Authors, Cooperation, and Competition.

(c) JordyR (Creative Commons - Flickr)

(c) JordyR (Creative Commons – Flickr)

There are millions upon millions of books in the world and almost as many authors, published and unpublished. There are people like me, who share as much knowledge and information as possible. Others are far more competitive in nature, viewing other authors as enemies to be defeated.

Disclaimer: opinions ahead. I'm not prefacing every single one of my thoughts with a ‘in my opinion.' Assume it's there, since this is and opinion piece.

I hesitate to use the phrase ‘all authors' here. Every last one of us has a different reason for writing. Some want money, some want fame, some want both, some want to tell stories and don't care about the money, some do it on a dare and end up succeeding at a tough career, and some fall into it. No matter what the reason for writing and publishing books, like it or not, we're all in it together.

It doesn't matter if you're traditionally published. It doesn't matter if you're self-published, either. Each and every one of us faces similar challenges. There are variations, of course. Traditionally published authors are facing shrinking advances, fewer contracts, and dying series, sacrifices to the machine that is the publishing industry. Self-published authors have to defy skepticism and doubt from the world. Traditionally published books have gone down in quality while self-published books are going up in quality, and the two are meeting in the middle.

In all honesty, it's a bit of a blood bath, really. I spent a lot on a traditionally published book last year–almost twenty dollars–only to find it riddled with errors. (There was even html code in one chapter, which made my jaw drop.)

This was a book written by a critically acclaimed bestselling author in the fantasy genre. This was a huge release for the book's publisher, and it had basic formatting errors in it.

It has gotten to the point a traditional publisher is not a guarantee of quality. The gatekeepers, as the industry calls the big publishers, have abandoned their posts in more ways than one, and it's a sad thing.

Authors are paying the price for this in more ways than one. While the traditional publishers scramble to survive in a world where it's getting easier and easier to publish a good-quality book, self-publishers are fighting to improve their reputation.

I'm definitely one of the ones trying to meet–or exceed–traditional publisher book quality. Am I there yet? In my opinion, no. I can do better, and I want to do better.

But, I've noticed a lot of posts where people are trying to reignite the feud between self-published and traditional published authors, and this is hurting all of us. We're giving each other bad reputations.

At the end of the day, we're writers. Some of us choose to bypass the gatekeepers. Maybe our books aren't mainstream enough–mine certainly aren't. I write edgier fiction. I write fiction for people like me, people who enjoy trying to puzzle things together, people who don't want everything handed to them on a silver platter, people who want to explore a world by walking through it rather than reading through twenty pages of exposition at the beginning of the book.

I'm in a narrow audience, and I know it. I write more mainstream stories, but even my Witch & Wolf novels are not intended to be easy, casual reads. They're meant to fit somewhere between thriller and mind fuck. I own this. I pay for it in reviews when readers just don't want that sort of read.

I understand I will likely never be a bestselling author, not because of the quality of my work, but rather the nature of it. I don't write erotica. My sex fades to black on the page. My stories aren't for everyone–or even most people.

My successes and failures have absolutely no affect on any other author's. That's it. It doesn't matter who my competition is. Why? Every reader has a different interest. Some will love my books, others will hate them. If I don't do a good job of connecting with a reader, they will move to a different author. End of story. Another author's work does not make it any easier or harder to forge a connection with a reader. That's all on me.

If they don't resonate with my books and writing, they don't resonate. If they don't resonate, they won't buy my books.

It doesn't matter if I self-publish, traditionally publish, dance naked under a blooming cherry tree in the spring, or yodel from a mountain top. If my writing doesn't resonate with a reader, that is no one's fault except my own.

Authors cooperate with each other all the time, and shockingly, everyone benefits. Some review books. Some host guest posts written by other authors. Some just share a post about a new book release. There are lots of ways authors help each other, even if it's listening when the going gets tough

Competition is natural; I'm competitive by nature, but I'm not competing with other authors in the fiction world. I am competing with myself. I want to do better than I did last month. Some months I fail. Some months I do better.

could compete with authors who have more sales than me, but I don't see the point. It's hurtful to me and to my intended target. It doesn't help either one of us out. It doesn't help sales. It doesn't help me connect with readers.

I will say what authors screaming at each other does: it hurts us all. When we get up in arms because we don't like what this person did, we all look bad.

Authors together are far more effective than authors divided. There are bad people out there. There are authors who are just bad people, who just want to make money, and who don't actually care about books.

Fuck those people.

I'm of the firm belief there is one person an author should be concerned with: their next reader.

In-fighting doesn't help us connect with readers. Competition can be a great motivator, but it's a bad thing, too. My performance is relevant to one person: me.

Don't judge yourself based on what I've accomplished. My books aren't yours. My experiences aren't yours. My audience probably isn't yours, neither… and that's okay.

Sharing knowledge, sharing resources, and sharing experiences helps us all grow. Competition can help us grow, too, but competitive cooperation is where the real money is at. If you're trying to write a better book, the readers benefit. You benefit. Everyone benefits.

If your competition is also trying to write a better book, the bar moves ever upwards.

Authors showcasing good books can help them float to the top among all the competition… but if you alienate those authors who could help lift you up, all you're doing is hurting yourself.

Those authors will go on to help someone else, and all you've done is lost yourself an opportunity. Being a writer is a lot like crossing a bridge. Other authors are often readers, and if you burn your bridges with them, all you're doing is burning your audience.

Consider that the next time you take aim at your fellow author, no matter how their books came to the market.

Leave a Comment:

Dave says April 18, 2016

Thank you. This is a GREAT post! I agree completely. Recently I was listening to a Podcast from a renowned suspense author who was interviewing a supposed Hollywood story consultant. The host didn’t have any kind words for self-published authors and his guest was really harsh on them. It was very eye-opening! I thought it was hurtful to the both of them at best (it made them sound jealous of successful self-pub’ers) and not beneficial to the writing world at worst. It caused me to unsubscribe from the Podcast.

Martyn Stanley says May 20, 2016

Great post. I totally agree. I know my books aren’t for everyone, hell they are probably marmite books, some seem to love them and some seem to hate them. They’re certainly not publishable the traditional way I think because of the non-standard themes and the unusual structure and lengths.

I really started because I had a story I had to tell. Once I started and I got slated for poor formatting/proofing/editing etc – I decided if I was going to tell the story I was bloody well going to tell it well and I re-wrote the book, proofed it edited it and polished it with the help of a small group of very helpful and talented people.

For me, the thing I write for – it’s the positive feedback. I don’t earn and serious money off books, but I love reading and hearing people’s thoughts about my books! It’s the best feeling in the world sharing your ideas with people.

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