Friend or foe or friendly foe?

It occurred to me this morning as I read through the several writing blogs I follow that many of the people writing these blogs are, technically, my competitors.

What, you say? Your dear writer friends, who prop you up when you’re feeling down, leave comments of encouragement, and generally are the only ones rooting for you in the cruel world that is fiction-writing—they’re your competitors?

Apparently, I am not the first to have asked this question.

Well, from a business perspective, that’s what you’d have to call them. I’m trying to sell my product to an audience who has a need. My product is a book and the audience’s need is to be entertained. My book competes with millions of other books already written, being written, and soon-to-be-written for the eyeballs and attention (and dollars) of the reading public.

This was brought into especially sharp focus when I realized that at least one of these writers had also entered Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel contest—and advanced to the next round!

The odd thing is, I find myself excited for her rather than jealous. Maybe because there are so many writers out there and I know relatively few of them, it seems kinder and more helpful to think of the writers I know as friends rather than competitors, even if we are, on some level, competing with one another. Maybe I’d rather embrace the idea of “coopetition“—wherein companies in the same market cooperate on research and development while still competing to sell products—rather than looking at writing as a zero-sum game with a single winner.

Or maybe I’d just rather be part of a community of writers, even if it means remaining unknown, than to find myself all alone at the top. Other people seem to be thinking this way, too. Take a look at Novel Publicity’s Karmic Fan Chain on Goodreads.

So, thanks to a few of the members of the community who have cheered me on and give me daily inspiration (alphabetically by first name in the great tradition of the Amazon contest winners announcement (link is a PDF)): August McLaughlin, Carrie Rubin, Catana, Cynthia Robertson, and Kourtney Heintz. I’m happy to count you among my friends.

Don’t forget

If you’re anywhere near Menlo Park, CA, on Sunday, March 4: top by Kepler’s Books at 2 p.m. to hear authors (including me!) reading from the Fault Zone anthology of stories and poems.

7 thoughts on “Friend or foe or friendly foe?

  1. What a nice surprise to read your lovely post and find my name in it. I’m honored to be included. 🙂

    It’s rather ironic considering I started your book yesterday! Am only up to page 30 but am quite moved by your beautiful prose. The first section was difficult for me to read in that I have a fourteen-year-old son myself. It conjured so much emotion. But given that is what literature is supposed to do, you’ve done your job well. Looking forward to reading more, and of course, I’ll put a review on Goodreads and Amazon when I am done. 🙂

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    • I’m so flattered that you are reading it (saw on Goodreads that you had started it). When I started writing the book, my oldest was only 7. Now he’s 14 too. Thankfully I seem to so far have avoided the great emotional gulf that exists between mother and son in the book! And thanks in advance for the offers to review.

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  2. Do some people think that the definition of competitor is “deadly enemy?” Maybe that’s the problem. How does jealousy of someone else’s success improve your own situation? I’ve never been able to grasp the whole “my competitor, my enemy” thing. Like you, I’m happy to see someone else succeed, even if we’re writing in the same genre. The writing community entertains me, teaches me, cheers me up, encourages me. How could I possibly regard any of those people as my enemies?

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    • Of course jealousy gets one nowhere (except perhaps miserable and ulcerated). I think that’s what I was trying to say: it’s not a “you win/I lose” situation. Still, that doesn’t completely negate the emotions that come up when we’ve been working hard for many years and see someone else get the contract or win the award. I wanted acknowledge those feelings as well as the fact that I’ve made a conscious decision to move beyond them. And I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve said about what you get from the writing community.

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  3. Audrey, this is an amazing post. I’ve also seen writer friends get agents and book contracts and win competitions. A part of me is happy for them and a part can’t help wondering when will it be my turn? It’s tricky because writers are the only people that get writers so we have such a bond, but we are in some very real ways competing.

    I really love your perspective on this and I’m delighted to count you as one of my friends. 🙂

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