Latest News

When Jealousy Turns Ugly

Jealousy is a normal emotion. I mean, I’m pretty sure that anyone who claims to never, ever be jealous is either a) lying or b) secretly an alien. I think the publishing industry particularly lends itself to feelings of jealousy, because there are so many ways to compare yourself to others at every stage of the process: someone is getting more full requests than you; they’re getting more personalized feedback on rejections; they got five agent offers and you only got one; they sold their book very fast or for a large sum or to your dream editor; they got great reviews or an award; the list of reasons to envy someone is endless. There’s nothing wrong with feeling envious. It happens.

The problems come when the jealousy turns into something more bitter. If you keep this bitterness to yourself or to yourself and friends, it probably doesn’t hurt anyone. But the problem is, I see a lot of people not keeping it to themselves, and not being very nice about it. It doesn’t matter if you’re anonymous. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know someone. It is still incredibly easy to find forum posts or nasty tweets, even if you aren’t looking for them. And it’s not helping you or anyone else to say horrible things about another person based off petty things like the size of their deal or the fact that you read their PM announcement and thought their book sounded dumb. Justify it all you want, but if you’re being hateful, you’re being hateful no matter what you think they did to deserve it.

Of course it feels a lot better to say, “God, nothing good gets published anymore! Apparently to get a deal I have to have a badly written ripoff of [insert latest big deal book here]” and to have people commiserate with you about it, and to feel like this is a scenario where it’s not you, it’s them. But saying stuff like that, honestly, it doesn’t help you and it doesn’t help anyone and frankly, it’s insulting to both the readership and to published authors. Maybe your book does deserve to be published. It’s true that great books just don’t get picked up sometimes, and that’s hugely disappointing. And I certainly won’t pretend I’ve never read a published book and wondered how on earth it got through an agent’s slush pile, let alone all the people who have to approve it at a publishing house. But I have read so many great books. SO many! I read new, great books all the time. And I have to wonder why, when I see people lamenting the crappiness of an entire genre, they are writing in that genre at all (or reading it, for that matter).

This is not a post to say that I don’t think anyone should ever criticize YA novels. Or that no one should ever discuss problems they see in the industry. Or that no one should be able to lament rejections. This is a post to say that if you’re a writer, feeling blue and jaded is part of the process. Hating others for their success isn’t going to bring you any closer. A shorter or easier journey doesn't necessarily mean a less well-earned reward. Your career is the only one you have any control over, so that’s the one to focus on.

Kaitlin Ward

Kaitlin Ward is the author of Bleeding Earth, Adaptive Books 2016, and The Farm, coming 2017 from Scholastic.

Posts by Kaitlin

website twitter goodreads tumblr

  • Blogger Comments
  • Facebook Comments


  1. I adore you, and this. I HATE when people turn (sometimes valid) criticism of existing books into, 'Wah wah wah, when I'm published . . .' Because the two things don't have anything to do with each other, and shouldn't. Your career is not dependent on Big Buzzed Author's failures.

  2. You make a really important point here, and more authors should pay attention. When you're online, you're building brand, and whiny sour grapes-ing isn't a brand anybody's going to buy.

    In some circles it seems that praising Meyer, Collins, or even Rowling is a no-no, and there's some unspoken "truth" that all successful YA writers are hacks.

    But when you dis writers, you dis their fans: your potential readers. Not the best way to sell books.

  3. Great post, Kaitlin! I feel like I've been seeing a lot more of this lately. It's hard never to feel jealous, especially when things don't seem to be going your way, but it's important to deal with those negative emotions PRIVATELY :)

  4. I complete agree with you. Jealousy *is* natural. And Kara makes a great point too - deal with negativity *in private*. Be an adult about it and fight on. Another person's success is not your own failure. You still have hope - just work hard at it.

  5. Great post, Kaitlin! Most of us ARE going to feel jealous during some points in the writing process--it's normal and okay. But it's not okay to trash others over that emotion.

    Really, the people doing the public trash talking are saying a lot more about themselves than they are the authors they're trying to smear.

  6. I agree that there's no point in airing jealousy publicly. But I do think there's still a place for literary criticism and book reviews in the blogosphere - as long as the criticism is about books, not people or book deals. Writing is an art, and we need to be able to talk about our opinions on art without being labeled as negative or jealous. I don't think writers should be required to LIKE everything, even on their public blogs. That's the exact kind of group-think all these wonderful recent dystopian novels warn against, isn't it?

  7. Julie - absolutely! I tried to make it clear at the end of my post that I don't think we should never criticize anything, because definitely, we should feel safe to criticize books we don't like. But separating books from authors is important, as is separating other people's careers from your own.

  8. Great post! I agree, it's fine to be jealous, but it's not fine to hate someone just because of their success vs your lack of success.r

  9. Jealousy is totally normal. Hating on other writers in a public forum is putting negative energy out there in a way that's good for no one.
    I love this post by Beth Revis about her battles with jealousy. She wrote it a while ago but it has stayed with me.

  10. What a great post and very relative with what's happening right now. All the time I see the mean sniping of authors towards each other over petty jealousy. I think shareing those feelings with a friend (in private) is probably the best solution. Have a quite b*tch session cry about your frustration then get over it - Everyone (Inclusing the author being attacked) has to go through these feelings and making them feel worse isn't helping anyone.

  11. At it's most basic, people must realize that they, their life, is more than their book deal, publishing success or lack thereof. Death has claimed the lives of a couple of lovely YA authors this Spring. Focus on all the facets of your life folks, while you still can.

  12. This is such a great post because I feel like everyone can relate. Have I been jealous before? OF COURSE. But I alwys try to remind myself that the person I envy worked hard, too. I think sometimes we forget that other authors are also people. No matter how famous the writer, they are human beings, and being petty toward them will hurt them for reasons they do not deserve.

    Great, GREAT post.


Comments are moderated on posts two weeks old or more -- please send us a tweet if yours needs approval!

Item Reviewed: When Jealousy Turns Ugly Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kaitlin Ward