Recently on the internets, there has been talk about a so-called YA Mafia and how one online misstep can spell the end of a career for book bloggers and unpublished writers. Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier have given far better breakdowns of this idea, but here’s the honest to god truth:
Nobody can ruin your career but you.
Really. I mean, really. Bloggers cannot ruin a writer’s career, a published author cannot ruin an aspiring one’s career, etc. The onus is on you. I work with an extremely high profile author on a huge commercial property, and even she cannot ruin someone else’s career because your writing career is what you make of it.
There is a tendency online to create monoliths of figures and industries because it is easier to do so. That’s the problem with text, you see. You can interpret words on a screen however you please. This is how flame wars get started. Justine Larbalestier talks of the online disinhibition effect, in which people act inordinately cruel on the internet where they wouldn’t be in real life.
It’s difficult to work in a creative industry, where ego (that is, sense of self and identity) is so tied up with a product that gets consumed by the public. Even worse, personal and professional boundaries are pretty fluid in this industry because we’re all tied by a shared passion for books. This sort of environment fosters the paranoid and delusional parts of everyone involved, myself included. It’s all in a day’s work, really. At best, we look upon “crazy writer” antics with fond exasperation; at worst, we try to convince ourselves that the sales figures make it all worthwhile. But even on our worst days, if talent and story is THERE and it’s GOOD, then we’re willing to put up with all sorts of shenanigans because we have faith.
Nobody can ruin your career but you, and the best way to go about it is to stew in bitterness. I mean stew–steeped in a concentrated brew of it’s-not-fair and nobody-understands-my-work and it’s-their-fault-I’m-not-published. I’m not saying you shouldn’t voice your opinions or your feelings because honesty is important; I’m saying you shouldn’t let your feelings cloud your rational mind–for too long anyway. It’s okay to have a blow-up, but try to minimize the fallout. In private, offline, with your friends is best.
As for book bloggers and reviewers, a writer cannot prevent you from getting published yourself. Your work has to speak for itself. A review is a review. A manuscript is a manuscript. They are not the same thing. I have worked with high maintenance authors and extremely laid back ones, both established and debut. Sure, an editor will research you online before s/he buys you on, but s/he’s checking for the obvious signs of NOT OKAY: like bomb building or horrifically racist/homophobic/hateful remarks. (And even then, the publisher may decide the book is worth it anyway. Orson Scott Card has said some terrible, terrible, hateful things and I still love his writing anyway. See? We are not monoliths.)
So relax. (I know, I know, it’s difficult to tell people in this business to relax. We are high-strung creatures.) I promise you, nobody can ruin your career but you.