I’ve been hearing a lot lately about rivalry in the writing and publishing industries. And it’s a sad state of affairs. Because it’s complete and utter nonsense.
Rivalry is an alluring demon for authors (and, indeed, reviewers). For one thing, the very nature of writing – a solitary activity, which rarely if ever allows for human interaction in the physical act itself – can make the loveliest, gentlest human into a raving, paranoid lunatic.
For instance, by the time a writer emerges from the Nth draft of their novel, covered in the primordial goo of self-doubt, the blinding fog that is fear of failure, never mind that murky quicksand which is the fear of success, the public domain can look like a row of guns and spears, all pointing at you. Some of them will just shoot you where you stand. You’ll manage to run into the spears all by yourself. But it all looks terribly nasty. (And that’s enough sloppy metaphors.)
Reviewers will slate you. Family and friends will lie, but secretly think you are an absolute imbecile and lose all respect for you. Publishers will print out your first chapter just to burn it. And other authors will make it impossible for you to be successful, by stealing your ideas, taking away all your prospective readers, and lying about you.
Any writer who puts their work into the public domain is looking for positive feedback. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar. If they’re not looking for praise, sales, or even just readers (which are a form of praise in themselves), they would never have shown their work to anyone other than their mothers. This makes the writer needy, and there is nobody more paranoid, more convinced that there are dark forces working against them, than the needy person.
Thusly does the rivalry issue come into play. But there are several reasons why authors should never view other people in the industry as rivals, ever. Here are some of them.
1. Other writers are the best support you’re ever going to get.
Maybe I’m just an innocent little fool because I live in Dublin where 99.67% of the industry professionals and writers I’ve ever met have been uncommonly nice to each other. Successes are celebrated. Major successes actually inspire others to think they have the potential to do the same. Hands are shaken and carbonated alcoholic beverages are bought and links are tweeted and posts are shared and smiles are frequent. If it wasn’t for other writers in this country, many writers would not be writers.
Who else can celebrate your successes, commiserate over your failures, or encourage you to persevere, better than another writer? Go on, people. Find a fellow scribe today, and hug them tight.
2. Similar writers are not your rivals. They are your meal ticket.
Let’s say my crime novel – about a psychopathic granny who kills young drug dealers on her estate – has been searching for, but failing to find a publisher, for the past 2 years.
And let’s say that last Friday, the most successful crime writer in America published a book (in a genre now informally known as “Granny Noir”), about a sociopathic formerly retired serial killer who systematically demises a gang of youngsters terrorising her neighbourhood, and got straight to number 1. It’s tempting to think that I’ve been destroyed by the competition, isn’t it?
But hang on. If they liked that book, why wouldn’t they like mine? The other author won’t be coming up with a sequel for another year. What will their fans do in the meantime? They’ll be looking for something similar, that’s what. And that’s where I come in.
Worried you’ll be accused of being derivative? Well, tough. There hasn’t been a new idea since Homer, really. And he probably nicked all of his.
3. There is more room for you in the market than you think.
You might write 1 book a year. A reader might read 5, or even 50. That’s a lot more books than will even be written by you and all the other authors they like in 1 year. Do the math: if your book is good, and you know your target market – particularly if it’s already there, and doesn’t have to be newly created – then why can’t you capitalise on the numbers?
Also, don’t forget that other writers are readers too: they are a whole other market, and more receptive to marketing on social media than the average bear, because they’re using it for that purpose too. Engaging with other writers, particularly reading their work, will get you more readers. That’s the way it works.
4. Reviewers are not your rivals either. They are people with sometimes loud and disagreeable opinions who love books as much as you do. If they offend you, ignore them.
If you don’t like a review, try to remember that negative reviews balance out the positive ones and very often make the positive reviews look more authentic. Even if you think a review is really nasty and vindictive, then engaging in a war of words can lend credence to it. It’s not personal. It’s definitely best to walk away. Sorry. But that’s the way it is.
Because what’s the worst case scenario, really?
There’s always one who’s going to say “but this other author/reviewer/girl I hated in high school is writing nasty things about me on the Webernet and out to destroy me and everything they say is lies”. That may well be the case. This happens. Rarely, but it happens. But for the love of sausages, who’s listening to them? Even if they say your entire book was ripped off from Chapter 7 of Harry Potter and the Pot Full of Dosh?
If they have a point, then I’m afraid it can’t be helped. But if you didn’t rip it off, what benefit is there in getting defensive about it? You’ll never change their minds.
