I was talking recently about how important it is these days for readers to review and talk about the books they like in order to help the authors of those books have a career. I also mugged myself with an idea about making a list of all the Aussie authors who tweet. That turned out to be way more work than I thought it would, but I’m glad I did it. And I’ve been surprised by a few comments here and there from people that basically boil down to, “Why do you do so much to promote other authors? Aren’t they your competition?”
Which is a bizarre position to take. I’ve always thought of other authors as partners, not competitors. We’re all partners in this big old mess of writing and publishing. We all need to work together to keep the publishing world alive and fresh. Readers are voracious animals – they subsist on stories and get really ornery if the stories run thin. It’s not as if my promoting another author is going to result in the loss of a sale for me. Can you imagine ever reading something on my site and thinking, “Hmm, well I was going to buy RealmShift, but Alan’s convinced me I should buy this other book by this other author instead”? If anything, a reader is more likely to think, “Excellent, I’ll buy RealmShift and then I’ll go and track down this other book that Alan thinks is worth reading.”
Of course, that assumes said reader holds my opinion in any esteem, which is unlikely, but the principle of the argument is sound. Readers love books. Duh.
I wouldn’t have a fraction of the tiny career I do have without other writers. The spec fic community in Australia is particularly friendly, but in my experience writers in general are very supportive of each other. Of course, there are the dicks who think they deserve the career they have and no one else is worthy. But you get elitist fuckknuckles in every walk of life and they’re usually the scared and insecure people, terrified of being exposed as having something they don’t deserve. Which is rubbish, because they deserve everything they’ve worked for, and so do the rest of us.
Other writers have been incredibly supportive of me, from when I was first starting out, wandering around an SF convention like a startled rabbit, wondering just how the hell I was supposed to find my way in this bizarre world. I’ve subsequently done all I can to embrace and encourage other emerging writers and help them to get a start in any way I can. Hell, I’m still an emerging writer myself! I don’t have any great career upon which to rest my laurels. I’m paying it forward and back and intend to continue doing so until I’m bigger than Gaiman. Which I will be, of course. Aim for the stars and all that – if I don’t dream big, how can I ever expect to succeed at all? And regardless of how successful I may or may not get, I’ll still keep doing what I’m doing, and talk about the other writers out there who I believe in. I don’t want to ever look down from my own success on other writers, or ever think that other writers are in any way my enemy.
So don’t think of other authors as your competition if you’re a writer. If you’re a reader, don’t think you need to be faithful to a particular handful of authors – you’re doing no harm by promoting everything you like. There’s loads to go around and we all need all the help we can get, so it’s only reasonable that we help each other too.