Probably good thinking if you're a street cat.
Some writers see the market for books in the same way as these cats see handouts. These writers believe that there are only so many slots for new stories and books. They see success by another writer, then, as taking away a spot their own work could have filled.
They're right in some sense. There are a finite number of people in the world and a finite number of hours in the day for them to read books. There must be some upper limit to the number of books that can be published.
I prefer to believe that we're nowhere near that ceiling, for several reasons.
First, that state of mind is not a happy one. Viewing other authors as competitors in a large race with in which only a privileged few will reach the finish line can lead to jealousy, paranoia, and loneliness, as well as to bad habits such as badmouthing and backstabbing other writers. I'd rather be wrong and feel good about myself and other writers.
Second, I believe books can create their own markets. No one knew they wanted to read about boy wizards until J.K. Rowling gave us Harry Potter. That series turned many book haters into book lovers. Who would have guessed twenty years ago that they would ever buy romance novels with vampires, or five years ago that they would ever buy romance novels with zombies?
Obviously, genres and subgenres grow and shrink. The explosion of historical novels about Tudors seems to have come at the cost of fewer historical novels set in other time periods. Traditional fantasy has been eclipsed by dark urban fantasy. But one rule remains the same: When someone enjoys a book, they want to read more books. Reading can generate a strong positive-feedback loop and become addictive. (Some of you out there know what I'm talking about.)
I see the market as full of opportunities. Maybe Tudors rule now, but perhaps Like Mayflies in a Stream will lead to a flood of books about ancient Mesopotamia. Maybe your next book will spawn a new genre. Let's dream together and make the dream come true.
Am I a realist or a hopeless optimist? Let me know what you think.
I'll be blogging at Novel Spaces again on August 5 and hope to see you then!