Entitlement In Writer Culture

One of the first things I saw when I logged into Twitter this morning was a conversation between a writer friend of mine (who, incidentally, is also a professional editor and teaches workshops) and another writer who was essentially lambasting her (and all other professional writers) for not helping new writers.  Digging back through the conversation, this evidently centered around the issue of queries, but it definitely had broader implications.  My friend handled things in a very calm, professional manner, stating quite rationally that she couldn’t be held responsible for every writer who wants to write, as it simply wasn’t possible.  To which she received this in reply “Your reaction is why so many writers feel worthless. No one wants to hear from them. No one cares.”

Frankly, the whole exchange pissed me off on multiple levels.

Now I know nothing about this person who initiated the conversation.  Looking back at a sampling of this person’s tweets, it sounds like they are probably struggling with depression, which is an affliction that many writers suffer from.  I’m not dismissing the seriousness of that as an issue but that’s not what I want to talk about.

Here is a single, profound, unvarnished truth about publishing (traditional or self):

Nobody owes you a damned thing.

Agents don’t owe you a request for a partial or a full.  They don’t owe you personalized feedback on why your query tanked.  They don’t owe you representation just because you want it.

Editors don’t owe you a contract.  They don’t owe you a “yes” just because your manuscript showed up (in an agent’s hands or unsolicited).

Successful published authors (be they traditional or self pubbed) do not owe you their time.  They do not owe you a hand up or the secret password or handshake that will get you through the door to join that exclusive club.  Because, guess what, there is no password or handshake.  It’s called busting your ass with a healthy dose of luck.

Readers don’t owe you a read or a review just because you threw your opus up on Amazon.

Book bloggers don’t owe you a review just because you sent in your book.

Nobody on Twitter or FB owes you a RT or a share of your content just because you put it out there.

All of these things are earned.

You put in the work to hone your craft.  Read books on the subject, read blog posts, find a critique partner, join a writer’s group, attend conferences.  Bust your ass.  And when your first or second or seventh book doesn’t get you anywhere, set it aside and WRITE ANOTHER ONE.  Always strive to improve.

You be a cheerleader to others, modeling the behavior you would like to see the Universe reflect back at you.  If you love a book, say so.  Spread the word so others will know.  Not with the expectation of getting anything back in return but just because it is the right thing to do and it’s positive karma.  Never do anything with the expectation of quid pro quo.

You be professional and respectful of others at all points in the process.  You follow directions and accept criticism with humility and an open mind.

You earn all of these things by NOT BEING AN ENTITLED DOUCHENOZZLE.

Publishing is a business–whether it’s being run from New York with multiple players or from your own computer with you handling all the details.  The business world isn’t personal and it’s often very harsh and unforgiving.  Because so much of publishing is subjective, it’s even harsher and more unforgiving than many other businesses.  That’s the nature of the beast and believing otherwise is setting yourself up for disappointment.  Publishing isn’t for weaklings and if you can’t handle that, you’re in the wrong business.

It is imperative that you find some inner measure of self worth that’s within your power to control.  Don’t depend upon external validation from agents, editors, or readers.  You are responsible for your own happiness.  It’s asinine to put the onus of that on people who probably don’t even know you and it is an abdication of personal responsibility.

If you feel alone and like there’s no help out there, it’s time to OPEN YOUR EYES.  Use the freaking internet.  Despite the fact that the vast majority of authors do not write full time and have to shoehorn in writing among all their other responsibilities in life, a great many of them do take time out to pay it forward in whatever way they can.  They give workshops or teach classes (I teach one on how to format ebooks).  They offer the benefit of their experience in advice on their blogs or on Twitter or FB.  They offer community and motivation (I started and run A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writer’s challenge that knows you have a life).  There are resources out there (many of them free), if only you bother making an effort to look.

So cowboy up, cupcake, finish up that pity party, and get your ass to work or go find a new career.

76 thoughts on “Entitlement In Writer Culture

  1. Holy crap YASSSSSS to all of this!

    Also, unrelated, but I haven’t visited your blog in a while (I read it through my feed reader), and I like the redesign!

    • Thanks! Was trying to find something that was a bit more neutral genre wise, since I’m covering multiple ones these days 😀

  2. Hard work and perseverance are what you need! 🙂

  3. Oh my stars, YES. Because I’m so soft-hearted, I’ve ended up sucked into other writers’ drama and helping them to the point I was neglecting myself. I need to stop this.

