Our Love-Hate Relationship with Awards [Author Problems Series]

It feels a bit like high school, doesn't it? Everyone already knows who the popular kids are, so nobody needs to go to the dance to know who will be crowned Homecoming Queen.

We don't quite hate her for it. She is beautiful. And charismatic. We've seen her in action, and we understand why she got it. She probably deserves it, whatever that means. And on some level, we're happy for her. We're just tired of it always being Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.

Still, we can't help but to wonder--because in addition to being beautiful, the homecoming queens of the world always seem to be rich--if we'd been able to afford the same awesome clothes, a cut and color from that fancy salon, and a fast car from daddy, would we have had a shot at being Homecoming Queen too?

It's the question every author who doesn't get the props she wants, and maybe even knows she deserves, inevitably asks herself at times like these. What could we have done with a great publisher, or a professional marketing team? Was the only thing stopping us from becoming a New York Times bestseller a capable PR agent? How would our careers as authors be different if we simply had better resources?

It's a niggling question, even for non-haters who fundamentally want to support and uplift other authors. Madeleine Albright's comment that there's a special place in hell for women who don't help other women comes to mind. If another author who has written a good book who has found success, we don't want to be a bitch about it. We don't want to have sour grapes, or be jealous. But, the truth is, we are. My theory is that the real hurt comes from something deeper--not from not being recognized on a large scale, but from coming to terms with the fact that we'd simply hoped to get better results. 

When seen through this lens, perspective changes. Because many of us don't need to be the Goodreads Choice Author of the Year. Many of us simply wish we were doing better than we are. This week, I have seen authors with hundreds of reviews lament their lack of recognition. Yet, as an author on the brink of publishing her first novel, I would be ecstatic to see that my book ever gets 100 reviews. My published author friends, some of who have had a ton of reads and reviews, simply want to make a little more money. It begs the question: does this hurt really come from comparisons to authors who have made it big, or are we frustrated because we haven't lived up to more modest expectations we had of ourselves?

There is no accurate way to answer any of these questions. But these jealousies are clearly tearing the community apart. Because the other thing that shows up, daily, on my Facebook feed are complaints about authors cutting down other authors. Maybe what's stopping us from feeling good about all of this is the false assumption that this is a zero sum game. I puzzle at the fact that romance authors believes that someone else's win means that they have lost--especially given the habits of romance readers.

I call them "shameless hussies". It's my loving moniker for the readers of romance, who have an insatiable appetite for lovelorn smut. Romance novels are a quick and easy read and most of us read voraciously. On some level, it can't be true that there is only room for the EL James', Kristen Ashleys, Penny Reids, and Colleen Hoovers of the world. Readers of romance consume dozens of novels each year. And because of that, the math says there's room for all of us.

So, how can we reframe this? How can we fess up to the fact that the big authors can't possibly keep up with the demands of readers, and the reality that each of us a pretty good shot at having our books read? Maybe we should focus elsewhere--to me, it makes far more sense to motivate the community to commit to leaving reviews on every single thing they read. That seems like a good first step in getting authors whose fic is being read and enjoyed more of what they are due.