Publication is not a zero sum game.
What’s a zero sum game, you ask? Say you have a city with 500,000 citizens and 5 hospitals that serve 100,000 people each. In order for Hospital A to gain new clientele, it must lure patients away from Hospitals B, C, D and E. Growth for one organization means a decline for the others in this closed system scenario.
Over the years, I noticed a lot of fear among writers (pubbed and unpubbed) that one author’s success somehow comes at the expense of another’s, as though there is some arbitrary limit to the number of books/stories that readers will purchase in any given year.
Possibly it is human nature to think in terms of scarcity rather than abundance. Certainly over the last few decades, traditional publishers have slashed the ranks of their mid-list authors and poured their money into larger advances for fewer writers. Perhaps this has left folks with the impression that the pursuit of a publishing contract is a competition for finite resources where there is only so much to go around. So on the surface, it may appear that fear of someone else’s success is justifiable.
But I’m going to make two arguments against that premise.
First. As a reader, I am always on the lookout for a good story. Always. As a romance reader, I fall into that happy category of buyers who purchase multiple books a month, if not a week. There are a lot of us out there. So if Loretta Chase, Eileen Wilks, and Kristan Higgins all come out with a release one week and my friend recommends a debut author’s new book too, hello, I’m buying all 4 books. I am voracious and I am not alone.
Second. With the proliferation of indy-publishing and electronic readers, there has been a commensurate explosion of opportunity for writers. You don’t “write to the market” and no publisher will sign you? You’ve been cut by your publisher after a so-so book or two? Today you have options online that simply didn’t exist a couple of years ago.
So an audience hungry for stories exists. As does an accessible, flexible and powerful set of online tools for marketing and distribution.
Someone once told me that FEAR stands for False Expectations Appearing Real.
It is a fallacy to believe that another person’s success impedes one’s own. To a large extend, success in publication will always remain a crapshoot. You can’t make people buy your books. But you can control your output and attitude. Write the best stories you can. Woo your current and/or would-be readers. Be kind to yourself and to others. And know this to be true: Publication is not a zero sum game. Good stories find their ways into the hands of readers and that’s a win-win for all of us.
What do you think?
Did I make my case?
Do you agree there’s room for all of us at the table?
Or have I got rose-colored shades blinding me to the realities of the publishing industry?