Checking the Competition

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I’m on my way back from the Coastal Magic Convention (CMC), where a terrific time was had by all. Kudos to Jennifer Morris, who always manages to efficiently organize so many fun events and informative panels. Plus the Day of the Dead party was awesome!

CMC is a small convention of ~300 people. The size allows for readers and book bloggers to mingle extensively with authors. With five to six authors per panel, there can be a bit of jockeying for who gets to talk next. Mostly people are gracious and generous with each other, though occasionally there can be that author who’s oblivious or tone deaf, and attempts to monopolize the audience’s attention.

(There are also fab people like Megan Hart, in the photo above, cringing as I read aloud one of her sex scenes - fair pay back as she'd just read one of mine.)

I firmly believe that a high tide floats all boats. More books out there means more for readers to find and love. Anytime someone chooses to read instead of any of the number of competing entertainments out there, I’m happy.

But I also understand not everyone feels this way. It’s a competitive business and it’s easy to see another author’s book sales, her awards or fans, as things we could have had that went to someone else.

And, hell, I’d be lying if I said I never feel envy or competitiveness. I’m human and a far from perfect one at that. (ARE there perfect human beings? I’m thinking no.) Still, I try to be aware that those feelings are negative emotions that stem from my own issues and insecurities.

Also, I know that writers in particular tend to have both very large and quite fragile egos. Like giant soap bubbles with lovely prismatic shimmers that dance across the surface as they expand, and grow, and—suddenly burst, leaving nothing but empty air behind.

Because, like those soap bubbles, our competitiveness and egotism are based on a lot of air and very little else.

The other day I saw a writer post to Facebook that she’s surprised when she goes to events and people don’t know who she is. I once introduced myself to a writer who was seated at my luncheon table and, when she didn’t give me her name in turn—she wasn’t wearing a nametag—and I asked what she wrote, she became very offended that I hadn’t known who she was. Once she said her name, I recognized her as a well-known writer, but I’d had no idea what she looked like.

Both of those reactions surprise me.

They remind me of something that happened quite a few years ago now, when Neil Gaiman accompanied Amanda Palmer to the Grammy Awards. If you don’t know, he’s a well-known writer and she’s a rock star. All things considered, he’s far better known in the world of readers and writers than she is in the music industry. Certainly he’s far wealthier. (I know this for sure because she said so in her brilliant book, THE ART OF ASKING.) The Grammys are far more her waters than his, however, and at the time they weren’t yet married. A photo was posted of them by a reporter captioned “Amanda Palmer and date.” They fixed it when a bunch of people sent up a flag, but it was a funny thing. Writers, by the nature of the business, are usually not all that recognizable and are rarely treated like rock stars.

At any rate, when I find myself feeling the spur of that particular demon, the “why didn’t they know who I am?” moment, or when another writer snubs me or pulls a superior/competitive attitude, I try to remind myself of a few things.

  • The only cure for jealousy is putting my head in my own work. Putting my energy into the writing is a surefire distraction.
  • No matter how it seems, we are not in competition with each other. This isn’t Highlander where there can be only one. There can be lots. And it’s more fun for all when there are.
  • We’re all driven by various demons and we usually don’t know what someone else’s are. When someone treats me badly, I try to imagine what makes them unhappy—and to have compassion for them.

What about you all? Any tricks for battling envy or for dealing with competitive attitudes from other authors?

Jeffe Kennedy
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Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook.

Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and an erotic contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera, which released beginning January 2, 2014. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, hit the shelves starting in May 2014 and book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review and has been nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose, has been nominated for best fantasy romance of the year. A fifth series, the highly anticipated erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, released starting with Going Under in July.

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog, on Facebook, and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Connor Goldsmith of Fuse Literary.

6 thoughts on “Checking the Competition

  1. I can never be too upset or envious when an outstanding author publishes another amazing book that hits the bestseller list because that means there’s another amazing book to add to my TBR list. I read a lot in most genres, so I’m cheering all of you on. It’s easier for me to say that because I’m retired and writing, a much easier gig than trying to make a living at the craft (thank goodness–I’d starve to death). 😀

  2. I don’t see other writers as competition. I see them as allies.

    It takes readers – maybe – three days to read a book. It takes me three months to produce one. If I have a group of allies in the trenches helping me feed the need for all those hungry readers, then we all win. There’s nothing like tossing your audience a great book to keep them busy while you’re writing and to keep them coming back to look for more.

    The more audience we share, the more audience we all have. 😉

    • I totally agree, Nathan. I love recommending my favorite reads and then discussing them with my readers. 🙂 Definitely let’s share this audience and not send them off to Netflix in between releases. Happy to count you as an ally!

  3. Usually when I’m feeling competitive, it’s mostly one of those moments of “oh my god this person has a freakish amount of talent and I kind of hate them.” It happens. 🙂 The good thing is that moments like that usually end up making me look for ways to get better. Amazing authors make me want to improve.

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