If you’re old enough to remember the government’s bail out of Chrysler in the early eighties, you’ll remember those weren’t happy times for any car dealers, especially Chrysler dealers of which I was one. If you aren’t old enough to remember those times, here’s a fact that might surprise you – 10,000 Chrysler dealers closed their doors for good during those days, and yes, I was one of those also.
This blog isn’t about closing the dealership, I’ve already told that story. This post is about our perception of competition, which usually manifests as a reluctance to help, and, in turn limits our own success.
Here’s how I know that. At the time I became the managing partner of Walker Chrysler Dodge, in Laurel, Mississippi, my two main competitors, the local Ford and Chevrolet dealers, had just moved their operations from downtown Laurel, to the by-pass, some three or four miles away. When my partners were selling me on joining them in the business, they said the competitors’ move to another part of town was a good thing. I didn’t question them about that, or anything else. I was too new to the car business to have any questions.
I cut corners everywhere I could and managed to budget enough for local TV advertising, entering an annual contract for “less than prime time” advertising. I couldn’t afford actors, so I did my own spots. My ads weren’t Cal Worthington’s My Dog Spot, or Trunk Monkey caliber, but they did draw a lot of prospects to the dealership, and my sales staff converted a number of them into buyers.
I mistakenly attributed my success to being all alone in the downtown area. Imagine how I felt when I heard that a used car dealer was opening a location across the street. Yep, that’s what I thought too, until the grand opening of my new “competitor.” The first weekend he was open, I sold five new cars and seven used cars. The used car dealership, that I thought would be competitor generated traffic to my dealership I would have never been able to draw, and that weekend wasn’t a fluke. In fact, to be honest, the used car lot across the street kept me in business.
So what does that have to do with writing? The answer is simple. It has everything to do with writing. If you are a writer, you have no competitors. Every other writer is an associate who is driving buyers to you. My friend, Stephen Woodfin, has written a masterful legal thriller called Last One Chosen. John Grisham has written nineteen legal thrillers. I’ve read every one of Grisham’s books, and because he opened the genre for me, I’ll read every one of Stephen’s Woodfin’s legal thrillers.
James Lee Burke’s character, Dave Robicheaux, is a detective and a Vietnam veteran who has appeared in nineteen novels, two of which have been made into movies. Every one of those books invites prospective buyers to check out Southern Investigation, the story of three Vietnam Vets and the widow of a Vietnam Vet who operate a private detective agency. Frankly, I can’t afford advertising like that. What a deal for me!
If you believe that everyone who writes in the genre you have chosen to write in is a competitor, I invite you to reconsider that perspective. And, when you’ve done that, go a step further – help every writer you can, especially the ones who write in your genre. A long time ago, Zig Ziglar coined the phrase, “If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want.” That is not a statement without merit, and its fine advice for all indie writers – all 700, 000 plus of us. If that number overwhelms you, divide it by the number of Kindles that have been sold and are being sold every day.
Competition is not a concept that applies to writers.