I’ve been hearing a certain phrase lately in my travels across the internet, and it really bothers me. The phrase is simple, and there is a genuine question masked within it. However, this phrase also implies something that I don’t think is true…writing is not a zero-sum game.
The phrase in question is: But why would I want to share/tell/give [fill in the blank]?
Usually this has to do with promotion or marketing, or even the sharing of information. After all, if you give that great market tip to a certain group or individual, then what if they take advantage of it. Wouldn’t that be one less spot for your book, one less market for you to utilize?
Well, yes and no. It is true that publishers only have certain numbers of publishing openings a year. At some point market saturation is reached and the publisher simply can’t put out any more books either due to internal resources or external forces like how many books a reader will buy. So if writer A takes one publishing slot, that’s a position that writer B cannot take. Writer B can however take a different spot, either an additional release at the same time or one in a few weeks or months. And, the truth is, most publishers are always looking for new writers because we all know life happens. People get busy, move away from genres, etc., so the space which writer A might have held will become open at some point in the future.
The other thing to think about is that writers don’t exist in a vacuum. Many times we write because we were once readers who thought we could tell an excellent story. And we were right. *smiles* This means that while yes, you want to reach readers with your promotional efforts, frankly, I don’t think there’s any distinction between the writer-reader or the reader-reader (i.e. someone who doesn’t write books at all). Both groups read, and I bet if you did polling, both groups might even have the same amount of time to devote to reading, because just as the writer doesn’t write in a vacuum, so too the reader doesn’t read in one. She (or he) has a family, a job, a life, and frankly, other interests.
There’s also the fact that most writers can’t act upon every submission call he or she receives. Some aren’t interesting. Some aren’t in genres in which the writer works. And some, frankly, the writer runs out of time with. The same holds true with marketing information.
For the most part the writing community is an open and caring one, and that’s one of the beautiful things about it. And while many of us are vying for those few coveted spots with big publishers, in reality the publishing business has opened up so many new opportunities that other publishers or other formats might actually be the better fit for us and our work. For one writer to gain a publisher doesn’t mean that the other writer won’t get a contract at all. The world is big enough and fluid enough that there is no zero-sum, and while at times it can be win-lose, most of the time this business is win-win. Sometimes it just takes a bit longer or in a different direction from which we originally planned for that second win to come in. And that, my friends, is a blog post in and of itself.