being newly published myself, I know where you're at. Enjoy it while it lasts. Two things I won't forget, opening my first box of books and seeing that display in the window at my launch party, which also coincides with my first public signing.

Some of my non-writer friends don't get it, but most of my writer friends have been extremely supportive.

Just enjoy the ride.

Jennie Bentley said...

Welcome to the Working Stiffs, my Berkley sister! And great big congratulations on the book. Mine will be out in two weeks, and I can't wait!

I think it's a fine line, honestly, and some of it comes down to perception, while some comes down to the intent of the newly published author sharing his/her news with the great unpublished masses. Definitely, there are people who gloat. Mostly, though, it's just excitement, and going overboard on sharing the good news. Yes, it can become too much. I get annoyed when I'm bombarded with it, like in five or six different (blasted) emails. It doesn't seriously bother me unless I sense that someone is rubbing it in, though. I think hearing about others' success stories (as long as it's humbly done) is a great incentive and a great encouragement for anyone out there trying to do the same. Seeing someone else succeed, especially after a long and hard fight, can be a really big boost. My HO.

Anonymous said...

A delicate topic, for sure, and I'm so glad you brought it up.

I'm unpubbed (some short story credits but nothing too exciting), and I know that one of my beloved critique partners is teeny bit jealous that I once had an agent. I've parted ways with this agent, so it doesn't feel like an accomplishment to me--more like a failure.

And I admit that the green-eyed monster has made a momentary appearance when a fellow writer has announced her book deal. (It's more a reminder that I'm not where I want to be in my own career.) But in the end, I can feel only happiness for someone who's worked so long and hard (like you, Krista!), and has finally been rewarded for her efforts. I LOVE to hear the story behind the story.

But when I read post after post from the same person that oh, I just got my book cover but I can't show you yet, and hey everyone, I received a review from this blogger, and oh, my book was #4 this week at this indy bookstore--I get worn out. It's honestly not jealousy, just fatigue. I think a great way to share this news without making it a separate email post is to slip it into the sig line.

But Krista, you' definitely don't fall into this category! And you've been a wonderful support to all those writers who are seeking representation.

Krista said...

Thanks to all the Working Stiffs (great name, BTW!) for inviting me to guest blog. You've been lovely hosts.

I think I may have hit a nerve here because I've been hearing from people about this all day long. Many people have been very sweet and said that I'm not annoying (not yet, I guess!) but others confirm what Anonymous said about the green-eyed monster that emerges when someone talks about a new book or a contract. It's a reminder that someone else is being published and it's still not him or her. That can be hard to take.

I guess I'll bumble along as I have been. It's nice to know I have friends over here at Working Stiffs. I hope to meet all of you at Malice!


Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Hi Krista! Congratulations...and hey. It's like TV. If someone doesn't want to read about another's happiness, just change the channel. I mean, delete. Otherwise, I love to hear good news. And I think the karma rubs off!