Sunday, March 11, 2018

Beyond The Unicorns

Betrayal, lies, deceit, theft, false identities, professional jealousy, backstabbing, manipulation.

Sounds like a TV movie? A suspense thriller?

It could be.

But it could also be practically any week of the year in the romance publishing world.

Why does this matter?

Because someone, somehow, thought it would be a good idea to promote the concept that the romance world is filled with wonderful people who are always supportive and kind and trustworthy and have your back.

It's the rainbows-and-unicorns thing.

And yes, there are some stupendous people in the publishing world. Talented, lovely, gracious people who are true friends.

But just as with any other profession--and perhaps more with this one, because it is a creative field, and thus includes an immense amount of competition--there is another reality that is the opposite of unicorns and rainbows.

Some people suck.

A lot.

There is a huge amount of money to be made in publishing, and there are people willing to lie, cheat, and steal to get a piece of that chunky pie.

Just because the romance world is primarily women does not mean this harsh reality does not exist. Women are just as likely to be fiercely ambitious as men.

The stakes are constantly rising. More money, more manipulation, more greed.

It's hard to know who to trust. Sometimes, you make mistakes. Someone you think is a cool person who has your best interests at heart actually has *her* best interests at heart.

The first time you deal with this betrayal is like getting sucker-punched. Not only do you feel crushed emotionally--finding out a friend is not really a friend--but you also feel like a chump for giving and caring and helping, and getting tossed into the garbage at the end.

I have heard betrayal stories that are truly horrifying. One person had a betrayal so hideous that if it happened to me, I would have quit writing altogether.

But she didn't.

God bless her, she still has a smile on her face, and determination in spades. And probably a good heaping dose of caution now, which is not a bad thing. It's about self-preservation in this business.

What happened to her, and how she handled it, shows her strength of character and inspiring optimism in a field that is filled with landmines.

I'm sorry if this post seems cynical. It's supposed to be about having realistic expectations, and resilience after getting beat up, and optimism and faith in yourself after setbacks.

Romancelandia is not unicorns and rainbows.

It's the real world, filled with good people, and kind people, and cool people, and plenty of assholes, and wolves-in-sheeps-clothing.

Over time, your skills at sniffing out bullshit become honed, so you're less likely to get blind-sided. But regardless, it's a horrible feeling. 

Some folks are not looking for real friends in this business. They are looking for professional relationships, people who are tools for them, to use to get ahead. And they will climb over a pile of people willing to help to get to the head of the pack.

The trick is to figure out who those people are, and who your true friends are, and then squeeze those true friends tight and never let them go.

So, my advice to newbies starting out and old-timers who are still struggling with this competitive business is this...

Be cautious.

Be smart.

Be careful.

Know your true friends and hold them close.

Don't let the users get you down.

Have faith in yourself and your abilities and work on your strength and resilience. 

This is the real world, not Fabio with his hair blowing in the breeze, gazing adoringly at his gorgeous heroine.

The romance world is more like a middle-aged man with a pot belly and a bald spot. 

Real, but not necessarily a bad thing.

We can do this.