Monday, September 13, 2010

Giving back

by Jane

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.


  1. I once took a writing workshop from Hollywood writer Richard Marcus. He said that in Hollywood especially, when people make it to the top, they often forget to send the elevator down to their friends still at the bottom. I always remembered this and took a vow to send the elevator down as much as I can from whatever floor I'm on. I'm far from the top, but I do have a wonderful agent (Michael!) and I have a book out with another one on its it's possible that someone on a few floors below me could use my help and if I can, I will. The way I figure it, if you're at the top, you don't need the elevator anymore anyway, so why not send it down?

    I don't know about writers as a whole, but it seems to me that children's writers are extremely generous in this way.

  2. YOU'RE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT! I'm so glad to see this post today. (Doing a cheer.) In fact, I posted something similar yesterday. I'm a big believer in giving back. I have enormous respect for those who achieve success in life and remember how difficult the journey was. There are so many people I know who have helped others, who remember what it was like not to have enough food to eat or enough money to buy a prom dress. I like to think that I give back to the community when I can in whatever way I can. It's the same for the online writing community. Newbies and experienced writers and agents and editors help one another. Maybe it's through a kind word or a virtual hug or writing a blurb for their book or editing a query letter. We are happy to help each other in whatever way we can. Mr. P should be ashamed of himself. Seriously. If I ever achieve that kind of success and act like that I hope you kick me in the butt. I would deserve it. It goes against everything I believe. That said, I realize you can't help everyone, otherwise you would never have time to do all of the things you need and want to do. But give back people when you can. Thanks for letting me rant about this. You can tell it's a topic very near and dear to my heart. Blessings, Buffy

  3. Personally, I'm a little shocked by Mr. P. That's totally outrageous! If I ever make a successful career out of writing, I don't think I would ever, ever ignore an opportunity to help someone who is starting out. I've made so many writing friends through blogging, and many of them are well on their way to success, but it certainly hasn't gone to their heads!

  4. I'm not published in fiction at this point, but it doesn't stop me from paying it forward already. I've been writing fiction for seven years, have three manuscripts under my belt and have been helping new writers get aquainted with the industry by giving them blog addresses(such as yours!) to follow and use as a reference. I share my knowledge and give what I can. I would love nothing more than to be in a position such as Mr. P and be able to help someone out (especially if I'd promised to do so).

    I don't understand some people. One of the best parts of this industry are the connections made with others. Why wouldn't you want to support someone up and coming?

  5. Mr. P. should be ashamed of himself. No explanation is necessary.


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