Authors like to talk about how we aren’t all in competition with each other. This is both true and false. There is some truth in it because readers don’t just read ONE author or ONE book ever. (Well, some do, but many do not.) So a reader buying J.R. Ward isn’t going to necessarily not buy me. And many readers read in specific genres, so… for the most part, an author who writes westerns is not going to be competition for an author who writes erotica.
However, human beings have limited resources, both of time and of money. So while it isn’t necessarily true that a reader buying J.R. Ward will never read me… a reader buying and reading 30 different authors who are not me, may not ever read me because they have plenty of other stuff to read that they’re happy with. So yes, other authors are your competition.
Another way to look at this is that if we aren’t all “competing” then why are there bestseller lists? If there is no competition then why does the NYT bestseller list matter to anyone? Why do people scream and jump up and down and tell their friends when they get into the top 100 of the Amazon Kindle store?
Make no mistake… we are in a competitive industry and we are competing. It doesn’t mean the competition has to be nasty or rude. It doesn’t mean we can’t band together with some other authors and help each other out. But it does mean that we need to logically look at the situation and stop pretending the laws of economics somehow mystically don’t apply to us.
Writers are traditionally horrible business people, so it should be no surprise that most have no concept that we are actually in competition with each other.
Many people try to discourage authors from self-publishing with all kinds of fake reasons, but the bottom line is that indie authors pose a threat. Indie authors are ANOTHER layer of competition. When everyone was funneled through the same narrow gates to achieve publication, readers had less choices and there was less competition.
With so few readers compared to other types of entertainment and so many people wanting to write and now self-publish, rest assured, indie authors are a threat. If someone is reading 10 talented indies, that’s less odds they’ll read a NY book, where the author’s contract depends on maintaining a certain level of interest in his or her work.
This isn’t to say readers will read “only” NY books or “only” indie books. It rarely works out that way. But I think it’s important to remember we are ALL competing, whether we like it or not. That’s what business is. A competition.
Indies and trad pubbed authors are all competing for the same limited pool of readers… and a small portion of their available money and time.
So what is the solution to this? It all seems rather grim. Keep your eyes on your own paper. Work on connecting with and finding YOUR readers. Work on building your platform. Focus on YOUR work. It’s competitive, but everything in life human beings actually WANT to do is competitive. If you don’t like the nature of competition, apply to be a janitor. It’s probably less competitive.