This is a topic that has been on my mind for a few years, but one that I’ve been reluctant to discuss. Perhaps I was concerned about the reaction or that it might burn some bridges, in which case I won’t be the one holding the flamethrower. I’ll leave that to whomever I offend here, because if you take umbrage at what you’re about to read, that’s on you. Honestly, I don’t care anymore. I’ve had enough.
In the seven years since I entered the professional writing arena with the publication of my first novel, I have connected with hundreds of other writers through writers group meetings, writers conferences, book signings, and social media. This is very similar to my experience in science fiction fandom. Since I began attending conventions on a regular basis in the late 80s, I‘ve made an enormous number of friends. Many have gone, but others have remained to become my family.
I genuinely value these friendships and connections and I enjoy working with many of my fellow scribes on various projects.
However, there are some writers that seem to have developed a habit of asking and taking while never giving back. When they have an upcoming release, they blast out requests for promotional help and I’ve happily obliged, repeatedly.
Yet, there has been very little reciprocation. When I’ve had a new release, or asked for reviews on my books that I’ve given or traded with them, the response from these same writers is little more than a “Like” on Facebook, maybe the infrequent “Share,” or in some cases dead silence—until their next release and then it’s “Hey, Phil! Hope all is well with you. Can you help…”
Yeah, I can help you again—for the fourth time—but I won’t. So fuck off. Where were you when it was my turn? Funny, unless you need help from me, I never hear from you. It’s as if I’m insignificant or irrelevant and not worth your time. When I’m releasing a new book, you completely ignore me. So please explain why I should keep being your good little drone?
If you consistently request help from other writers, you should be willing to give back once in a while. Perhaps you feel that you’re too busy and don’t have time, or that your time is more valuable than that of your peers, or maybe you’re so arrogant you even think that you’re a better writer than your peers and as such, you expect them to take the time to read your “amazing” work, but you can’t be bothered reading their “drek.”
Newsflash: You’re full of shit. Everyone is busy. Everyone’s time is valuable and you are no goddamn better than anyone else. If I slap you in the face, it’s going to hurt and some of you need to be slapped. So climb down off that fucking pedestal you put yourself on. You want others to make time for you? Try making time for others.
Now, you might be asking, “OK, Phil, so when have YOU taken time to help other writers?” Well, let’s review:
Over the past five years, I’ve read about two dozen novels and novellas from various writers, by request, and left honest reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. In fact, I’ll be reading another one in the next few months. On some occasions, those reviews were accompanied three-star ratings, because those reviews were honest. I’m not handing out four and five-star reviews like candy just because you’re a friend. PERIOD. Fortunately, most of what I’ve been asked to read so far has ranged from good to excellent.
I created a speculative fiction anthology called the Middle of Eternity series for Firebringer Press. I also edit and manage each volume. The entire purpose of this series is to showcase the work of as-yet unpublished writers with a few stories from myself and one or two other established writers. Two volumes have been published, we’re working on volume three now. They are my way of paying forward what was done for me by the various small presses that published my work. Aside from my own new releases, there is no better feeling for me than watching a new writer autograph a book for the first time.
Whenever an editor, writer, or conference organizer asks me to take postcards, rack cards, or bookmarks to other conferences or conventions, I am all to happy to place them on my autograph table or the flyer table that many conventions set aside for just that purpose.
As a member of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group, I volunteered as conference chairman of their 2015 Write Stuff writers conference and this year, I volunteered as a content editor for the group’s annual anthology. I’ll probably volunteer as editor again. Conference chair? Not so much. I don’t recommend it if you have a high-stress full time job.
I also frequently agree to critique and proofread manuscripts as a favor to other writer friends (and they do the same for me).
I do these things because I enjoy helping people. Do any of these activities cut into my writing time? Of course they do. In fact, editing and project-managing the second Middle of Eternity anthology kept me so busy in 2016 (in addition to other responsibilities), that I put aside a SF novel-in-progress for eight months. Instead, I focused on writing several short stories in between everything else. My writing time was constantly disrupted and I knew my novel would only suffer as a result. Only in the last month have I returned to writing the novel—just in time to start editing my third and final volume in the Eternity series. This is a labor of love and I knew sacrifices would be needed.
Have I ever said “No?” On occasion, absolutely! I can’t do everything and I’m certainly not advocating that you should help everyone at the expense of your own writing time or sanity. Sometimes, you will need to turn people away, but at the same time, don’t just keep expecting other writers to do for you constantly without reciprocation. No one likes to be used or taken for granted. There are many nice people out there who can’t say “No.” They want to please everyone. Coming from an IT support background, I used to be one of them, but not anymore.
I realize that most writers are a self-obssessed, conceited lot. I get it, we’re all looking to advance our own careers, but all too often, we don the blinders and disregard our peers.
I’m not your promotional “go to guy.” I’m not just a cog in your marketing machine. I’m also a human being and a fellow writer deserving of the same respect I afford to you.
You want help? Be prepared to give it once in a while. Besides, that leads to good karma…