  4. OH HELL YES! Actors go to HUNDREDS of auditions to get–maybe–three jobs. Maybe. It’s soul sucking and dehumanizing, unless you learn to love to audition. I have no idea where this sense of entitlement came from–I do what I can to pay it forward, but there is no deep, dark secret Dance of the Illuminati that magically makes you a published author. It’s hard work, yo, and my first responsibility is to my readers.

    • I think it’s a bleed over from the rest of American culture. There’s a horrific sense of entitlement infesting most of our country. A lot of it started out well-intentioned…like giving everybody who plays a little league game a trophy whether they win or not, or affirmative action or whatever–but once you remove the notion that people have to EARN anything, that earning things on merit doesn’t actually mean anything, they stop taking responsibility for their behavior and just assume things are meant to be given to them for existing.

      • Hear, hear!

      • Affirmative Action doesn’t do what you think it does. It’s not about “everybody gets a trophy”. It never was. There’s a difference between combatting institutionalized racism and an individual who thinks people owe him/her.

        • You misunderstand me. I am not saying those two things are related. They are two very different things. I’m very well aware of what affirmative action is and why it was started. I’ve also seen a great many unqualified people be hired into various positions because it became more important than the quality of the job. The trophy thing is an entirely separate issue, spawned from a number of conversations with parents whose kids are having VERY different experiences (and not learning the same lessons) from playing park and rec or little league summer sports.

  5. Word. That’s one of the reasons I refuse to participate in any follow-me-I’ll-follow-you scheme, too. Even if they’re well intentioned, they’re effectively foisting responsibility onto another party. If you follow me on Twitter or Wattpad, I’ll most likely check out your profile, whether or not I follow you will have NOTHING to do with the fact that you’re following me.

    • YES! I’m not going to follow you if you spam self-promotion, you’re a business in which I’m uninterested or if you’re a spam-bot. I need to see that your twitter/blog etc is of interest to me THEN I’ll follow you. I followed someone today who’s been following me for a while. When he/she started following me I looked at the Twitter handle and thought ‘yeah, right’. Today that person gave me a huge belly laugh. I followed and put him/her on a list. Totally on merit.

    • I agree with you. My twitter and Wattpad follows are because I chose to, not because someone asked or implied I HAD to follow them. And I have had way too many of those, trust me. “If you like her work, you HAVE to follow me, you’ll love mine…” and the ever popular “If you were a REAL author, you’d follow and star and help me out.” Really? Nice try, but no cupcake for you.

      • So what’s your Wattpad handle? *grins*

        • *shifty eyes*
          Not sure I should say… hmmm. I haven’t actually been on in ages. Unfortunately I found out a follower/fan copied one of my books and tried to pass it off as her own. That was the 3rd time it had happened, and it more than irritated me. And since I’m trying to get this particular work published, it was best not to post anything more. Not posting has killed me, and caused a mutiny amongst my fans. Tempting to share though, just to have another Watter to talk to. 🙂

          • Well, if you don’t want to post it publicly, just look up “Carradee” on Wattpad, yourself, and drop me a DM. 🙂

            I haven’t had anything on Wattpad plagiarized yet that I’m aware of, but I do keep an eye out. I’m sorry that’s happened to you.

    • I am the same – the whole trading ‘likes’ or ‘follows’ actually decreases their value from my point of view.

  6. Kait, well-said! I’m still struggling to have my work discovered by readers, but I can’t imagine how having a sense of entitlement helps things at all. All you can do is just keep at it and do the hard work to improve your writing. In the meantime, I’ve found that the best way to feel better about my current position is to SERVE rather than to TAKE. We don’t have to be NYTBS authors in order to encourage others and pass along what we’ve learned. That’s what I would advise this person with the chip on her shoulder to do. Go out and help someone else who’s struggling. It’s empowering!

  7. I am happy that I have the few fans I do and love using Twitter and FB to post stuff pertaining to Doctor Who or Sherlock or Supernatural and having conversations with people rather than posting stuff about my books.

    And you are seriously my hero for using the word douchnozzle!! #Winchesters

  8. You know, if you start out believing that nobody owes you a damn thing, anything you get (i.e. earn) will be more than you ever expected. How can you not feel good about that??

