On Rivals and Competition in the New World of Publishing

Ever since the news hit that respected thriller writers (who shall remain nameless here) had been using fake accounts to leave online reviews for their own books AND leaving disparaging reviews on their ‘rival’s’ books, two thoughts have been circling my mind:

  1. As Chuck Wendig mentioned on Terrible Minds, say what you will about how this affects authors, but the people this really affects are readers.

They’re the one damaged when fake reviews prosper and review systems become unreliable. Can most savvy readers tell a fake review from an authentic one? Sure. But they shouldn’t have to. It’s irritating and time-consuming. So, if you’re an author who is doing this or has done this, cut it out. You’re ultimately hurting readers. Shame on you.

2. Who has ‘rivals’ in writing?

This last thought has been bothering me most as a writer. Is there a competition that I’m not aware of? Do I have people out to get me? Are there back alley brawls with pale, strung-out writers wielding laptops and slinging cups of cold coffee on each other?

How does one go about getting an arch-enemy and can mine be Dr. Doofenshmirtz?

Maybe I sound naive, but this is a foreign concept to me. After all, I have lots of friends who are writers, and I want them to be successful. There’s not another author out there that I can point to and say, “I’d like that person to FAIL professionally.” And as a reader, I don’t look at books and say, “Well, these two authors seem to be writing in the same genre and I only have one steampunk slot available this month, so… you win! Suck it, losing author.”

After thinking about this for a while, I’ve decided that this is a leftover attitude from the traditional publishing world. After all, once upon a time, if you wanted to get published, you needed an agent. And that agent could only take on so many writers, so there was competition for attention. Big time.

And that agent had to shop your book to a publishing house, who could only publish so many books a year, so there was more competition. Even after you were published, there was competition for bookstore space! There was only so much shelf space, so you’d better stand out. After all, Barnes & Noble couldn’t put every contemporary romance out in front.

Yet more competition.

In this environment, it’s pretty easy to see how another author’s gain could be your loss. Of course rivalries would form. Of course they would be vicious. We’re talking about people’s livelihoods and ability to write and support their families. In a traditional publishing environment, rivalry and competition would be endemic.

So can I honestly say I’ve never felt that way? Yep.

Now, there have been times when I’ve thought, ‘Why is that author’s work doing well and mine isn’t? What is he or she doing that I’m not?’ but that’s not rivalry. A bit of jealousy? Well, sure. I’m no saint. But wishing failure for another, so I could succeed? Nope. Never.

Really.

But then, I became a published writer in this new world of self-publishing. A world where there is no competition for an agent, because I didn’t need one to get my book published. There was no limit on the number of submissions KDP, or PubIt, or Smashwords took. They have endless shelf space and everyone has the same amount of room.

In short, my success has never depended on someone else’s failure. 

And for that, I am incredibly grateful. Because it creates a totally different publishing world. A world where cooperation and collaboration are the norm, not the exception. A world where you can enjoy a fellow author’s success, knowing that more readers for him or her doesn’t mean fewer for you. I’m happy and proud to be part of this generation of writers.

It’s a new world, with more choice, more control, and endless electronic shelf space. So I’m not going to worry about rivals. Don’t need them. Don’t want them. I’d rather write books.

But… if I could swing Dr. Doofenshmirtz as a nemesis, that would rock.

Posted in Indie Authors, Publishing, Self-publishing, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , .

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