Thursday, December 26, 2013

You Never Know...

Life is a fascinating thing. Looking back at myself eight years ago, when I was just out of college and working on my first book, I could have never guessed how this publishing journey of mine would have turned out.

I especially never would have dreamed of meeting so many amazing people along the way.

And this is what I want to talk about today—the people thing. The thing is, you never know how things will be in the future. You never know if the person you're talking to will someday cross your path again in a new way. Publishing is a small world, so this is something you really have to think about. I want to give you a few examples.

Person #1
My best friend started querying about the same time as I did, and we clicked and bonded over our similar circumstances and writing processes. We knew no one in publishing save a few other aspiring writers. We were, by all counts and measures, on equal ground. Then my friend got an agent about a year before I did, she sold at auction, and her first book hit the bestseller list before I even sold. By the time my first book came out, her fourth was on shelves.

There was no way we could have seen that coming, and it was exciting (and sometimes jealousy inducing) to watch. I didn't make friends with her because I could see the future and knew there would be success—I just liked her and I still do.

Person #2
There was an agent I always thought was cool, but I never thought I was cool enough to be her client. If that makes sense. I would pretty much query every other agent at her agency, but never her because I was scared she'd say no and that was something I wasn't sure I could handle from her. Because she was cool and honest and if she didn't like it then it probably really did suck.

I ended up signing with an agent at her agency. And when my agent left the business, I was lucky enough to sign with yet another agent at that agency. That agent sold my first book and it was awesome. And THEN my agent left yet again, and the Cool Honest Agent I'd always eyed asked to take me on.

I almost died. I couldn't believe it. But I'm so happy to have been at this agency that has taken such good care of me through all the changes. I would have never imagined working with this agent I admire so much, and yet here I am.

Person #3
Thanks to a contest I won, I met a guy who wrote pirate fantasy in contrast to my ninja paranormal. This joke turned into a bit of a friendship, and we read a few things for each other and have been supporting each other ever since. While I've gone on to publish, he has yet to (but it WILL happen!).

I knew this guy used to write video games, but I never would have imagined I'd get an opportunity to work with him on one because of that. He's now kind of my boss, and it's awesome to see him rocking this project. It's also awesome to be part of it—once again, it's something I never would have seen coming.


I could list a bunch more examples, but I think I'll stop there because the point has been made. Basically, you just never know what will happen not only to you, but to the people you meet along the way. You never know who you will meet, interact with, go on tour with, sit on a panel with, etc. Chances are, you will cross paths that both make you smile and make you cringe based on past behavior.

So this is the part where I put out a general BE NICE statement. Don't be nice because it could get you somewhere, but because you will always feel better about it. Truth is, writers gossip. A lot. I will admit to doing it and feeling AWFUL about it after, and that awfulness carries to when I've ultimately met some of those people and had this pit in my stomach as I realize they know people I know and did word get to them about what I said? And worse—those authors are always lovely people who didn't deserve a word of what I said or what I'd heard from others.

I can't take stuff back now, but I hope I can be forgiven and I try to stay away from that impulse we all have to be envious and say things we shouldn't because we don't actually know that person. It's so easy to be ugly when competition is tough in this business, but I've learned both the good way and hard way that being nice is just…better.

Because you never know. You never know if that aspiring author "below you" will actually be hugely successful one day. You never know if that bestselling novelist will be your tour buddy in the future. You never know if that editor that scares you will be the person who shapes your book into something amazing. You never know if that self-published writer will become the person you rely on to help you self-publish your own stuff.

Publishing is oddly poetic like that. Stuff comes back around. People remember you. It's both terrifying and good. Opportunities can arise out of nowhere from it…but the opposite is also true.

So don't forget, even if you can't see what the future holds, chances are the people you know, the things you talk about, the place you aspire to be will all get wonderfully mixed up down the road. I hope it surprises you in as many good ways as possible.


  1. Good advice, in the writing world and everywhere else.

    My father always said that big people talk about ideas, average people talk about things, and small people talk about other people. I can't say I've *never* been a small person, but I try, and this is a great reminder. Thank you.

  2. Lovely post as usual and a good reminder at the end of one year and the beginning of another how being a moral and respectable person is honestly the best way to go on with your life. Thank you.

  3. I really wish I knew you better. I mean, I know you of course, but I sometimes wish I could sit down with you and talk about stuff. You say things sometimes that mirror a lot of things I think. (Today I really identified with the gossip thing and regretting it and trying to do better. And also thinking well of people and not doing it for advantage. That last one is really important to me because I never want someone to wonder if my kindness is sincere.)
    One thing I really want you to know is that I've watched you (which sounds creepy, but please don't take it that way) and one of the things I genuinely admire about you is how you have always striven to be kind. I don't ever see you bash. I see you advocate for greater patience. I've seen you back-the-heck-away from scenarios that could lead to hurt feelings. I've heard about times where you stand up for someone else, where you dare to be a voice of reason, and when you encourage others to be better. Perhaps these are quiet, unsung (or maybe even unconscious gestures) things you do--but I've seen them. And I really, truly respect you for it.

    1. You are the sweetest, LT, though I think you may be exaggerating my "goodness" by a lot, heh. I do try though, and I fail, too. But I think trying is the most important. And also forgiving along the way.

    2. The wild thing is that I'm not exaggerating at all. (Though I definitely think you're too modest to believe it.) You actually do all of those things and any praise I've given you, you earned. I've only seen one other person as impressively brave and kind and even thinking back on it makes me teary.

  4. Something really special that happened to me was getting to finally work with an editor I've admired (and submitted to) for years. Back in the dark ages, when I was directly submitting to editors, I read through SCBWI that Stacey Barney had just moved to Putnam and was looking for middle grade novels. I subbed one, and she so kind and encouraging in her rejection that I sent another along. I got another no with more helpful feedback.

    Our paths crossed at IRA in 2012, and I discovered she's just as kind in person. When my agent was ready to sub my newest novel, Stacey was on the top of my list. And now we're working together, for real. It's a pretty incredible thing!

  5. Some.of the people.I've met have made this journey more rich and wonderful.

  6. Very wise words, Natalie. Always good to be reminded of every once in a while.

  7. So so much the third to last paragraph. And all of it, really.

  8. The world is a funny place, and even the writing blogosphere is smaller than I thought it would be when I started blogging. Thanks for sharing these wise words!
    -- Christi

  9. Very good advice, Natalie.

    Have a happy New Year!

  10. I hope you-all had a very Merry Christmas and will have a very happy, happy, happy New Year!