  9. Could not agree more. Well said on every point.

  10. Amy

    So, here’s another thought. I found that rather than expecting a proverbial cookie from established authors, it was A LOT more helpful to seek out specific, trusted people and ask their advice or help. Some were willing; some weren’t—and it wasn’t personal either way. It was a matter of time the person had available. And you know what? I got advice. I got help. But not because I sat around waiting for someone to notice me and ask if I wanted it. I love helping newer writers. But that’s me! Not everyone enjoys it, and they shouldn’t have to. That’s like saying everyone good at math should go be a teacher. Um…nope.

    • YES! Not all who DO are CAPABLE of being good teachers. Teaching well is an art unto itself!

  11. I won’t comment on where the sense of entitlement comes from, since I’m not sure it comes from any one source — but I think you hit the nail on the head. A writer — very much like an actor or musician or any artist — needs to work hard, for a long time, to find and build their audience. Treating the publishing industry like it’s an educational resource is wrong-headed, I think. There are tons of blogs, workshops, books, AMA-type events on social media and so on for people to learn from. Expecting professionals who are already busy doing their jobs to switch into “teacher” mode is expecting far too much — they are likely swamped already.

  12. Here, here. I could not have said it better myself.

  13. Thank you for this post!

  14. Well said, Kait! I’ve seen (and been on the receiving end) that entitlement, and no matter how gracious you try to be, it’s never enough. Bust your arse, be gracious, and if you can, pay it forward — there’s no obligation for the last.

  15. Great post, Kait!

    Having a sense of entitlement doesn’t help at all.

    Here’s the truth: You have to work HARD to make a go of writing books. You have to tell your mother you can’t do breakfast on Saturday, you have to tell your friends you can’t go to that party, you have to send your kids out with hubby on the weekend…..or whatever the situation.

    Writers sacrifice to see it done. And writers giving up their own thing to help people who whine about wanting to write is just a waste.

  16. I agree with Kait but she missed a point.

    If you, as an author, don’t want your work pirated, your copyrights violated, then don’t do it to others. THIS INCLUDES NOT COPYING MY REVIEWS ON TO YOUR WEBSITE. (I’ve just been googling myself, finding MORE breaches of copyright and bitching in facebook; a response on facebook was the link to this blog post.)

    I’d love you to copy the link – like Pamela Freeman – and encourage people to visit my website to read my review. YAY FOR PAM!!!

    It’s taken me HOURS or even DAYS to read your book and HOURS MORE to write the review. If you’re going to violate my copyright by copying and pasting my review on to your website, GUESS WHAT, CUPCAKE? You just hit my blacklist, that list where I go “You want another review? NO WAY.”

    And don’t get me started on stolen interviews, especially recorded interviews I HAVE PAINSTAKINGLY TRANSCRIBED. I don’t care if you’re a fan website, you should POINT TO THE INTERVIEW, NOT STEAL IT.

    The reason? I don’t get paid AT ALL for the hours and hours I put in. My only ‘payment’ is visitors to my website. Lots of visitors can open opportunities for media passes, more reviews, more interviews and – maybe eventually – even paid employment. If you’re going to violate my copyright and put my review of your work on your website so I don’t get that traffic, I’m not going to review you in the future. I don’t care WHO you’re published by. You’re OUT THE DAMN DOOR.

    signed,
    Grumpy Reviewer & Interviewer
    (Not a cat)

    Thanks Kait – I hit ‘writers entitlement’ a bit. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one.

  17. Well, to be honest, back in the day, I felt exactly the way Ms. Entitled does. It pissed me off that agents wouldn’t give me the time of day. (And I admit I’m still a little miffed about that.) The rejection sucks big time. But I channeled all that consternation into busting my butt. Finally I found a willing publisher and now I’ve got two books published. If the process was easy, every Tom, Dick and Harry and their neighbor’s cousin would be an author. It’s not easy. It’s a hell of a lot of hard work. It takes being persistent, having tough skin and a a strong compulsion to forge ahead despite the setbacks. And a little faith doesn’t hurt either.