Even if you are 100% certain (which you could never be, in fairness) that nasty comments and reviews are destroying a significant portion of your book sales, you are wasting a lot of creative energy on anger and worry, which could be spent on writing more stuff which could capitalise on your name being discussed in the first place.
And, above all, you’re assuming that readers can’t see through what you think is a pointlessly vindictive review. Readers are not silly. They are lovely. And they will make up their own minds.
5. If you worry that other writers are better than you, then either work on improving your writing, or stop being so critical of yourself.
Sometimes I’ll read something which is so bloody brilliant I’m tempted to just stop writing altogether. I start thinking – if I’m never going to be as good as X, why continue writing ABC?
Well, because I might get better at it, that’s why.
In the meantime, I could just try to be less pessimistic. (Although if I do that, I’ll be deported from Ireland, so it’s a two-edged sword.)
So there we go. Do you feel differently? Or do anyone have a splendid feel-good story about writer-ly support or inspiration? Do tell!
Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Meet New (to me) Authors Blog and commented:
Sage Advice for Authors 😀
A great piece, spot on (as usual!)
Here’s an idea: maybe we should organise a joint blog tour – four or five of us “rival” authors getting together as a collective for a virtual tour among readers, with Q&As, “readings”, virtual food in the intervals (literary recipes). A band of writers, in a sort of online literary equivalent of the “Peripheral Visionaries” musical tour – see http://nickkelly.ie/peripheral-visionaries-irish-tour-ette/
Next autumn perhaps, as a sort of online travelling “winter school”?
Now we’re talking, Mel! A prime example of how we pull together. As long, of course, as “a band of writers” doesn’t get misconstrued by some of our more sensitive colleagues as a Gang Of Marauding Violent Thugs, Trawling The Internet For Victims. That would rather defeat the purpose.
Definitely up for having a chat about that, though. Let Us Make A Plan. I love the idea of an online winter school. It’d knock the politicians off their theoretical pedestals, for starters (not to mention make us sound TERRIBLY posh)
Of course, killing rivalries between wordsmiths is why we took up drinking to begin with! Slainte!
But hey, if we all got on, it’d just be another reason to drink (celebration), right? I mean, as if we needed one!
Reblogged this on Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing and commented:
5 reasons why you should give the Evil Green-eyed Monster its walking papers and get on with working together with ALLl other writers and authors. It makes everyone successful!
That’s the idea, anyway. If it doesn’t work for someone, I’ll just sidle away, saying something meaningful and pithy, such as “you’re doing it wrong” 😉
Reblogged this on Author P.S. Bartlett and commented:
A funny thing happened as I read this blog. Of course I took away the obvious message but beneath that, it dawned on me who my target audience for “Fireflies” and “Hope From the Ocean” should be.
In direct reference to this blog, I have witnessed these things between other authors but thankfully, have not “felt” them personally. I suppose these literary rivalries have been going on since the chisel and tablet. I agree it’s about time it stops. I’d love to raise a glass with some fellow writers sometime. Although in the real world, I’m painfully shy. 😉 Thank you so much Tara for your brilliant insight!
Thank you P.S. Bartlett! I’m delighted that you had a lightbulb over the head moment even if it was by accidental association!
As for the post, at the risk of sounding like a 1970s beauty contestant, I really just want world peace. I’m starting with writers. I’ll let you know how I’m getting on.
“But why? If they liked that book, why wouldn’t they like mine? The other author won’t be coming up with a sequel for another year. What will their fans do in the meantime? They’ll be looking for something similar, that’s what.” <— the light bulb and this idea didn't come out of anyone pilfering my stories but rather realizing that there ARE stories similar to mine that readers have read and probably want more of! I had been feeling so lost in a sea of sex, dragons and psychopaths that I forgot there are times when people want to read about love and family and honor too. (Now there's an idea for a book!) 🙂 So now I'm on the hunt for lovers of stories like Little Women, The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie. Where the heck do I start? lol
Seeing as those books continue to be read by hoards in every generation, I would say start with the fans of these very books. People keep reading the classics because they want what they give them – there isn’t a single reason why yours can’t be modern classics (other than not putting them out there!)
Thank you teacher. I have my homework for tonight. 🙂
Great stuff. I suggest the literary band has to be at least a four-piece, with the literary equivalent of a loud female drummer or bass player (as in Sonic Youth, The Go-Betweens or Talking Heads)
Oh PLEASE let that be me. I’m begging you. I’ll get the tattoos and everything and shave one side of my head. PLEASE.
