Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Is There Enough To Go Around?

These cats didn't think there were enough bread crumbs to go around. They leapt into the fray, tails flying and ears angry, to snatch what they could.

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!

—Shauna Roberts

7 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I like the quote, a rising tide floats all boats. I think it works here.

Tom said...

I know I'm guilty of feeling like this. Which is probably the biggest hindrance I have to finishing a project.

Thank you for putting it into perspective for me here. :)

Jewel Amethyst said...

I share you opinion, Shauna. We are no where near the ceiling. As long as there is the human imagination, there will be a market for books, even if the method of reading changes.

Shauna Roberts said...

Thanks, CHARLES, for the quote. I think it's a good one for describing how critique groups work too. As one member becomes a better writer, all the others become better too.

JEWEL:, ebooks may end up being the best thing ever for readers and the book market. They make books with limited market appeal profitable for publishers and writers, allowing more books to be published.

TOM, glad that you found some food for thought in my words.

Farrah Rochon said...

Shauna, I agree with you. I think there are still many, many stories to be told and people to read them. However, I find myself cursing up a storm when a book idea I've been pondering shows up on the back cover of another author's book.

Barbara Albin said...

Good blog Shauna, you are right there really is no end to what we can accomplish, if the first time doesn't work, just try again. There is no ceiling.

Shauna Roberts said...

FARRAH, your forthcoming romance-with-football books are a good example of a new niche in romance. Look how romance-with-Nascar took off.

Thanks for your comments, BARBARA. Good words; now we just have to make it happen!