Friendly competitors

competitors
Photo: DailyMail.co.uk

Authors and books don’t compete. Instead, they support each other. I wonder why that doesn’t happen in more places?

I noticed this as soon as I became an author. The other authors welcomed me as a friend who’d joined a club; we’d all shared a similar experience. Authors blurb each others’ books, even (or especially) if they wrote on a similar topic. I’m friends with Shel Israel, whose social media book Naked Conversations came out before Groundswell.. We authors often end up on the same panels. We recommend each others’ books and speeches and pal around at conferences.

Right now I’m in a Facebook group for authors that is tremendously helpful. If somebody poses a question about, say, publishers’ marketing policies, the value of airport bookstores, or audio rights, the other authors jump in and help. There’s never a whiff of competition. Sure, we nose up to each other to see whose sales and advances are bigger, but it’s pretty friendly.

I think the reason is that books aren’t a zero-sum game. If you buy one book on a topic, you’ll probably buy others; books are cheap. That’s why I recommend and promote, rather than try to compete with, books on writing by Ann Handley and Roy Peter Clark — because I know you can afford to buy more than one book.

There are other markets like this. Bicycle racers draft off each other and don’t take advantage of competitor’s crashes, until it’s time to break away of course. And startup companies like to haver competitors, at least at first, because those competitors validate the existence of a market.

When Robert Scoble worked in a camera store, he famously sent people to competitors if those customers needed what the competitors had and he didn’t. The customer trusted him and came back to him later. He extended that advice to blogging, recommending that people openly discuss products from competing companies.

The tooth-and-nail competition in the big corporate world has poisoned our perspective. Coke doesn’t even want you to try a Pepsi. Oracle would rather you weren’t buying databases from Salesforce, and is constantly positioning itself to talk you out of it. Samsung really doesn’t want you to buy an iPhone, and Hillary Clinton really doesn’t want you to vote for Donald Trump.

The next time you’re thinking about your competitors and your customers, though, think twice. Is there a way that you can all benefit? Maybe your market is more like the market for business books. Maybe it’s not a zero-sum game. And together, you and your competitor might be able to help each other out.

My market works like that, and it’s a really nice neighborhood.

I wish our members of Congress lived in a neighborhood like that.

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