Recently, authors Kim Wright and Sarah Pekkanen sat down to talk about their experiences in publishing. Both have just published their second novels: Love in Mid Air and Skipping a Beat, respectively.
Kim: One of the things that’s most surprised me about publication is how much writers help each other. Like a lot of people, I’d had some harsh experiences while trying to get published, so part of me figured that the deeper you got into this world the more elbow-slinging and competitiveness you’d find. But the opposite happened.
Sarah: I’ve had the exact same experience. Jennifer Weiner was so pivotal when my first book The Opposite of Me came out. She was, of course, a very established and successful author so it was incredibly generous of her to take an interest in someone who was just starting and a complete unknown. And as I’ve gone along I’ve found that same spirit of helpfulness everywhere.
Kim: There’s sort of a sisterhood among the recently published. I think it’s because writers are expected to promote their own books and so many of us aren’t very good at it. We’re private people who stay home, work in our nightgowns, and talk to people who only exist in our heads. Then all of a sudden you’re published, boom, and you’re expected to know how to establish a platform and interact with the public.
Sarah: Yes, so we’re all trying to help each other and exchange ideas. Things like the blog tours or the giveaways or taking out ads together and splitting the cost. Female novelists will often recommend the work of their peers, saying something like “If you enjoyed my book, maybe you’ll like hers as well….” Or “Here are two books with a different take on a similar issue.”
Kim: Do you think male novelists help each other like that?
EDIT 8:30 Eastern 7/21/11: But I certainly don’t mean male writers don’t support each other – or don’t support women authors, for that matter – but I haven’t seen the same formal banding together of male authors on social media as I have among female authors. Several male authors have been enormously helpful to me personally – like the brilliant writer Matthew Quick, who chatted with me on the phone when I was panicking about my second book – and I count many male authors as friends.
Kim: Me either, and it’s just another example of the male ego sabotaging the man. Because people who are readers tend to read a lot. When I go into a bookstore I usually buy two or three books at a time and the Amazon free shipping system is set up to encourage people to buy several books at once. And who checks out one book from the library? You leave with an armful. Writers aren’t really in competition with each other, since if someone buys my book they might well buy yours at the same time. A rising tide lifts all boats, as my grandfather used to say.
Sarah: There’s also the emotional component of providing support for each other. Having a book out is scary and it’s really hard for anyone who isn’t going through the process to understand it. That’s how we met, isn’t it? I remember my publicist raved about your book and sent it to me to read. I loved it too, so we connected on Facebook and one day you wrote something about how you were struggling with your second book. I had just finished my second and could relate so much to what you were saying that I emailed you and offered to talk….
Kim: That’s precisely right. That phone call was a godsend for me.
Sarah: Have you met most of your writer friends through social media?
Kim: Yes. This is kind of funny. When Love in Mid Air first came out I got on a Facebook friending frenzy and sent friend requests to all these established authors. Here I was this total nobody reaching out to all these somebodies. But a lot of them friended me back and some of those relationship have turned into real dialogues, real online friendships, like ours.
Sarah: And then sometimes the people who have met on line meet in person if they all find themselves at a writing conference like the AWP. It’s amazing how quickly these relationships can grow and spread and I think they’re a tribute to the fact writers are sometimes a little bit lonely. We have our friends and families in real life but they can’t completely understand the ups and downs of writing or the kind of pressures writers put on themselves. So I’ve loved using the social media to connect to other writers….we’re figuring it out together as we’re going along.