the writing life,  thoughts

Fly-By-Night Competition

I thought I would write a post about competition because I’ve talked to a few writers recently who are concerned with the sheer number of people who are currently writing for publication. They’re afraid that when they finally do publish, their work will fall to the wayside, destined to languish in obscurity amongst the avalanches of published books available.

In all honesty, this could happen. However, you wouldn’t be able to blame it on all the fly-by-night authors out there.

First let me explain what I mean by fly-by-night authors. In some cases a fly-by-night author is someone who has that one book in them. Not two, not three, not fifty like real writers. No – they literally have just the one book. The chances of that one book selling a lot is slim to none. The chance of there being a sequel to that one book is even slimmer.  There are also two and three book authors who eventually fade away into obscurity. Next, some fly-by-night authors are people who think writing is a get rich quick scheme. They may put out a few short stories that they call books, but when those books tank, they disappear, too.

In occult writing we have this problem. There are a lot of fly-by-night authors who think they have a book in them and what they end up producing is  a chapbook here or there that simply repeats the information from well-written, popular, previously published books. Just go to Lulu and look up Satanism sometime and you’ll see what I mean. These books are often poorly written because not all occultists make good authors. With Lulu anyone can self publish, so the books are often poorly formatted as well. They are numerous because the younger generation sees writing as a glamorous career and figures anyone can do it. Some of us, evidently, make writing for a living look easy. Not only that, but when you have amateurs writing books who don’t know what it takes to write a book, what you end up with are chapbooks (i.e. essays) because very few of them actually breach 100 pages.

While some of these folks do really well with their books, most of them do not. This is usually because they don’t take the time to stop and understand what makes an indie author successful, even when it comes to occult publishing. Writing (anything) not only takes knowing one’s industry and knowing your material, but it also takes skill that goes beyond being able to use proper grammar and structure.

This example can be applied to other areas of publishing as well. Not all occultists are writers just as not all readers are writers — even though they think they are or could be. You either have the skill and talent for it – or you don’t.

Books by people who don’t have the right skills will fail. This, and this alone is why real writers should not be afraid of these kinds of writers and mislabel them “competition”.  Not to mention there is room in the world for everyone’s ideas and everyone’s books. Just because you wrote a book about pelicans doesn’t mean another book about pelicans is competition. It simply means the reader has more choices and readers really into pelicans will likely buy both books. Now if the other book about pelicans is better than yours it will likely see more sales, but that should just motivate you to write the best book you can from the get-go.

Finally, real writers keep writing. They keep producing books. Sure, some books will be better than others, but they keep writing. That’s where you have the advantage over the fly-by-nights. You’re likely prolific by your very nature and have been a writer for a long time (before it was cool or allegedly easy to be a writer). That alone puts you in a different league than the fly-by night. So don’t worry about them. You’re in a completely different league than they are and readers are smart enough to navigate the world of abundant reading material to find books worth reading.

All of that said, let me tell you what is more likely to send your first published book plummeting into obscurity.

1. Awful presentation and format.

2. Consistently poor grammar, structure, or spelling.

3. Lousy storytelling. I know an author who writes beautiful prose, but her craft is hit or miss.  In some of her work she builds to a climax that never materializes and her resolutions fall flat. So while she makes a tidy living writing, meh, the stories themselves could be better. As a reader, I’ll put up with less than perfect prose if the story and characters intrigue me. I am not so likely to return to an author who writes really well, but who lacks in the storytelling or character department. Admittedly some readers are opposite me. They want neat and tidy prose and will put up with a crappy story. Ideally you want your books to both have neat and tidy prose while also telling an engaging story with charismatic characters.

4. The fact that you only have one book, novella, novel, or short story available. Let’s be honest — you’re going to gain a following faster if you have more than one thing out.

5. Your lack of marketing. You do have to tell people about your book(s). The fact that it’s available is no guarantee anyone will be able to find it or even know it exists. So let them know, okay?

And there you go. Thanks for reading and have a fantabulous Friday!

Steph is an award winning and bestselling author of thrilling steamy and paranormal romances, dark urban fantasy, occult horror-thrillers, cozy mysteries, contemporary romance, sword and sorcery fantasy, and books about the esoteric and Daemonolatry. A Daemonolatress and forever a resident of Smelt Isle, she is happily married and cat-mom to three pampered house cats. Her muse is a demanding sadistic Dom who often keeps her up into the wee hours of the morning. You can contact her at


  • Laura

    Number 5 totally rings a bell with me. I know someone who calls herself a writer and she’s had a book published but she’ll not tell you what it’s called or where to get it. And gives some crappy reason about not wanting people she’s knows reading it because if they do,read it, then they will “get her” i.e. understand her. What rubbish lol. Why bother telling people you have a book in the first place?

  • Morgan Eckstein

    These people have always been there. It is just in the old days (print market), their stuff would die in the slush piles.

    (It was painful reading the slush.)

    Or it would die in fanzines, or little batches of vanity books molding in a basement—I am quite sure a couple were buried secretly in graveyards.

    These people were not real competition then, they are not real competition now.

    As for not telling people where to find your stuff, I have written some stuff that I do not tell people the titles of…or pen-names I used…but it is one of the Forbidden Four that PayPal was foaming about, so I hope that is understandable.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

What is 15 + 14 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:
IMPORTANT! To be able to proceed, you need to solve the following simple math (so we know that you are a human) :-)