Friday, May 27, 2011

Hate Propagates Part Deux - The Competition Equation

Note from the Author: Wow, guys.  Thank you so much for the all the generous tweets, comments and general discussion yesterday.  It was so encouraging to me personally.  You have my genuine gratitude - and excitement.  I felt a real sense of comraderie amongst writers yesterday.  #woot!

Of all the comments and tweets I received regarding my last post, one thing became clear: Many attributed Hater attitudes to jealousy or stress. 

This is an important point because it identifies our core understanding of things like business, branding and audience / platform development.

My last full time job was as Project and Client Manager for one of New Zealand's leading visionaries in Branding.   This was a guy that pretty much introduced New Zealand to the concept that:

Branding isn't about logos.  It's about building a community of like-minded people.  It's about telling customers that buying into your service or product means they're into a group of people they want to identify with.  Good branding means developing business strategies primarily based around the message a business communicates, rather than the produce or service it's selling.

(I can talk about that stuff all day, so if you aren't familiar with it, feel free to drop me a line.  I think it's crucial for writers to understand the truth about branding and marketing - and that those things are no longer primarily visual.)

Right, so, back to the whole jealousy thing...

I received several tweets regarding yesterday's post that reference jealousy, tall poppy syndrome, etc, etc, etc, as a driver for writers hating on each other.  There were also one or two comments that touched on it.   The word that kept popping up was 'competition'. 

But I believe writers need to stop seeing each other as competition. We are part of one of the few industries in which 'competition' isn't mutually exclusive.  (Ergo, it isn't really competition).

True competition means the purchase of an item from one establishment precludes the purchase of that item from somewhere else. 

That means book stores are in competition because on any given shopping trip, they're hoping the customer walks into the establishment to buy your book from them.

(Side Note: That also means self-publishing companies are in competition with each other over their customers: the Writers.  They want you to choose their service over someone elses).

Competition doesn't mean "Do I like that story better, or that one?".

The whole idea behind being a writer is to come up with somethign unique.   The assertion that if a reader buys Lauren DeStefano's Awesomesauce Book it means they won't buy mine is laughable.  Real readers are voracious.  Most can't afford to buy as many books as they can read.  They're 'reduced' to taking books out of the library (another worthy customer). 

If a reader wants your book, they'll find it, one way or the other.  We aren't competing with other authors - we're only competing with the subjective measure of what the reader is looking for.

If I walk into a bookstore and don't find anything really interesting I walk out without buying.  I don't pick up a book off the shelf because it's the best of a bad lot. 

Readers don't read The Hunger Games then refuse to ever pick up another author.  Quite the contrary.

I believe there's an argument that a really good book whets the reader's appetite for more - from other authors.  A great writer selling lots of books can spur an entire movement in the reading world (Wizards anyone?  Vampires?).

Fiction readers are looking for an experience. If your book promises what they're looking for, you're in.  If not, you're out. 

So the only point authors actually compete is in garnering a publishing contract in the first place.  There are only so many successful agents out there.  There are only so many slots on the Publisher's lists. 

Once you've got your name on a book, you're just like everyone else.  It's the reader's chance to decide whether you've got a desireable product or not.  And that is where the rubber hits the road.

If your story doesn't sell, don't hate on other writers.  They didn't write it. 

Let's stop seeing each other's successes as a measure of our own failures (or visa versa), and start celebrating the fact that readers keep reading and we have an ongoing opportunity to develop a story to catch their attention.

As long as you keep writing, you have an opportunity to sell a book. 

No matter who else is out there, if your story isn't good enough, it won't get picked up.  Don't whine about it.  Keep writing.  Make that book better, or write another one.  If it is good enough, you'll sell it and readers will find it.

Let your story do the talking.  Not your slam-stick.

Are you with me?


  1. Wow. Just... wow. This is one of the best articles I've read all week. You are so "on the money" with this that I feel like I should pay you for the privilege of reading it. Amazing. And I sincerely hope that every writer who reads this, whether they are published or not, gives heartfelt consideration to the message here.

  2. With you 100%. It's so sad that people measure themselves by other people's successes or failures. Life (and specifically writing)is specifically about your own journey. It's sort of like doing yoga too. If you're looking at the other guy and thinking that you're doing better than him, you're missing the point. The point is to discover whether or not you're GOOD ENOUGH. Not better or worse.

    If we learn to apply this to life and writing, life would be lots easier, because we'd be minding our own business enough to give people the space to do theirs.

  3. This is invaluable advice. I have a younger cousin who wants to ask me about becoming a writer. I think this might be the first thing I get him to read.

  4. I'm with you. It's all about the story. Which makes this business at once the most harsh and the most rewarding.

  5. All I can say is, after reading this post and the page about you, is that you are awesome. Thank you for posting this. New fan here.

  6. Thank you for this on the money post. I love discovering new writers. Just because I read one author more, doesn't mean I won't read anyone else.

  7. I absolutely agree. As writers we're tremendously lucky, in that another author's success does not preclude our own. In fact, if a particular author gets a reader interested in a whole new genre, that author has done every single other author in that genre a huge service, as they will now fall under a new reader's radar. It's a gift, not a curse.

    As you say, the competition is for the attention of agents and publishers, and there's really not much a writer can do about those people's individual tastes. E-publishing has certainly levelled the playing field in that a writer is selling direct to a reader and the reader gets to choose what they do or don't like, not an agent or a publisher.

    (Not that the latter don't have their place. I'm just saying...)

  8. Completely with you on this. Wonderful post!

  9. Totally agree! The other thing is, most writers are also voracious readers aren't they? I'm an aspiring writer but I love books and I love people who write the books I love. It's a joy to promote them - and to learn from them. At least if I never write a book that sells, I can always escape into other people's books to cheer me up!

    I love this line: "If your story doesn't sell, don't hate on other writers. They didn't write it."

  10. Great article!

    Can't we just be happy for other people's successes and hope that they in turn will get a chance to be happy about ours.

    Play nice and hope that people are nice in return.

    So what if someone who started writing after you gets published first, it isn't about being fair. Get back in the writing seat and write something else and be glad of their success.

    What can you learn from their success

  11. Me like! A lot of the hating does come from jealousy. I've felt it myself. Often we only see the finished, edited product of other writers, and it looks so easy, when for us, writing is really hard.

    Truth is, it's hard for everybody. Everybody struggles and hustles and works hard for their success. It says something good about us as people when we can be happy for the success of others.

    The journey of writing is a personal success that can bring just as many intangible rewards and satisfactions as the outer rewards of marketing success. Those rewards are available to every writer that successfully finishes a good story.