I think I talked about this a couple of weeks ago, but it suddenly cropped up again. I’d like to make one thing clear to writers, particularly of the indie variety.
So you’re a writer. You wrote a book, and you poured your heart, soul, energy and time into it. It took a few months. A year. Maybe longer. After careful planning, editing (whether doing it yourself or paying someone to do it) and wrestling with yourself, you finally published it. A few months later, you’ve ran out of ways to market. You agonise over your low sales figures, and often think about packing in this writing lark altogether. Meanwhile, a writer friend (or acquaintance, perhaps) of yours makes writing, publishing and rolling in the bucks look easy. You’d never admit it to them, but their apparent success where you are failing makes you feel resentful, even jealous. “Why can’t I be like that?” you wonder, in the darkest recesses of your mind. “What makes their work any better than mine?”
I have one question for you. What the hell are you thinking?
Let me explain. Imagine that there are two businesses. Both offer products or services that are very similar. For the sake of argument, let’s say that these two businesses sell beauty products.
They design and sell lipsticks, mascara, eyeshadow and fake eyelashes – you get the idea. When one business successfully launches a product that sells hundreds of thousands of units, the other business suffers. They’re rivals, constantly trying to outdo one another, in the hope that they come out on top.
This is not the case for being a writer. Or any kind of artist, for that matter.
Readers don’t pick up one book, stick to it and make the author “win” above other authors. Readers read. They read books from a variety of authors, and their love for one writer doesn’t stop them reading others. Sure, they may have one or two favourites, but their love for one writer doesn’t put them off checking out others.
Unlike the two businesses competing for customers, other writers are not your rivals. They are your power.
Why do you think there are so many writing clubs and communities out there? Why do you think on social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook there are hundreds of online writing pages where people read each other’s work, review and recommend books they liked?
Because other writers are not your rivals. If you believe they are, and you let other people’s success upset you (or let their failures please you), then I’m afraid you won’t get very far. Writing is one beautiful, painful and precious art that writers and readers find utter joy in. Life’s a journey, not a destination. The only success that matters is your own.