I hit my conference wall around 3:30 this afternoon. It surprised me when it happened because this is such a relaxed conference that I never felt the usual mania. And today was a light day for me, too. I took a couple of impromptu pitches and spent some time networking, but that's nothing. I'm frequently double or triple booked at conferences, and this one just doesn't have that same overwhelming, how-will-I-ever-do-it-all feel to it.
I even got to attend a workshop. Astonishing. I went to a panel of book reviewers and listened to them talk about their philosophies of reviewing, how their systems each work, what to send and not send, and why they do the things they do. I was very curious about this panel when I saw it on the conference schedule because this is a side of our business which I understand imperfectly. The panel did explain a few things and, as an added bonus, I got to say hello to Jon from Crimespree magazine again. Good man, that Jon. Everyone should subscribe to his magazine and keep him active and involved in the writing/reviewing scene.
The highlight of the day for me was when I got to meet Lee Child and shake his hand. OMG! Fangirl squeee! I'm never washing this hand again!
Lee spoke at the luncheon today and he made one point that's been echoing in my mind ever since. He said writing is a great profession because it harms no one. People buy books because they enjoy them, so authors aren't profiting by someone else's misfortune or misery but by their enjoyment. Also, he made this analogy: it's not like a baseball team, where if you succeed and make the roster, someone else has to fall off the roster.
This is both profound and true: publishing is not a zero-sum game. It's true that there is a lot of competition for publication slots, but once your book is in the market, it's really not competing with other books in the sense that one book's success means another's failure.
Jenny Crusie once made the analogy that a rising tide raises all boats. One of her books was being released around the same time as a Susan Elizabeth Philips book, and Jenny wasn't worried that her sales would suffer by this proximity. She said that people were just as likely to buy both books as long as they were in the store. And even if they only bought Susan's book, if they loved it (and who wouldn't), that love might prompt them to return to the store and buy another romance. Or two or ten. And maybe a thriller and a self-help book as long as they were at it.
I've noticed this at our website store, too. When one book suddenly starts moving, it usually takes a few others along for the ride. Those other books might not sell in the same volume -- not everyone who buys Book One will choose the same title for their Book Two selection. But a spike for one author usually means a few bonus sales for others.
This is why it's always good to support your fellow authors. Even if you're the most purely selfish person in the world, you can celebrate their victories secure in the knowledge that you will also profit by their successes.