Sunday, March 15, 2015

Writing Isn't A Zero Sum Game

I've never understood those who get mad at the success of another, especially in writing.  There's a perception among some that if one writer is doing well, then another writer must be getting eaten.  This leads to jealousy and even sabotage of fellow writers, particularly in the traditional publishing world.

Does anyone really believe that if someone is reading Stephen King that they won't then read Timothy Zahn?  Unlike automobiles that are so expensive and overpowering that most people can only have and drive one at a time, books are cheap and don't intrude on each other.  Much like a movie, when I find something entertaining, I don't then find other stuff less so.  My degree of enjoyment is based on the quality of the writing, not whether there was another novel I enjoyed previously.

The backbiting I've seen has to stop.  We should be cheering on each others' success and sharing tips on how to get better rather than hoarding all the "good info" to ourselves.  I realize what a hippie I sound like right now, but there are times that rhetoric is true.  How are you as an author hurt when someone reads another person's book?  Shouldn't that point instead to a love of reading that might translate to what we've written too?

Your fellow writers aren't the enemy unless they take active steps to block your work from getting out.  In fact, the success of a similar novel should be touted, for it gives a potential customer something relatable to measure your work against.  If you're writing alternative history, you should want someone to read lots of Harry Turtledove because it'll spawn interest in the genre, thus increasing your potential sales.  If you write dystopian novels, then you should hope Hugh Howey's Wool does well since it'll generate comparisons to your own work that creates buzz.

Traditional publishing does this in other ways as well.  The old paradigm that a writer shouldn't publish more than on novel a year is based on the claptrap that more books will push the original/first out of the market.  That kind of perverted logic misses that several novels actually make people search through more books by the same author in order to keep reading what interests them.

Celebrate the success of other writers, and use them as a symbiotic springboard from which to ascend to new heights yourself.  If you do nothing but tear others down in the hopes of crawling over them, don't be surprised when the masses rise up and shove you back to the bottom of the pile.

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