Perhaps it’s because it is the Jewish New Year or maybe it’s due to a recent experience, but I have been thinking about “giving back” and mentoring.
Writing is such a solitary and difficult thing to do and when an opportunity to obtain support from an established writer presents itself, it is always very inspiring. Recently, however, I saw this work in reverse and it really made me sad and angry.
I have a client who received some good national publicity, which resulted in my signing him to do a book proposal. The publicity also attracted a well known TV personality and book author who would have been a wonderful support to my client and his project. I’ll call him Mr. P. Mr. P approached my client and offered his help, so the two had lunch. Mr. P promised that if the proposal were sold, he would provide an introduction and, based on that statement, my client added Mr. P’s promise to his proposal. It turned out this particular proposal wasn’t easy to sell, but finally we received a small offer partially based on the promise of a foreword from Mr. P. When my client went back to him just to make sure that, indeed, the promise would be fulfilled, Mr. P agreed but said he would charge a fee that was three times the advance—a totally outrageous amount! Needless to say, the client turned down the publisher’s offer and the project is now dead. What really makes me sad about this situation is that I know Mr. P well, and when he was just starting out, many, many people gave him their support—one of the main reasons he is so very successful today.
On another occasion, some years ago, I remember my client and good friend Gus Lee wanted to get an endorsement for his first novel from Amy Tan. His editor made an introduction between the two and Amy generously provided a quote for China Boy which helped the book to sell. Since then, the two have become very good pals.
I think it is so important to remember, once you are successful as a writer, that supporting others who are coming up only enhances what you are doing. It is incredibly mystifying to me when people who achieve fame and success forget where they came from.
I wonder if you have any thoughts on this subject. I would love to hear them.