Dear Writers: The World Owes You Nothing

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Zip. Zilch. Nada.

But let me back up a little bit. Explain myself and such. I belong to a few writing groups online. I’m not very active in these groups anymore, but they’re interesting and I’ve met talented authors because of them. Sometimes I still learn things. Other times, not so much.

But that’s not the point of this article.  A disturbing trend I see in these groups is the “entitled” attitude way too many writers seem to have. It’s an attitude that comes and goes, of course. More often than not, though, it’s present. You’ve written something, and now you feel the world owes you a reward for that something. Maybe it’s editing services. I mean, all writers use beta readers, right? Maybe it’s representation by an agent. How can they not love your shit? Maybe it’s reviews or sales. It’s the best damn book ever written, after all. Yeah, those typos can be found in all the big name books, so let’s not mention them. Also, no one would edit for free, so what are you supposed to do about that?

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Some writers offer a free copy of their book in exchange for a review, and then lose their minds if it’s not a five-star raving love fest. They gave you A FREE COPY! Christ, that warrants a positive return on the favor. Some want beta readers… scratch that “editors” for works in progress or first drafts (first of all, first drafts should NEVER go to an editor), but have no money. You, as a struggling author yourself should understand their position and offer services up eagerly. I mean, experienced writers OWE it to the new guy to share their wisdom. Didn’t someone help you when you were just starting out?

Listen, I don’t encourage anyone to write for free, and I definitely don’t think anyone should offer anything else for free, ESPECIALLY if it’s expected. And hey, same goes for editing. You don’t like it when a reader expects to get your books for free. Imagine how an editor feels when her services are expected out of the goodness of her heart rather than in exchange for cold hard cash. She’s got bills too, you know.

Fun fact: Nobody owes you anything.



Nope. Nobody. Not reviews. Not promotion. Not editing. Not book covers. Not advice. Not publication or representation. Nothing. It’s both arrogant and assholey to expect anyone to offer a service free of charge. It’s childish to believe that just because you ask for or demand something, you should receive it.

I know. You’re a writer. You can’t afford to pay for editing or whatever. How will you learn how to be a good writer if no one helps you? How will you know if you’re doing it right? You don’t want to write a WHOLE NOVEL the wrong way.


Well, it’s not the job of other writers or editors to do the learning for you. It’s not their job to teach you either. It’s YOUR job to figure it all out. Don’t worry. Here’s how you get started:

Read, friend. Read a lot. How-to books. Good stories. Favorite authors. You read until you figure it out. If someone offers to help, for free, great. If no one offers, don’t lose your shit. And I have to say, in my opinion, you don’t deserve to be published if you don’t even know the nuts and bolts of writing fiction. If you don’t know if you’ve done it “right” then you need to keep working until you do know.

As for agents, publishers, book reviews and such, you’re not entitled to those either. Yes, you’ve worked hard. Yes, you’ve submitted your work again and again and again… it’s degrading and soul shattering to be rejected. It’s frustrating when an organization that offers REVIEWS turns you down. I mean, they review books and you have a book!

You’re not entitled to reviews. Definitely not entitled to success. You may have worked hard. You may have done all the right things. You might even be good at writing. Still doesn’t mean you’ll be successful and that’s not the fault of anyone around you or in the publishing industry. The Universe has simply decided it’s not your time or you’re not that good. Keep working.

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What I’m saying hurts. I know that. I have to remind myself of these things every time I’m rejected, because my instinctive reaction is to pitch a tantrum a two-year-old would admire. I’ve worked at this shit for almost ten years. I’ve struggled and cried and almost quit more times than I can count. It’s not fair. Of course it isn’t. But life isn’t fair, muffin. I’m not entitled to anything, I tell myself. And then I try to figure out what it was about the rejected work that turned the editor off. If I can’t figure it out, I set it aside and work on something new.

And that’s what you have to do. Keep plugging away. If you allow yourself to wallow in self-pity and/or envy, you’ll become stagnant. If you become stagnant, and stop growing and learning as a writer, you definitely don’t deserve success or publication.

So, if this writing thing is what you really want to do, you need to stop whining and stop expecting everyone to fall in line and do the work for you. Pull up the big girl (or boy) pants. Get to work.



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