January 18th, 2021

Authors Are Not Your Competition

by Angela Ackerman

Most industries are competitive. Athletes go head-to-head for the medal or trophy. Car companies vie for market share as do grocery stores, restaurants, and delivery services. Reality TV show contestants duke it out for prize money, prestige, and in some cases (ugh) roses. And our favorite retail Godzilla, Amazon? They compete with everybody.

Know who isn’t your competition? Authors.

Sure, on the surface, it appears a competition is taking place. After all, look at the sea of books on the market, the sky-high submission piles. Think about how we need to list comparable titles when we pitch our work to agents and how past book sales and current platform numbers carry weight acquisitions decides which author will receive a contract offer.

Is it true that agents only take on certain clients and publishers only publish certain books? Yes. But the “I’m competing against other authors” idea is a sacred cow leftover from a time when keeping authors divided suited a publishing monopoly (that has thankfully been broken).

Other authors aren’t competition, they’re ASSETS.  Here’s why.

  1. Of the bazillion books out there, only a small fraction are ones your exact audience may be interested in.

So, skip any hand-wringing over how flooded the market is -- it doesn’t matter. You only need to consider books like yours. And even then, far from being your competition, these books and the authors attached to them can HELP YOU SELL MORE BOOKS. Which brings us to…

2. Your goal is to find your audience. Other authors are a gateway to them.

What now, Batman? Yes, that’s right…your so-called competition has been there, done that and has the t-shirt. They’ve found their readers. In fact, every day they reach more. So, if you do your research and find authors who write books a lot like yours, their readers can become your readers.

In today’s world, authors have online platforms to reach readers no matter where they live, giving you a starting point for finding and connecting with your potential audience. Pay attention to where comparable authors spend their time and you’ll find potential readers. It might be a Facebook group, Instagram, special interest forums, blogs, etc.… Wherever you see authors who write similar books to you spend their time with readers, this is also a good place for you. Start spending time getting to know people in this space.

Don’t jab promotion at people, just join the conversation, enjoy common ground, and build relationships. If this truly is your audience, there will be topics that tie into your books that will be a subject of conversation and because that’s what you write about and are interested in, you’ll have lots to contribute. Eventually it will come out you ALSO write books about X and sooner or later, folks will check you out. And hey, while we’re talking about how established authors in our niche can help us…

3. Each author is a megaphone to their audience, meaning marketing collaborations with certain authors can help you build your readership more quickly.

When you research other authors to find ones in your niche, read their novels. Is the genre, style, and content a match to yours? Is the book well-written? Can you see yourself recommending this book to people?

If the answer is yes, this author may be someone you wish to collaborate with. If your values align, cross promotion will be a win-win. They encourage their readers to check you out and you do the same for them and you both gain new readers. So, find a good author match and think how you can help THEM sell books and gain visibility.

But wait…that doesn’t sound right. Shouldn’t I be trying to sell my own books, not someone else’s?

Glad you asked, because this ties into a truth we all have to bend our heads around:

4. No matter how fast you write, readers read faster.

One dangerous mistake we can make with our readers is to only think about US, not THEM. It’s ALWAYS about them, which means we need to take care of our audience even after they’ve finished reading all our books.

It takes time to release the next book, and in the meantime, our readers need good books to read. If we do nothing to stay in touch, they might forget about us and the next book, but if we make it a priority to give them more of what they love, we stay on their radar. Recommending books we know our readers will love shows we want them to have a great reading experience over and over again, whether it’s our book or not.

So rather than fearing losing our readers to someone else, we should encourage readers to seek out specific authors. Not only does this encourage reader loyalty, it’s also a great way to gain new readers ourselves. How? Because other comparable authors are in the same boat, and they will be looking to recommend books to their readers, too. Reciprocity is something that’s hardwired into us, so if they see us openly pushing people to their books, they will want to do the same in return.  This brings us to a final point:

5. Other authors have a wealth of knowledge we may need.

There’s a lot to publishing and marketing well, and we’re all constantly running into new situations that exposes a gap in our knowledge. Maybe we’ve never tried for a Bookbub and so don’t know the tips and tricks. Or we’re just starting out with newsletters or Amazon ads and have no idea how to do either right. What’s better in these cases – spending a bunch of time and money on research, courses, and trial and error, or talking to another author who is successful in that space and asking them to point us to the right information?

And just as others can use their experiences to help us, we can do the same for them. A rising tide lifts all boats!

Honestly, this is just the tip of the ice cream scoop as far as why authors are assets, so I urge you to think about your own genre and who fits your niche. Reach out to your not-competition. Consider ways you can help them, and how you can collaborate to gain bigger readerships!

One last thing: When it comes to marketing collaboration with other authors, be picky. This post will show you what to look for to make a good match

What was the best advice another writer shared with you?

