The Blinding Power of the Green-Eyed Monster

It’s one thing to talk about celebrity authors or authors that we’ve been in love with since childhood. Madeleine L’Engle, Stephen King, Neal Stephenson, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Isaac Asimov. There are few quibbles about their right to be in the hallowed halls of fame.

But what happens when a “nobody” rises to fame? What happens when somebody much like yourself (or — horrors! — even less experienced than yourself) becomes popular or is touted as great by those around you?

Have you ever heard that little voice whispering, “Why are they getting all the attention? What about me?”

The Plight of Boromir

Boromir fell into this trap. From the beginning, he was envious of Frodo’s assignment as the Ring Bearer. He could not believe that this inferior little person was being given this enormous responsibility and the much-desired Ring of Power. Why was this fluffy-footed little halfling getting all the attention?


Eventually, his envy (which was really rooted in his pride — another dangerous thing that twists our view of the world) caused the breaking of the Fellowship and the departure of the Ring to Mordor in the hands of two unprotected hobbits. His blind desire for the Ring and contempt for the chosen Ring Bearer put the world into more danger than ever. Instead of protecting and supporting the one who was chosen to carry the burden, he drove him away and into the grasp of the treacherous Gollum.

Envy clouds your view

Envy has never ended well for fantasy characters. The Queen step-mother of Snow White was obsessed with being the most beautiful and it twisted her into the most wicked. Whatever you focus on and give attention to will loom larger in your mind. The step-sisters of Cinderella were terribly envious of her beauty and overall sweetness. They mutilated themselves, trying to fit her mold (the slipper). They could have had a wonderful life as the sisters of the new Queen, but instead their eyes were pecked out by vengeful birds or they were relegated to servanthood, depending on the story version.

When you are busy envying someone else’s success, you are wasting energy. Not only that, but envy leads to blindness and poor decision-making. Two common pitfalls: either you will try to copy the other person’s success (without considering whether it fits your own brand and personality and goals) or you will reject their entire approach (missing out on some excellent tactics because you simply Will… Not… Be… Like… Them).

The cure for green-eye disease

The next time you see someone promoted for something they’re doing well, and you get the greens, try this recipe for a cure. I have it on good authority that the success rate is over 95% if applied consistently whenever symptoms appear.

First of all, remind yourself of the truth. Put it on a post-it note: “Envy is ignorance” – Ralph Waldo Emerson. “There are enough readers for everyone.” Bookmark a few statistics or articles that remind you: today’s marketplace rewards cooperation, not competition. Return to them when you need a reminder.

Next, take positive action towards the other author. Congratulate them. Learn from their success. Share their story on social media. Celebrate with them. Don’t let the green-eyed monster climb onto your back and wrap his long, slimy fingers over your eyes.

Envy isn’t new and it isn’t just you. Here are some articles that may help:

We are stronger together

One of the core values of the #SpecFicCollective is that we are stronger together than we are apart. Today’s publishing landscape is not the same cutthroat situation that it was when a few publishers had only a few spots each year for a few books. There was a time when authors might have been rewarded for acting competitively instead of cooperatively.

But today is not that day.

Today, an individual author may have what it takes to succeed alone. But a Fellowship of authors will always do better — if we are working together with the shared understanding that success for one contributes to the success of all. Acts of generosity, mutual promotion, shared readership and collaborative marketing are exponentially more effective in today’s world of social media and book marketing.

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Action Items

  • Search online for an author in your genre who received an award or recognition. Someone who is being interviewed on a big name website. Now promote their book. Say something nice about them. Celebrate their success.
  • Think back to the last time you were attacked by the green-eyed monster. Write a private journal entry stating what happened and why you envied the other person. End the entry by saying something nice about the person and with this statement: “Their success does not detract from mine. There is enough success for both of us.”
  • Leave a comment below and share your thoughts. Do you agree that we are stronger together than apart? Or do you see other authors as your competition? Why or why not?


A peek at your future

In Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker sees a vision of his friends in trouble. He asks his mentor Yoda what will happen to them.

Yoda replies: “Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.”

I have good news for you today — I have seen your future! Yep, let me assure you that if you’re subscribed to this blog and you keep reading it, we’re going to:

  • Clarify your identity as a writer. If you don’t know who you are as a writer, you cannot effectively communicate it to people so they can become your fans.
  • Define where you are in the author process. If you don’t know where you are, you’ll be tempted to waste time working on things that aren’t important instead of doing what you need to do next.
  • Review the basics of current branding concepts and what’s working in today’s saturated Internet market. Branding can begin long before you have anything published and is important at every stage of your publishing quest.
  • Clarify who you are writing for. Knowing your audience will inform your writing, your branding, and much of your marketing efforts.
  • Discover where your readers are and find ways to delight them frequently. You need to be there so they can discover you and your writing!
  • Search out like-minded colleagues who share a similar audience and who are in different stages of the process than you are. There is synergy in collaborative marketing, and you will benefit from partnering with those further along and grow from mentoring those who are still aspiring to get where you are.
  • Identify and connect with the influencers of your readership. These people can get your work in front of many more people than you can.

For each of the items above, we’ll examine in detail at least one essential approach that is working for creative entrepreneurs, so you can try it yourself. It’s overwhelming to try to do everything, so we’ll leverage the Pareto principle and focus exclusively on the 20% that will bring 80% of your results.

Feel better now? Now that you know the future, I hope you breathe a sigh of relief. Our future together is bright!

Inigo Montoya

“Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”

Inigo Montoya is a master of summary. “Buttercup is marry Humperdinck in little less than half an hour. So all we have to do is get in, break up the wedding, steal the princess, make our escape… after I kill Count Rugen.”

Yeah, that’s all. No biggie, right?

Let me sum up: You need to know who you are and where you’re at so you know what to be focused on. Then you need to identify your ideal audience, find them, and become a memorable and enjoyable part of their lives. Write your stories, find creative ways to share them with new readers, and make lifelong fans with the help of your fellow speculative fiction authors.

As Wesley told Inigo, “That doesn’t leave much time for dilly-dallying.”

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Action Item

The current plan is to release new posts every Monday and Thursday morning [edited 10/28/15 with current post schedule]. Make a mental note to read the week’s blog post (or subscribe to receive it via email) and comment on the site with how you see it applying to your efforts as a speculative fiction creator. This will begin a habit of doing and not just reading. The #SpecFicCollective will only effect change in your life if you participate! [/box]