YA Mafia and the Ruination of Careers
So, as someone writing a mobster fantasy series, I was curious about the term "YA Mafia" when I saw it show up in the comments of a few blogs lately. I asked around and finally someone explained: supposedly, there is a YA Mafia out there, a cabal of writers who give one other blurbs, do events with one another, and like each other's books. (Am I in it? I have no idea.)
They also, apparently, can ruin your career.
I have heard this before in some of the classes I teach -- the fear that making the wrong person mad will result in one's name being added to some list of sinners that editors and agents automatically reject.
I promise you: this won't happen.
First of all, really, there's no cabal. Many, many YA writers are friendly acquaintances with one another -- we're colleagues, after all, and it's a small field. We may have done a signing near one another at a trade show. We may have the same editor or the same agent. We may have been trapped in the same airport while our flights were delayed (this actually happened to me and Suzanne Collins). A lot of times I meet other writers because I love their books so much that I make crazy eyes at them until they relent and talk to me (this is pretty much how I met Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman). But I think it would be impossible to tell, from the outside, who among us are actually friends, as opposed to just friendly colleagues. If you don't believe me, please see Scalzi's great essay on being fictional.
But even if there was a YA Mafia, I very much doubt that they'd be able to ruin your career because writers are basically lazy and impractical people. We live in our heads a lot and we can barely get it together to do anything. Seriously, it took me until after 3pm yesterday to get myself a sandwich.
But even if a bunch of writers got together and actually managed to fit scheming into their day, they still couldn't ruin your career because no one can ruin anyone else's career. Just like sometimes there is a really great book that doesn't get the attention that it deserves or a book that you hate that everyone else loves, a lot of being a professional writer is luck. You find the agent that's looking for the book like yours. Or you don't. You find the editor who loves what you love. Or you don't. You get a great cover. Or not. Your book is picked up by people who love it, who then tell their friends. Or it's remaindered in piles.
There have been a few posts around the internet recently that talk about the value of being positive -- and I do not in any way disagree. Of course someone isn't going to blurb you if they know you hate their book. Of course an agent is not going to be thrilled if you negatively reviewed a book they represent. But that isn't the ruination of anyone's career.
What we do and say on the internet, like what we say in real life, has consequences. It's a scary moment to realize that everything we do, every choice we make, every post and interview and review (not to mention our actual fiction) counts. It may make someone not like us. It may make a lot of someones not like us. It may make a bunch of other people like us very much.
But I swear to you, there is no group of people out there, planning any of our dooms. And even if there were, it wouldn't work.