  18. This is a lesson humans need apply to every aspect of life. Nobody owes you anything.

  19. I’ve had variants of this sort of conversation with would-be writers who quit writing because of the mean ol’ editors and expect me to say, “my, what a loss for literature.” Infuriating. (I’ve also seen a real overlap between these entitled writers and writers who think the process is more about feelings/catharsis than craft. I guess maybe those folks are prioritizing their own vulnerability?)

    • Makes me wonder if those same people are the ones who would be in support of this new trend toward emotional correctness. Lunacy.

  20. Good post. A lot of people need to hear these hard truths.

  21. Yes. This.

    I was actually on Twitter at the same time and attempted to help out by pointing out various people and sites that do offer help. Of course I was ignored and rejected because I made too much sense.

    I have, right now, over 50 books on my shelves about the craft of writing. At least 20 in ebook form and I’m considering buying 2 more based on samples. I haunt the Half-Price Books for older tomes on writing and found a lovely one by the Asimovs. (Yes, both!) I have 10 books currently published or under contract and still don’t think I’ve learned it all.

    If you can’t take the time to better yourself then no one can do it for you. No one can make you a better writer, teach you how to write query letters and help you get published if you sit in a corner, wave your hands and tell me the world is skewed against you.

    Tough Love but there it is.

    Excellent post!

  22. Reblogged this on Sheryl Nantus and commented:
    I’ve got my own thoughts down in the comments… but as someone pointed out on FB – this can be applied to other aspects of our lives.

  23. Love this! I used to provide manuscript feedback to author wannabeez for free, thinking I was paying it forward. I quickly learned most of them weren’t open to constructive criticism. They wanted validation and the name of an editor for the story they wrote “over the weekend.” UGH. Since I’ve fixed a price tag to these services, it’s amazing how few of people who are desperate to be published are willing to pony up to improve their craft. Very sad. I think the only way you can own your eventual success is to own the process of getting there.

  24. Love this post! Extra points for using the word “douchenozzle” in a sentence. 😀

    Seriously, I just wanted to say that while everything you said is completely valid, I have to say that I’ve rarely run into people who fit into that category. It’s nice to see that the vast majority of writers I’ve run into ARE willing to do the work and give their time and energy to honing their craft, bettering themselves, and sharing what they know with others. And I always try to do the same. Of course, I probably don’t see the ugly underbelly that agents and editors do.

    Writers who DO act less than professional when dealing with agents and editors just have to remember that agents and editors are people too. They are also trying to make it in this world, and they have a job to do. They also have their own personal interests, just like you as a writer do. You’re not about to write a book about a slug in New York City if you don’t want to, are you? So why would you expect an agent to represent your work if he/she isn’t interested in what you’re writing? Sometimes that’s all it is. You just need to find the right person who is as passionate about what you’re writing as you are.

    Be patient, be professional, and keep working. That’s the best advice for any writer.

    • I think this type of person is in the minority–or at the very least remain generally unheard. I’m SO grateful to be able to say that the VAST majority of other writers I deal with are awesome–which is probably why I got so riled up.

  25. YES! Love this!! When I was getting started, I got angry at some agents, but mostly from the handful that couldn’t just say no, but had to be dickheads about it. Anyway, they did me a favor, because I self publish now and am doing really well at it, but its taken 3-4 years go get here.

    I’ve had some new authors flip out on me after I DID take time to help them, because their books still weren’t selling so I must be trying to sabotage them, or I need to help them even MORE, blah blah.

    My favorites are the ones who go on Facebook and Twitter and call readers stupid for not buying their books and buying crap from worthless hacks instead. That will sure win you a lot of sales.

    There have been times I’ve felt entitled I suppose, or just so frustrated, but it was those times I’d cry on a friend’s shoulder in private or go play Call of Duty and blow shit up. Not go on social media and rail against established authors, publishers, readers, etc.

    • The importance of carthartic blowing up of stuff in video games cannot be overstated…

  26. Paul Baxter

    Cowboy up?

    Does that mean I get to wear a hat?

    • Hats are totally encouraged 😀 (Plus it’s a way more fun way to say “Put on your big girl/boy pants”)

      • I never liked the term ‘big girl/boy pants’ but I liked the sentiment. So I may borrow ‘cowboy up’, especially if I get to wear the boots and a hat 😀

  27. I LOVE this post.I didn’t know a single writer before I was lucky enough to be offered representation by my agent. And since then, people have asked me for the secret password or to show them my shortcut. I haven’t a clue! It was sheer dumb luck (and a better-than-pretty-decent manuscript), and I’m still trying to figure it out.