Reblogged this on blindoggbooks and commented:
I’ve seen the rivalry between writers first hand – it is an ugly beast indeed.
I’ve seen friendships ruined over petty jealousy and I’ve seen writers refuse to associate with other writers if there wasn’t enough promise of a positive career boost. This sort of thinking hurts everybody.
As independent authors we should be taking advantage of our numbers and helping each other at every turn.
There is no downside to working together.
Thank you to Tara Sparling for reinforcing my thoughts!!
That’s a great point, Tim – I honestly can’t think of one downside to writers working together. Unless they’re working with someone they never ever agree with, of course!
*Tries to hug Tara as she’s clapping*
Well said (as usual). Best things I can say about this is to go out and join a writer’s community whether it’s online or down the pub – they’re all over and all you have to do is look around 😉
It’s a new exercise regime I’ve invented, Jan. Writers try to hug me as I run away from them, throwing positive reinforcements over my shoulder. It’s going quite well: I lost a gramme last week.
And you’re right – writer’s groups and communities are the absolute business. Without my writer’s group, I would never have got past 40,000 words of 1 novel, let alone 3.
Was in a hurry when I saw this first and didn’t read the ‘winter school’ idea properly – great idea!
Consider me signed up 😉
Reblogged this on Faith Simone and commented:
Humorous and oh so true!
Thank you Faith – my pleasure 🙂
Great post, Tara. Totally agree about the benefits and need for writerly camaraderie and community and I can’t wax lyrical enough about the sublime loveliness that is a writer’s group and the fabulous friendships to be found there. I’d be a sad non-writing couch potato without mine! World writing (and all forms of other) peace to all please!
Huzzah! Next stop, people prone to road rage! 🙂
Yeah, this is awesome. That is all. As you were!
As I was? Oh, dear. Back to beating the Internet with a fluffy duster it is, then 🙂
:D! Just the image I needed on this pathetic Thursday morning. You’ve just single-handedly saved the day. Brava!
Actually… If you know any illustrators who could get that image on paper for me, I’d bake everyone an exceedingly large cake…
Great article and I totally agree with what you say! I tried reblogging this myself but it didn’t want to play.
Aw, naughty WordPress! Hopefully it’ll fix itself. Also, thank you…
I have seen far too many authors going at each other’s throats lately. It’s a shame. I am grateful for the writers in my life. I don’t know what I’d do without them! I love supporting my ‘friendies’ as I like to call them. xx
I find that supporting other authors is like a rounds system in a pub. The more you give out, the more you get back, and the drunker you become. Sort of. 😉
in which case, I’ve always got a hangover-HAHA! Always happy to support my ‘friendies’. And hello to you. 🙂
May I repost?????????
Of course, and gladly too…
Awesome rant, Tara!
We writers are such a solitary lot that it helps to have someone kick us in the ass (both physical and metaphorical) – we just need to realize that that in and of itself is a form of support. We can be such a touchy lot 😉 I belong to two writers groups, one for support and one for critiquing and a local writers’ community where I get discounts on workshops – and I go to 2 writing conferences every year… what can I say, I’m a glutton for punishment but being an English teacher my appetite for information is voracious.
Thanks, M.J. It’s hard to take criticism. It’s even harder to deliver it in a way which will actually be helpful for the people who are asking us for help. But both skills are vital for writers to improve and hone their own skills. If I hadn’t taken the excellent advice given to me by my own writer’s group, I’d not only be an absolute twit, but my writing would be all the poorer for it. It’s tempting to think that other writers have an ulterior motive when they’re finding problems in your work – but what good would that do anyone, really?
Reblogged this on MARSocial Author Business Enhancement Interviews.
Hi Tara, this decreases the intimidation many of us feel when we another book/novel with the same genre as ours. Thanks. Kharis Macey
Thanks, Kharis! Any time something is of some small use to somebody, I do my happy dance :0
I’m reblogging this, Tara, if you don’t mind.It’s very true that support and encouragement is the way to go in this industry and craft. Indie or self published writers are very quick to share what works for them and are a great source of help and information for aspiring/emerging authors who would like to follow in their footsteps. David Gaughran, Joanna Penn, Orna Ross and Hugh Howie are just a few who can be found giving great advice and keep us up to date, either on their blogs or on Youtube.
