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Agony Editor: Navigate publishing friendships with tact

Dear Agony Editor,

By all accounts, I’m a successful novelist. A good writer friend of mine isn’t as successful. I didn’t think it was an issue, but the other day, I was complaining about my book sales and he snapped and called me insensitive. I felt bad, apologized, and we moved on, but clearly, this is a bigger deal than I thought. Should I bring the incident up with him or simply keep my mouth shut when it comes to anything book related?


Big Mouth

Dear Big Mouth,

I wouldn’t bring it up. 

You run the risk of causing more damage. Starting a conversation with, “I sense you have issues with me being more successful than you” is guaranteed to be as warmly received as a rotting potato. Besides, his initial response gave you everything you needed to know in terms of how he was feeling at that moment. 

Navigating personal relationships within the landscape of the publishing industry requires balancing and tact. And while it’s tempting to think that good friends should be able to talk openly about any subject, I think it’s more important for good friends to know when to shut up. As with the art of writing, you need to choose your words carefully and be thoughtful about your audience. 

In other words, consider how your words affect other people before you say them, not after. At its core, your success – and your friend’s lack of it – is something beyond your control. I’d use this recent episode as a learning opportunity. Decide ahead of time what’s okay for you to discuss, or not discuss, with your friend. Consider how your complaints might sound to his ears. 

That said, don’t downplay your success either by dimming your light in the name of making him feel better. If he’s a good friend, he’ll join you in celebrating your successes, although it might be a bitter pill for him. That’s perfectly understandable. Last, but not least, continue to support him. Success can come and go but good friends are hard to find. 

Remember: The best friendships find their common ground in mutual respect, kindness, and encouragement, not in book sales.

By: Brian Francis

October 5th, 2022

10:21 am

Category: Opinion

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