    My debut launched two weeks ago. I am eternally grateful to all the bloggers who agreed to review my book. Would I love for them to post reviews on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, too? Of course! But I don’t expect them to, and I’m certainly not going to follow up and ask them to. They took the time to read my book and post on their blogs their honest thoughts about it–all from the goodness of their hearts! I follow up to thank them and offer as much swag as I can shove into an envelope because that’s the nice thing to do. Do unto others and all that.

    So, yes, I love this post. Thanks for putting down onto your blog the very things I wish I could scream from the rooftops.

  28. Right-on, big time!! I understand the depression aspect of being a writer myself, and know it’s hard – but so is this business. I only surround myself with positive, energetic, hard-working folks who also want to make it in the writing industry. We support one another, give advice, and share in our successes and help us get up and dust off after a set back. I do NOT waste time hanging around with folks who have no interest in working hard, improving their craft, and moving forward. My tip? Surround yourself with writers who are positive, have a good work ethic, are open to change, and set goals. STAY AWAY from negative folks who just complain but do nothing about it -they get what they settle for.

  29. Thanks for this, Kait. Way overdue and every word is true. As Jack Getze said, this should be applied in every aspect of life.

  30. Couldn’t have said it better. Spot on, and thank you for this.

  31. Kait, this is totally full of WIN. Thank you, thank you, for saying all of this.

  32. terryshames

    Great post! I have to say most aspiring writers I run into work hard and don’t seem to expect things to be handed to them. It took me a long time to get published and I understand the frustration that sometimes wells up. But when I felt frustrated, I put on my cowgirl hat and my boots and kept right on working. I laugh when people say I persevered. Yes, that’s part of it. But I also kept learning my craft, went to workshops, listened to critiques from a writers group. The sad part is that people can do all that and still never get their dreams realized. I don’t like getting a sense of entitlement from an aspiring author, but I try to always be respectful of their efforts.

  33. Nice post! A girl’s got to be her own best cheerleader first. The universe helps those who help themselves….and others. Help both when you can but don’t expect anything in return. That’s when the true payoff comes.

  34. Amen, amen, amen!! Love this and the mention of it being a cultural spill off in a previous reply. Entitlement is running rampant nowdays. Glad I stumbled on this post!

  35. Well said! I’m not professionally published. I’ve tried but had to go back many times to look at my work when – after a number of rejections – I realized, “hey, maybe I just suck a little bit. Or even a lot. Let me look at my work again.” After that, I got with a big-pro editor. We’ll see what happens from here.
    Sometimes you just have to accept and admit that you inhale profusely at writing and try, try, try again. Until the sucking is less.

    Thanks for the post. I shall pass this on 🙂

  36. This x1000. I get FB messages and emails on a weekly basis demanding that I read a manuscript or allow someone to take one of my workshops for free or send them my books for free or introduce them to my agent/editor/another well known author I seem to be friends with. It’s usually couched in terms of “you need to pay it forward” or “here’s my sob story now gimme.” At first, I tried answering each request as respectfully as I could with explanations about why I couldn’t accommodate the request. Then I answered with a link to my FAQ page where I have basic answers to all of those requests. Now I just ignore them completely. If someone can’t even be bothered to do basic research on me and read my FAQ before making demands, then they don’t need a response.

    I’m sure there are some who are angry at my non-response, but I’m not responsible for someone else’s sense of entitlement. And while I do plenty of speaking engagements or workshops where admission is free, and I cheer up and coming authors as they pursue their dreams, I don’t subscribe to the belief that someone who has worked hard for years and years and paid her dues with rejections and books that will never see the light of day etc. owes a permanent “pay it forward” debt as the price of her success.

    • People seem to seriously can’t handle the idea that ONE possible outcome is that they work and never get anywhere. They’ve never been taught how to DEAL with that. And so they behave badly and expect somebody to help them because “everybody deserves” this, that, or the other thing. Being a published writer is not a basic human right. Sorry.

