Focus On Creation, Not Competition.

A reflection on integrity, creativity, and success.

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Image by TeroVesalainen on Pixabay

Competition can be a good thing. It urges us to strive to make sure we do our best, and that our product is as good as anyone else’s. It makes us less willing to settle for something less.

However, it can also be unhealthy if we let ourselves be consumed by it. When a job or a hobby becomes all about being number one, and being better than everyone else, it takes us into territory far beyond what is good for us, and often beyond what is good for those we consider our competition. 

I see both things happening in the Indie Author community. 

Most strive to ensure their covers are eye-catching, their stories are good, and their books are error free. We compare our books to those in the same genre, so that we can gauge the likely level of attraction among readers.

Most of us see our fellow authors as people we can learn from. As a rule, The Indie author community excels at being helpful, free with advice, and positive and encouraging of one another. 

Some, though, seem intent on dragging others down— as though putting someone else down will push themselves further up the rungs of the ladder. Some resort to insult, backstabbing and rum our-mongering. Some sink low enough to leave nasty reviews and one-star ratings on their fellow authors’ books. Some find ways to cheat the system or rig contests to gain visibility and prestige. And some go even lower than that: plagiarism, book-stuffing, and various other ways of scamming the reader and making a lot of money that would otherwise be going to honest writers. Sadly, this discredits the entire Indie community in the eyes of many.

I abhor those behaviours, especially the more extreme they get. There is no place for them, no way to justify them, and certainly very little tolerance for them at all amongst those in the community who have any integrity. 

I also think that it’s a very sad indictment on how some people view their profession. Whether they are authors, realtors, bankers or whatever they do, how tragic is it that they are so fixed on their perceived image and definition of success that they will do anything – even risking destroying the very career they prize – to achieve that. 

The warning is clear: pursuit of “success at any cost” will probably bring about the very opposite.

If you see everyone else in your field as competition, you won’t find any joy in what you do. 

I would much rather be the writer who produces quality work that readers will love, even if it means I can’t quit my day job yet. I would rather be a poet who touches someone’s soul than a lowlife who helps themselves to someone else’s work or reputation.

The key to both success and integrity is simply to do your job well. That will speak for itself. 

The Danger Of Dirty Links

With all the attention given among the Indie community to the removal of book reviews by Amazon, I’m amazed at the number of authors who still post dirty links to their books on social media. This is a rookie-level mistake that can actually do more harm than good. 

A dirty link helps the algorithm at Amazon to determine if there are connections between author and reader that might suggest collusion or partiality.. Even if a review is from a verified purchase, a simple connection via a shared link can be enough to make them suspect that it’s not unbiased or from an unrelated party.

If the link used by multiple customers can be traced directly back to the author, that’s one of the reasons they will start flagging and eventually removing reviews. 

The simple solution is to ensure your links are clean before you post them.

A dirty link occurs when one copies and pastes a URL without removing all the extra information that gets tacked onto it by searching for a product, copying links from a website, linking from another product, or using a bookmark created from a searched item.For example, if I search for one of my books on Google and click on the Amazon link, I get this as the URL: 

This is more information than is needed to actually find my book. In the image below, I’ve denoted the “dirty” part of the link by making it red. 

The highlighted part of this link is the “dirty” part. If I were to give this link to someone else to use, it tells Amazon how they got the link. 
All you need to post is the part of the link that directly goes to your book page. In the link above, that’s the part that is still black. Once the link identifies which display page your book has, no further information is necessary. 

You can check the clean link you want to post by pasting it into a new browser window and seeing that it goes directly to your book product page. 
Even if you use a link shortening service like bit.ly or buff.ly, or a customised branded link, you must ensure that the links you provide are clean. Just because you and your audience don’t see the extra information on a shortened or customised link doesn’t mean it isn’t there. 

That way, stores will have no reason to suspect you or your readers’ integrity, and your verified purchase reviews will remain proudly on your book page. 

Writing About Family and Friends.

Authors: keep your writing from causing problems with your family and friends.

Writing about family can be fraught with danger. The last thing you want to do as a writer is offend or alienate your family, especially if things are already fragile in some way.

 

That poses a challenge: what happens when there’s something you desperately want to write about? For starters, writers should know to always, always change names and details.  If possible, don’t mention names at all. Even when writing about positive feelings or experiences, people who aren’t used to putting themselves out into the public eye might hesitate to have something written about them and published. A great idea for a story or poem should never be pursued at the cost of an important relationship.

 

When I do write something about friends or family, I make sure they’ve seen it first, and I tell them I’m going to publish it. That way, they can’t say they didn’t know.

 

For example, I recently wrote a poem after two completely separate events: one was the wedding of my nephew, the other was a conversation with a friend who had recently lost her own nephew in tragic circumstances.  The poem, titled My Child, does not mention anyone by name, nor does it mention those particular situations. It is an expression of my feelings – and my friend’s feelings – for those whom we have loved, held, and helped to raise.  This is what I sent to “my children” and to my friend, well over a week before I posted it. That same text is what I posted on my writing blog where I published the poem today. Poem My Child

 

The other alternative, of course, if you feel you must write about something or someone, is to disguise the situation and details enough so they don’t know it’s about them. I’ve written plenty of poems about broken friendships, people in my life who have been determined to cause me trouble, and others who really deserve some special treatment from Karma, but it’s always been presented as me facing an invisible, unnamed challenger or enemy… or a certain black cat named Friday who metes out justice to people who really deserve it. It is not possible for anyone to identify who I was writing about at the time, and that’s a very good thing.

As a writer, it’s important to protect oneself. The last thing you want is something coming back to haunt you.

 

And if you’re a friend or family member of a writer,  remember that age old piece of advice: Never annoy a writer, or they might put you in a book and kill you. It’s true. 

 

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