Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Know Thine Competition/Mentor/Peer/Enemy/Whatever

Those selling books at the same time you are selling books, or those selling features when you are to the same magazines, are your competition/peer/enemy and even a possible mentor or friend. In other words, those in the same business as you should be in your contacts list, RSS feed or email. Yes, I know it takes time to find and follow other writers in your niche. It's part of social networking, and some of us abhor the time it takes to dabble in all the social networking venues. It's so tempting to delete emails and blog post notifications when you're up to your eyeballs in your own work. Why take the time to study someone else's?

1. Learn from their success.

Not that you want to copy them. No. Absolutely not. But you want to study their logic and effort and use that type of energy to develop a success on your own terms, in your own world. They can enlighten you to pursue avenues you never pondered before. E-books, self-publishing, speaking, finding an agent. You might learn tricks that can save you from reinventing the wheel. Marvel at their catchy title or headline. Note how they dress in pictures. Follow where they promote, and how well they land gigs and sales. Who is their agent? What publisher did such a great job of formatting the manuscript? Who build their website?

2. Learn from their failures.

Join a few chat groups, list serves and forums and you'll find a complainer in two minutes. I promise. Study what rocked their boat so you can avoid or better navigate your own ocean, but also note how they fuss and complain. Impressions mean everything. I know some novelists and freelancers who I avoid doing business with or holding discussions with because they hold a poisonous air about them, voicing disgruntlement at the drop of a hat. But also study their website, blog, brand and book titles. Find the flaws so you don't have to trip over them in your own travels.

3. Receive feedback.

While you're analyzing their moves, try to get feedback from them about yours. Ask for advice. Share stories, both positive and negative. You might land a mentor or, at a minimum, a fan. Compliment them and their work first and foremost, and then ask your questions. But don't become a stalker, emailing every day with a new question. Maintain a professional give and take, and you'll groom a tight acquaintance for years to come.

4. Share blogs.

Follow others and ask them to follow you. Offer a guest post for their blog, and ask them to blog on yours. This mutual respect weaves a professional connection that can assist your efforts well in the long run.

I posted Competition/Mentor/Peer/Enemy/Whatever in the title of this post. What you make of this person is up to you, but you don't have to limit yourself to the friendly sorts or feel that competition is solely your enemy. Don't limit your exchange with those just at your level. Connect with equals, betters and those trailing behind you. Know who has traveled before you, blazing a trail, and who is walking alongside you, able to hold your hand. Finally, don't overlook those following in your footsteps. All of these people have the potential to introduce you to someone, buy your work, promote you to others, and suggest improvements. You can quietly learn from their stumbles and loudly share in their successes.

Know who is in this profession with you and learn from them. It's how any other business works. Why not writing?


Jennifer Fitz said...

Hope, this is so true! I was amazed this fall with the amount of time a big-name-in-her-field writer (who didn't even know I existed until a friend introduced us via e-mail) took to help me with a manuscript. For no other reason than she's a kind person who wants to see more of the same sort of work as hers get into print. She made the choice to be a colleague instead of a rival, and now she's got one more devoted fan.

Anonymous said...

Hi Hope,

I love this post. As a newbie navigating the online writing world, I've found so many people who have taken the time to share good advice and/or offer support. And, by visiting the blogs of writers who are farther ahead - especially those who are becoming published authors - I am learning a lot just by browsing their past experiences. In fact today I found good information on writing a synopsis from one of the blogger-authors I follow.

Thank you, Hope, for also sharing your experience and expertise. It's very much appreciated. Happy New Year to you!

Andrea said...

"...don't overlook those following in your footsteps."

So true! When I worked in a college setting I always tried to listen to ideas the students brought because they had fresh eyes and new ideas. Change isn't always bad.