  37. OMG, that was friggin’ awesome. Thank you.

  38. Agreed! And for those who say they “want to be a writer” but can’t find the time, here’s my advice:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/red-room/start-writing_b_1284434.html

  39. Word! Sharing this article! You are awesome!

  40. amberdawnbell

    This rocks! I couldn’t agree more!

  41. Nodding and applauding! Well said.
    Shared everywhere.

  42. As an addendum, of sorts, if you’re a published author, don’t feel that you are entitled to fan loyalty. As an example, if you transition a series from a detective story with a strong feminine character to, say, furry porn, while changing the aforementioned female character into a ditz, lacking any self-control or accountability, don’t expect your fanbase to happily go along for the ride. You aren’t entitled to their readership, or their money. Also, throwing a tantrum, or three, about criticism due to extreme paradigm shifts? That never helps, ever.

    While I don’t agree that an author is only as good as their last work, a commonly held view, because anyone can have an off book (or two), you have to work to keep your readers primed, otherwise that well will run dry. If/when that happens, it’s YOUR fault. Own it and move on.

  43. AMEN!! We were discussing this on a private group just yesterday. I don’t mind mentoring newbie writers, but they have to do the work. If they’re adults, sorry, they need to put in the hours and time and effort. I’ll pass along the same resources I used, but I will NOT do the work FOR them.

  44. Applauding wildly!

    So many folks want to know “How do I do it?” and then never follow up. I used to coach and prod and boost writers who wanted to be ‘real authors’. None of them have pursued publishing that didn’t involve Lulu.

    they couldn’t take the rejection and their books died a quick death because they wouldn’t take the time and effort to learn their craft.

    Any newbie I meet, I tell the the same thing that I learned. Write on a public site (small works) and listen, really listen, to all the criticism. Yes you will sniffle, yes you will cry, but if you want to be an author, you will learn and try again. When those same trolls can’t punch a hole in your story, you are ready for publication. 🙂

  45. My goodness, I’m one of those writers who wants to be an author but is only at the beginning of my journey and I agree with this completely! Actually, I just hate people with a sense of entitlement in general (seriously, you should hear me when people push into a line or push people out of the way to get onto the bus first!). You can’t just sit back and expect the people around you (who you probably don’t even know) to make your dreams come true! Like with any career/dream, if you’re not willing to put in the hard work to get there, you probably shouldn’t be doing it in the first place!

  46. I could cross stitch an entire sampler with all the great advise in your column. Advise that can be used in almost any endeavor by anyone. GG

  47. Brilliant! I wish I had written this post. I am sharing it widely! Thanks so much!

  48. Gail McHugh

    Love. This. A. Billion. Times. Over. Thanks for posting!

  49. Hairless Ape on a Typewriter

    Nice post. There is no fast track to success in publishing – you have to work your butt off. If you can convince Orson Scott Card to read and endorse your sci-fi fantasy, great. But YOU have to do the quality writing to get that recommendation, and YOU have to convince him to read it. No one is going to do that for you.

    To be honest, I’ve joined several “writers’ groups” in the past that were billed as ways to network, get your work critiqued, etc., and give you a leg up on getting into the industry. Every time I’ve seen them spoiled by egos, terrifically bad writers, and the tyranny of Grammar Nazis. It’s good to have a fellow writer or two to commiserate with, but for critiques you need to have real, critical readers, not a narcissist who is still angry about your analysis of his teen girl remake of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

    I like that you posted the link to the eBook formatting class. I’ve been using Sigil for this for a while, and although it has its flaws, I don’t believe you can beat the price tag. Which thought leads me to laugh when I think of the entitlement reaction to the price tag of your course: “What, you should do it for FREE to help out struggling new writers.” Because, you know, everything should be free except the things that “I” want to make money with. 😉

    • Oh yeah, I get that too. Which, hey, is their right to NOT buy if they don’t want to. 🙂

  50. I loved this… oh so true!!

  51. Reblogged this on DouglasMB and commented:
    I really loved what she is saying here so i wanted to share.

  52. Kait this is a wonderful and necessary blog post. I wont go into the long, boring, and painful list of experiences I have had with entitled writers but I am glad a discussion is happening around this subject. (Although, I am still curious and perplexed as to where this entitlement comes from – but that’s another discussion) Anyway, thank you for writing this. I will be sharing widely. A firm reality slap delivered with good humor never goes astray.

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