So there have been these… shall we say rumors?… going around for quite some time now about a secret organization of successful horror writers (referred to as “The Buddy System”) who act as gatekeepers for the genre, only to their own devious ends. They supposedly promote themselves and their friends while keeping out anyone they deem as unworthy. Usually those “unworthy” are seen as threats; better, more talented writers who would far succeed the gatekeepers if only they had the chance… But they never will, thanks to The Buddy System. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!
Do you see where I’m going with this?
The idea itself is silly, and it pretty much seems limited to people who just can’t believe that they don’t have the luck/talent/tenacity to succeed themselves. Someone HAS to be standing in the way! Right? Wrong.
Speaking as someone with only the most moderate of success, it takes A LOT to succeed in this business. First, you have to put your butt in front of a keyboard or a pen and paper and actually do the work of writing, which is no easy task. You have to edit. Then rewrite. Then edit again. Then there are beta readers, further revisions, and maybe even restarting again from scratch. And that’s before you actually get to the agent/submission/publication phase of things. Then it becomes a long stretch of putting your heart on the line, waiting for rejections while hoping for acceptances, being patient and positive… and then, should you actually get your manuscript published, comes the work of promoting it; who will see it? Who will care? Will they like it? Tell their friends? Will someone with a voice or influence notice and share it? Should you pay for advertising or try to do it solo? What about giveaways? What works? What doesn’t? SOCIAL MEDIA! Ahhhhh!
As you can see, it’s a LOT of work, a lot of effort and perseverance, and yeah; there’s some luck involved there, too. But it isn’t easy. You know what’s a hell of a lot easier? Blaming someone else for your lack of success.
The truth of the matter is that The Buddy System DOES exist, but it’s hardly a clandestine sect of robed and masked authors who control the industry. The Buddy System is this, my list of simple rules for success. Here they are, in no particular order:
1: DON’T BE AN ASS!
Seriously. I see this rule broken an awful lot, especially in regards to social media. Someone says something you disagree with, so you go off on them and rant and rave and end up alienating people you didn’t even know were reading your posts. Not good! Everyone gets angry sometimes and everyone has hot buttons, but try to be polite, rational, and respectful about it. Discussions are one thing. Rabid tire fires teeming with the textual equivalent of flaming armadillos wrapped in razor wire are quite another.
2: Be a good citizen of the genre.
Conduct yourself in a manner befitting the image you’re trying to convey, ESPECIALLY at related events like conventions, book signings, or release parties.
3: Know your limits.
If you can’t handle more than a few shots of bourbon or a pint of beer without getting sloppy drunk and making a fool of yourself, don’t. This mostly pertains to conventions and similar gatherings, but far too many people seem to think that no one is going to remember them harassing, shouting at, or abusing others after they’ve had too much to drink. Don’t let that be you.
4: Be easy to work with.
This is probably the rule I try hardest to follow. I do my best to always meet my deadlines. I try to be professional, polite, and friendly in all of my interactions, but ESPECIALLY with publishers/potential publishers/fellow authors. I’m receptive to edits and constructive feedback. I listen when people give me advice, even if I don’t particularly agree with it. I take suggestions to heart and do my best to improve myself and my work.
5: Be a good citizen of our community.
If you read something, review it on Amazon and/or Goodreads. If you liked it, promote it. Tweet about it. Share it on Facebook. Tell the author. Watch out for the little guy and try to help where you can because there’s always someone out there newer than you. Beta read or even edit when you can; it’s great experience.
Make friends without the goal of climbing some kind of imaginary ladder. Talk (about something other than yourself). Share. Reach out. Create a network of people you can talk to, even go to for help or advice when you need it. Networking creates relationships. It gives you a leg up in that if someone is working on a project and it’s something in your wheelhouse, they’ll know how to find you and they’ll be far more likely to if you’re pleasant and approachable.
7: DON’T BE AN ASS!!!!
It bears repeating.
And there you have it!