* * * * * *

About Angela

Angela Ackerman is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of the bestselling book, The Emotion Thesaurus and its many sequels. Her books are available in eight languages, are sourced by US universities, recommended by agents and editors, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, and psychologists around the world. To date, this book collection has sold over half a million copies.

Angela is also the co-founder of the popular site Writers Helping Writers, as well as One Stop for Writers, a portal to game-changing tools and resources that enable writers to craft powerful fiction. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Top Image by sergeypeterman at Depositphotos
Second image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

27 responses to “Authors Are Not Your Competition”

  1. Gwen M. Plano says:

    Great article, Angela. Thank you!

  2. This is gold, Angela, especially that "readers read faster." Thanks for the inspiration!

    • angelaackerman1 says:

      It's so true! Thinking about how to continually give our readers what they want even as we draft creates loyalty and lifting other books likes ours creates infleuncer goodwill. 🙂 We're all in this together. 🙂

  3. "Your goal is to find your audience. Other authors are a gateway to them."

    This. It seems this is how both trad and indie publishing works (in terms of marketing); hence the whole comparable titles/ similar covers stuff.

    It's also interesting that some writers, like Felina Hopkins, melt down when people used her as a gateway.

    • angelaackerman1 says:

      I'm not familiar with her or her take, but I guess everyone looks at this through their own lens. I just know there's so much that can be learned from studying other authors, and that together we can grow our readership, skills, etc. so much faster than if we go it alone. But, some people like to go it alone, and so if that's their desire, that's fine too.

      • Lucky you if you don't know who she is. There was a large controversy around how she tried to copywrite a word that she uses in her titles as a way to stop other writers from using that word.

        • angelaackerman1 says:

          Oh yes, her. I do remember that. That was something, all right. She did a lot of harm to her reputation and I doubt many want to collaborate with her on anything as a result.

      • Jenny Hansen says:

        She was the originator of the "Cockygate" hooplah. I always thought that was a shame on a lot of levels, especially because I really liked her early books in that series.

        • angelaackerman1 says:

          Yes, as soon as greenbook said copyright a word I knew exactly who she meant. Not a wise move for her to do, trying to own a word like that.

  4. Maggie Smith says:

    Other authors were tremendously helpful and generous to me when I first started out on Instagram about 14 months ago, holdiing my hands through the world of followers, engagement, Canva, hashtags, LinkeTree, etc. And now I'm at 1600+ followers and am passing my knowledge forward.

    • angelaackerman1 says:

      I think this is what most of us experience, and it's one reason why I love being part of this community so much. People are so generous with their time and expertise, and we all know what it is like to be totally green with no idea what to do. I see all us writers as links in a chain. 🙂 Thank you for paying it forward!

  5. colleen says:

    So true, Angela! Some of my greatest breakthroughs have occurred through the help of other authors. I learn this more and more each year. :O)

    • angelaackerman1 says:

      Me too! I love that there's always more to learn. And I am so grateful to the people who share what they know - it is such a help!

  6. Kris Maze says:

    Hi Angela,
    I'm glad you wrote this. It seems to me that any author that subscribes to the lone wolf mentality will struggle with writing and promoting their books. Teaming with your author buddies helps any writing project take off!

    • angelaackerman1 says:

      We can definitely have a "lone wolf" mentality and we can still get to where we're going, but it's just a lot harder and longer of a journey. 🙂

  7. Jemi Fraser says:

    Love this! I'm a huge fan of so many authors in my genre (and outside it too). I love shouting out about good books when I read them!

    • angelaackerman1 says:

      Me too! It is so great to see other people succeed. I wish I had a clone to do my work so I could just making reading their books my full time job, haha!

  8. Jenny Hansen says:

    I've been blessed with a ton of great writing advice in my life (some of it from you and the estimable Lisa Cron!). But here is the best everyday writing advice I've ever gotten (besides start with today - start anywhere...but START):

    "No one gets it all."

    Laura Drake and I say that to each other all the time and it is somewhat related to your post. You might have the dialogue and the ideas, but no discipline. Your friend might get the discipline and organization but get killed by dialogue. Someone else gets grammar. Someone else is a whiz at tech.

    But NO ONE gets it all. If you want to "have it all," you need a network of writing friends and possibly some hired help (ex: editors or book formatters).

    Best. Writing. Advice. Ever.

  9. pegood59 says:

    This is a great article and a good reminder how authors can help each other.

  10. This rings true! We have a town near us where there are loads of antique shops. As a result, it’s a place people go for antiques. Counterintuitively, despite the competition, it would be a great place to start an antique shop.

    I write book reviews for a small publisher and the line they liked best about my first review was something about ‘familiar elements in a new mix’ because the people who like the ‘familiar elements’ (werewolves and shapeshifters in this case) would like to see them in a new way.

    • angelaackerman1 says:

      Yes I think our audience is looking for more of the same as far as "enjoyable reading experience" but they want it delivered in a new way. So we give them the elements but try hard to provide a fresh set of characters and a premise that's unique. 🙂

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