Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Two Cent Tuesday: The Hierarchy

Unleash the grumpiness!
Here's a scary post--as in scary crazy!

I'm in a grumpy mood, so here's a Grumpy Bulldog rant that you may not agree with it.  Which is fine, it just means you're wrong and stupid because I am always right.  (Except all those times I'm not right in which case it's the world that's wrong, not me.)

Anyway, you know how in movies and TV and such when they depict high school they also have all these social castes:  cool kids, jocks, stoners, poor kids, geeks, whatever?  Like in "The Breakfast Club" or "Clueless" or "Mean Girls" and shit like that.  (I've honestly never seen the latter, nor do I intend to.)  It's occurred to me that writing is a lot the same thing.  There's basically a social hierarchy at play when writers socialize.  I imagine it goes something like this:

Top:  Household Names
This would be Stephen King, JK Rowling, John Grisham, and their ilk.  The authors who make billions of dollars and people line up to buy their books.  It's like the 1% of the writing world.

Second Tier:  Bestsellers
These would be authors who sell a lot of books but probably aren't as well known as the Household Names.  I'm trying to think of specific names but I really can't at the moment, so feel free to suggest someone.

Third Tier:  Midlisters
These are the authors who might be published by the Big publishers but don't sell enough to get on the bestseller list or on the Today Show or Good Morning America or anything like that.

Fourth Tier:  Small/Self-Published
This is Me and pretty much everyone who participates on my blog.  The people who have a book published by a small-time publisher or self-published.

Lowest Tier:  Unpublished
This tier used to be a lot bigger in the old days before anyone could self-publish on Amazon or Smashwords or whatever.  But there are still those people who keep trying to get traditionally published instead of self-publishing or else just haven't quite finished that novel they've been working on for the last fifteen years.

And then each tier can probably be subdivided into other tiers.

The thing is, if you're in one tier it's hard to interact with a tier above you.  Again think of it like high school where if a nerd tries to sit with the cool kids, he's liable to end up with an atomic wedgie.  (Honestly though I never got any wedgies in high school or shoved into a locker or any of those TV/movie things bullies do.)

For instance, I follow a few Midlisters on Twitter and Facebook and whatnot.  Do any of them ever come to this blog to check out my musings?  No.  Do they ever reply to any Tweets I make that don't reference them specifically?  No.  Do they Like my random Facebook posts that again don't mention them specifically?  Hardly ever.  Because they stick to their little clique of friends and acquaintances and I, being only a small/self-published author am not worthy of being in their circle.

At the same time, those Midlisters who shit on me, do you think they can get into the inner circle of a Bestseller?  Unlikely.  And Stephen King sure as hell isn't going to give them the time of day if they call his mansion.  And if some Unpublished schlub wants me to read his latest opus do you think I'm going to make time for him?  Um, probably not.  Step off dude, I got Big Important Author stuff to do.

I imagine even if you sell enough books to no longer qualify for a lower tier it's still got to be hard to move up socially.  I mean if EL James goes to a big fancy cocktail party with a bunch of authors do you think Jonathan Franzen is going to let her into his group of literary snobs?  Maybe at first just so they can dump pig's blood on her later.

Anyway, this is my observation of the literary world that is let's face it built on scant anecdotal evidence.  Maybe certain Midlisters don't really mean to freeze me out, just like I may unintentionally freeze Unpublished people out.  It's just that we've all got our little worlds and it's hard as hell to try to break through the force field keeping you out of someone else's little world.  Since we're all authors or would be authors we should probably try to treat each other with mutual respect and stuff, but hey, we're busy right?


  1. Every social structure can be broken down like this. That's why, when someone from the "upper" tier interacts with someone from the "lower" tier they get called a "regular guy."

  2. I think you hit it on the head pretty nicely.

  3. I hobnobbed with some writers last night (30 or so). Although all of them look like they belong in the bottom two categories (not sure, a few have agents at least and a few publishing credits, so maybe a midlister or two mixed in there), my observation was that very few of them seem to have amazing social skills. I wonder if it continues that way all they way up the to that top tier.

    If I'm making a point, and I'm not sure that I am, it's that maybe that stratification is just thrust upon the more successful ones. Even with some of those midlisters I hear on podcasts, many of them complain about how they spend so much time promoting their stuff (things that their publisher/agents have arranged) that they struggle to find time to write. So, maybe their not dicks, just busy.

