Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Don't be fooled, writers DO compete against one another

There are two types of fiction writers. There's the kind who gets along with other writers, which is the most common of writers among writers. Then there's the writer who doesn't get along with other writers, and usually he or she is the kind of person who doesn't get along with anyone.

In a fair world, one might argue the writer who doesn't get along with anyone will not have a career as a writer. In many cases, that is the truth. But not always. There are a number of professional fiction authors, none of whom I'll name, who have a good career despite the fact they can be a perfect pain to the rest of us. Sometimes those writers have "made it" because they're just that good, they truly are gifted. Others had a stroke of luck at some point or other. But really that's the truth for all writers.

Some of us are good. Others are lucky. Most of us are a mix of the two, and being hard working doesn't hurt either.

But today I'm going to focus on the writers who tend to get along with everyone.

Quite often writers join or form a sort of family of writers. Sometimes writers become buddies with other writers or editors or publishers they've met at conventions. Other times writers are pals with folks they've befriended online in one venue or another. Or maybe a writer becomes chummy with others in his or her's local reading group.

All too often authors suggest all writers are one big, happy family and none of us are competing against one another.

Don't you believe it.

Sure, there are potentially millions upon millions of potential fiction readers out there, and theoretically it's just as likely one of those readers will pick up one of your books as it is they'll pick up something I've written. But that's not reality.

The reality is that we writers and authors and novelists, whatever you want to call us, are in competition for readers. While there might be millions of readers available, they can only read so much. And with every writer hoping to "make it," and considering just how difficult it is to "make it," competition becomes a natural.

The Internet also has given way to this impression of a lack of real competition by the very factor the Internet seems so huge and open. For readers, it's the most gigantic library or book store of all time. Everything is right there at our fingertips for reading, or buying and then reading. With so much available and in a book store that's virtually limitless, what need is there for competition?

Lots. Tons. I have to make a living as a writer. So do many other people. While the gigantic book store might seem limitless, the pocket books of potential buyers is not limitless. Nor is their amount of reading time.

I'm not suggesting authors must be antagonistic towards one another. A big explosive scene in the public eye (aka the World Wide Web) will draw in some potential readers early on, but in the long run it's going to drive them away. Why? Because everyone is going to remember how much of an ass a particular author was, and they'll be more likely to avoid his or her work in the future, especially after they make sure to tell all their online buddies about how big an ass that certain author was.

The best things a writer can do to compete with others writers is to write the best story they possibly can, then to promote it as best as possible. And keep in mind the unfortunate truth that many readers' decisions upon which novel or short story to pick up next are based upon factors having nothing to do with the quality of a writer's work. Sometimes it's the cover artwork that draws in or turns off readers. Other times it's a blurb on the book itself, or a review. There are tons of factors, thus the appeal to self-publishing or self electronic publishing for many writers because it allows them to keep more control over their work.

In the end, I want my readers. But I also want your readers. I won't begrudge you having your readers, and I'll hope your readers will stick with you if they also happen to pick up something I've written. But if I can outright steal some of your readers away, I'm not going to lose sleep over it.

Just means you have to write better the next time. Which then means I'll have to write better the next time after that. And so on and so forth.

Competition. It can make you a better writer.

Or at least you'd better hope it will.

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