Writing is NOT a Competitive Sport

Today is Monday. Duh. It’s the start of the week and the day that I have my weekly (as it seems) existential writer’s crisis. I don’t know exactly why I feel so disheartened by the business that I am a part, but I do. A couple of weeks ago, R&B singer Tank had a “meltdown” on Instagram regarding his album sales. While I’ve never been a big fan of his, hence I do not own any of his music, some of what he said hit me square in the heart.

Here’s what he said…

If I look tired it’s because I am. I’m deeply saddened and disappoint that “Stronger” will not get a video or the continued promotion it deserves! I’d love to blame @atlanticrecords but that would be a lie! It’s tough for record companies to continue to fund music that people don’t support! I pride myself on giving you real musicianship, real singing, real lyrical content and being true to the music that inspired my very existence. The problem is there aren’t many people left that want to hear it or buy it and if there are they won’t stand up and be noticed! Who am I doing this for? Who am I maintaining this so called integrity for? Not many as u can tell by my first wk sales..lol. The artist that don’t give a fuck sale the most and do the most! Should that be my new route? Maybe I should have been born white then all of my music would go straight to mainstream and pop radio instead of urban ac.. A format that continues to kill the true R&B artist! (Not mad at white artist just to be clear!) What I do know is that i will not continue to be faithful to something or someone that is not being faithful to me. I love you but I have a family. I have a mom and dad just like you. I have goals and dreams just like you. I refuse to work hard for nothing. I look better, sing better, produce better, write better, and perform better than dam near everybody and this is the thanks I get?.. Again I’m not angry I’m just tired.. Please enjoy my last real R&B album “Stronger” cause you’ll never get another one! #letterfromaking

I’m not here to judge a grown man who is disheartened by the music industry as I hope that no one is here to judge me for hating the state of the publishing industry right now. I personally feel as if it’s a mess. The same thing that Tank said regarding real musicianship, real singing, real lyrical content, and being true to the music applies to book publishing.

I know…who am I to decide what is real or not. Well, I’m an author, an author who feels like I shouldn’t have to compromise the integrity of my writing to be seen as a talented artist. I’ve had some major up and some downs as a published author. And nothing makes me happier than seeing my ideas come together in a thought-provoking novel with a gorgeous cover. I spend a lot of time on my work. Some (the artist) say that when I’m writing, I’m totally consumed by my work. I guess that’s true but it’s simply because I believe that if I’m going to put my work out in the atmosphere for people to read, enjoy (or not) and critique, AND ask them to pay money for it, then it DAMN SURE better be the best that I have to offer.

What I’m learning in this business is sometimes, your best is just not good enough. This business is cutthroat and if I had known how shiesty and shady it was, I probably would never have entered into this world. I don’t do well with cutthroat. If I had known that the state of African-American publishing would change so drastically since I hit the publish button on Change of Heart, I’m sure I wouldn’t still be writing. I definitely know that I wouldn’t have quit my job for it.

Still, knowing all that, I continue to write. I continue to publish my work. Why? What drives me to compete in a market that is consumed with quantity over quality. Where the short 99 cent reads will outsell a full-length novel any day of the week. Where the readers beg for longer, more thorough books but complain that it takes too long for authors to release new work. Where the author who desires to write stand-alone novels has to compromise their desire and write series just to see any type of success in this fickle market.

Why do I do this?

The truth is simply this. I believe that writing is my calling. I never got into the industry to obtain Facebook fame. I knew that I probably wouldn’t make a shitload of money. I don’t need to. I just need to make enough money so my family is living comfortably with me not having a traditional job. So far so good.

I’m not content with sitting back on my laurels and watching authors succeed in a race that I’m not in. However, I’m secure in knowing that I’ve sold more books than I’ll ever have Facebook friends or Twitter followers. I believe in the community aspect of being a writer. I believe in supporting one another, not because it might increase book sales, but because it’s the right thing to do. I’ve always been a team player.

The problem I have with the industry is that people want to make it into a competition. But guess what, writing is not a competitive sport. We’re not out there trying to win championships or titles. You can’t expect loyalty from readers because authors and publishers don’t get to choose what people spend their money on. Call me what you want, but I’ve never heard of anyone reading just one author or just one publisher or just one genre.

All in all, there are enough readers for everyone to write what they please and experience success (as they define it) in this industry. Going back to what Tank said, his problem is that he measures his success against the success of others. Therein lies the problem.

I can’t let another person’s definition of success define my career. If I did, I’d probably be on Instagram posting the same kind of defeated stuff. But I am not defeated. I define what my success is.

I am not going to compete with anyone in a game where we all can win. 


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