  4. I can see that, to a point. My BF Critique partner is a bestseller (Reasons I Fell for the Funny Fat Friend) and I'm unpublished. Yet, we interact on a daily basis and even hang out at least bi-weekly. So it's not impossible. But at the same time I would never dare approach someone like... Shannon Hale and pretend to be friends. It kinda depends on what you've been through together as authors. Cassie and I have been sharing our writing journeys for years now which is why we can interact, haha. Make sense? Anyway, I totally get your point :)

  5. I've spent most of my life around artists not writers, and it seems to me that artists are more open and accepting than writers. Maybe this is just because I've had more success as a painter.

  6. Going off of Rusty's point, heck, I hardly have time to do stuff with "my own people," so to speak. When you have to do all of the work yourself, it doesn't leave much time to CP for someone trying to get traditionally published.

  7. I mostly interact on Facebook and other social media with people I know in real life. I've been having monthly coffees with three other writers for years. One is a bestselling author who's made millions the last few years. One is a writer who's sold about half a million books, and me and the other writer have sold much less. I also have many real-life friends who are unpublished writers, who I respect as much as I respect my bestseller friend.

  8. It's just people. People are honestly terrible to each other unless sexual tension is involved. In other words, if someone is sexually attracted to another in a lower caste, you can sure bet they'll suddenly become very warm toward them. Otherwise, those people in a lower caste are just "servants" and "people who you don't want to associate with." Trust me, I get this rant all too well. People look down on me for all sorts of stuff.

  9. Colin Cowherd used to talk about this a bit on his show. He specifically talked about why he never reacts to bloggers who talk about his show, and his take was more or less "Why would I respond to some blogger" (emphasis on BLOGGER) "...when I'm on ESPN." He seemed to feel that noticing a blogger would lower him, rather than raise the blogger.

    I noticed that some of the authors whose blogs I occasionally comment on -- that guy who wrote "Monster," what's his name? He likes Skylanders? -- almost never comment back, while others (Beer For The Shower) almost always do. Alex Cavanaugh is like that.

    I look at blogging and reading blogs as both entertainment AND an obligation. I'll read any blog if it's entertaining, and I read some blogs because those people read and comment on mine, so I feel as though I should pay it back. That's not to say that those people's blogs aren't good, it's just that absent the social obligation, they might rank lower.

    I have only about 1 hour of pure free time per day for reading, etc., and if I read everyone's blogs who interest me and/or who comment on mine (occasionally, at least) I'd only read blogs. So I have to parse it out. Some days I don't read anyone's blogs, or go on Twitter. Some days that's all I do.

    So I guess those bigshot authors maybe don't want to be dragged down into our muck, and don't find what we do entertaining enough to read it regularly, and to the extent they feel any social obligation, it's spread so thin that we don't notice it.

    I hate to say nice stuff about him, given his sometimes hypocritical stance on things like ebooks, but I believe that Stephen King actually helps out newer writers pretty frequently -- I can remember when I subscribed to "Entertainment Weekly" and he had a column that he usually mentioned, at least a few times a year, some unknown or little-known writer. It didn't feel like an obligation, at least the way he wrote it.

    So maybe there's some nice guys?

    It would be nice, though, if Neil Gaiman or one of those guys would pop around to someone's blog and leave a comment now and then. Andrew would probably die if Neil commented on his blog. He mentions him enough.

    Have you tried interacting with them on Twitter? That seems to be a little easier.

    1. Gaiman answered a question of Michael Offutt's once and then Offutt was squeeing like a little schoolgirl, lol. Maybe that's why I don't follow many ultra-successful authors.

  10. @Briane: I probably wouldn't die, but I might have a hard time scraping my tongue off the floor.

  11. I aint that busy that I couldn't be bothered commenting. I find I'm agreeing with you on this. In my world, writers, no matter what tier they are in, respect each other as all equal. Then they all hug but the rich fucker drives off in a fancy car. The unpublished person, can't even afford the bus ride home, if they even have a home...

  12. I'm still sorta waiting for a publisher. I wouldn't mind a small print one, but wouldn't it be great to have a Big Six (excuse me 5) pick me up. I guess I'll continue on with my meager short stories for a while.

    The problem as I see it is bloggers are authors, and they are promoting their works here to other blogger authors. A viscous circle. I don't have the time to comment on every blog that posts every day, and sometimes, I'm just not interested in the content. I'm overwhelmed by the marketing all the time.

    I do enjoy your rants usually Pat. Thank you.




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