NaNoWriMo, or “National Novel Writing Month” has just started this week! I may not be a novel writer, but I work with many novel writers who are very passionate about this month-long holiday and I myself do a fair bit of writing (blogs, short stories, social media posts, etc.) even though my main profession is ‘artist’. While I’m not choosing to participate in this holiday, I will lend my support to all those authors who are using this time as personal motivation to finally commit to finishing those ideas that they’ve had tumbling around in their heads for so long.
Despite the need to write about an idea, many authors are their own worst enemy and will find themselves quitting part way through or before they even start. This is commonly because they don’t think they’re good enough, but there is another reason that I’ve seen authors commonly quit over, and that is the fear of too much competition or ‘market saturation’. I argue that this not only something you should not worry about, I also assert that this is a phantom problem that does not exist. Without further ado, here are my reasons why you should write that story despite your fears.
Worrying about marketing when one writes will hurt ones writing
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t give consideration to whom you are writing for. Your writing style is going to differ greatly depending on whether you’re writing a children’s fairy tale versus a steamy romance, so every writer must ask themselves who their audience is going to be. However, obsessing over pandering specifically to an audience will leave your work dull and contrived. Most authors who do this either quit midway or produce something that’s very underwhelming. Those who produce underwhelming work face more of a let down when the audiences that they were pandering to don’t respond to their creation, and come up with the excuse of “too much competition in the market” instead of being honest about their work and concentrating on making it better.
So when you set down to write something, focus on the writing and worry about all the marketing you need to do for it later. Plus if you plan on submitting your work to a publisher, it will be their job to worry about target audience and marketing, not you, so you’re worrying about things you shouldn’t trouble yourself with in the first place.
Other authors are not Competitors, they are Fellows!
This is something that I repeat ad nauseam to new artists at convention panels I’ve been on. An artist does not compete against other artists, they only compete against themselves. This may sound silly as there are creative competitions held all the time, but the arts are subjective and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Your work may come in last place in one competition but come in first place in another, because the judges will all have different tastes and preferred styles. I haven’t submitted my artwork to any competition since I was in high school and if I did participate in a competition I would submit what I thought was my best work and not concern myself with who the other contestants are. An artist who tries to be ‘better’ than all other artists will only chase their tail.
Think on this: When the Harry Potter series became a hit, did sales of other fantasy-themed young adult books go up or down? The went up! All sorts of other fantasy stories became popular and increased in readership too. When the quality level of a creative subject increases, the customer base increases. You are not creating a product with a limited customer pool. Writers who support each other will see their readership both increase.
If you make cars, there are only so many people out there who need a new car and have the large amount of funds needed to purchase one, so you have to compete with other car makers for that limited market share. Books, however, are much less expensive, relatively, and give a lot of entertainment value for their price. With the advent of the ebook, publishing a book is very inexpensive and purchasing an ebook is equally inexpensive if you stay away from the big 5 publishers’ new titles. For the price of a fast food meal, I can purchase and download three books to my kindle reader from independent authors, two from a small press publisher or older Big 5 title. All I need as encouragement is the knowledge that what I read will entertain me. There’s a reason why books have endorsements from fellow writers. These endorsements work. A reader who likes Timothy Zahn’s books will pick up books from another writer Zahn speaks highly of, but he won’t suddenly stop reading Timothy Zahn. This leads me to my next and last point that I’ve pretty much already stated in this paragraph, which is…
The more good books a reader reads, the more voracious their appetite for more books will be.
“I cannot live without books” – Thomas Jefferson
Books are pure cocaine for people who love reading. For example I give you my husband. He doesn’t just read books. He inhales them. My husband consumes books like a sumo wrestler at a Las Vegas buffet. When he was in the Navy, when the carrier made port he’d go right past the bars and straight into the book stores and spent a chunk of his pay on enough paperbacks to stuff in his backpack (ebook readers, at least competent ones, weren’t invented yet). He would read through the entire collection, sometimes twice, by the time they made port again. My family does not worry about choosing between which author to read, we worry about running out of books to read.
If someone reads a Steampunk novel that they loved, they start searching for more Steampunk novels to read. If someone buys a car they like, they are going to keep that car, they aren’t going to look for more cars unless they have plenty of disposable income. And if I had plenty of disposable income, I’d just spend it on more books, or art supplies. I’m addicted to art supplies too.
In conclusion, do not worry about competition when you work on your novel this month. Worry about making a good story. Worry about getting that idea out of your head. Worry about the things that a creative mind should concern themselves with when creating something new. It is only after you finish your work, polish it in editing, and are ready to show it to the world should marketing and promoting be your concern.
Until then, enjoy this holiday and get to writing. You can do this, I’m rooting for you!