Reblog at will, Jean! Those sites and writers are indeed excellent… Invaluable advice for all writers, whether self-published or not, and good examples of how support also breeds success.
Wow Tara, maybe I should come live in Dublin. I guess lots of green highly correlates with nicer people 😉
Once upon a time when I got it in my little dreamy head that I could author a book (ah, the good ol’ days), whenever I read an awesome book I wished if the name on the cover was MINE.
Fast-forward to the present, still not too far from the start line, and wishing if someone else could take this damn story I love so much and do it justice. I wouldn’t mind if they plastered THEIR name on the cover.
This is the writerly reality that I currently live in. There was a time when I envied a successful début or a bestseller. But now that I have tastes bit of the hardship they must have gone through, really, all I can think of saying to them now is CONGRATULATIONS YOU REALLY DONE IT YOU ARE THE BEST.
No one could be a better friend to a writer than another writer or an artist. Simple as that.
The other writers whose success we envy, they themselves have gone through the things we are currently wrestling with.
And if they or anyone else happen to be rude, then they don’t deserve a drop of our energy or emotion. We’re creators. There are a lot more important things calling for our attentions.
It’s really hard to adopt the right kind of attitude when we’re putting so much of ourselves into our work. But there we are, living in this paradox called artisism.
Perhaps we shouldn’t think of any writers in terms of “best”! It’s not a sport, and there’s room for many tens of so-called winners every single year, which is a bit more optimistic… it is hard to adopt the right attitude, you hit the nail on the head. But sometimes we need to step away from it, to appreciate it.
Ah, about advice #5, my strategy these days is to either read or write. NEVER BOTH AT ONCE. When I finish reading a book, and most books are, let’s face it, awesome one way or the other, I feel like I’m the shittist imposter of a writer who still can’t get their past perfect progress right, and then I go into my reclusive anti-self cocoon. Watching stuff and reading comics is alright, but never a worded, novel-lengthed book with no pictures. So far I worked for me, but let’s see how long will the good feel last.
Ah, but we can’t go around constantly comparing ourselves. Maybe if you tried reading a completely different genre?
Everything I read kinda influences me, but nowadays I feel more confident the more I write. But you’re right, we have to learn to let go of that kind of thinking (I mean comparing ourselves with others).
Sorry if my previous post sounded like a rant. The article is nice, and timely.
This is the most uplifting thing I’ve read all day.
And that was the same for me. Thank you!
I love this so much. I’m not an amazingly optimistic person, but this is making me feel like one. But don’t worry, the not so optimistic side of me does not show at all in my writing.
The thing you said about HP really hit home, because I’m writing a book based on what I thought it would be like before I read it. Most of my friends think it’s good but far too like it. It’s called Legend Sybil, a boy who grew up in an orphanage, to one day be ushered out the door of the orphanage by a girl a year older than himself, (ten) and into a stagecoach. It takes off to a city of tents called Egalliv, where they buy schools supplies, find out his talents of talking to animals and having telekinesis, and meet some of his best friends along with his twin sister. They take him to the school of magic, where he will stay until he is eighteen, named Yriaf. In Yriaf, a special tree has an even more special bench that can only be seen by special people and tgeir trueloves. (Makes it simple for him in finding out his truelove, but that won’t be beought up until later books, as he only turns ten in this book.) One of his friends was taken from the orphanage as well, named Ginger. Her parents were killed by a dragon which she goes to in turn kill. She ends up not killing it, but befriending it. At the end of the book, it is discovered his parents were never dead, but had not wanted him, as they had been trying to destroy the world, but being clumsy, new villains, they had accidentally saved it from the real villain. He was not allowed to be adopted by anyone.
Hope you liked it. That was a very messy taste of the plot. If you really think about it, it isn’t too much like HP, but still…
If any of you experienced authors have any pointers, thanks!
Thanks again, Tara! (And sorry if you didn’t really want a story plot in the comments. Just couldn’t help but explain why the HP thing hit home! 😉☺️
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Thanks for your comment, Ajsk. You know there are very few truly original stories, so everything depends on how you tell it. I’m not really best place to give advice, but I will just say that in my own experience I’ve found it’s very hard to summarise a plot in a way which elicits the sort of reaction a writer wants, whereas it’s very easy to get discouraged by a lukewarm response! It’s a minefield, so mind yourself putting your plots out there 😉