The Good and the Bad
Better can be a great concept:
- Trying to do better leads to improvement.
- Not satisfied with how things are, it can be a great motivator.
Yet the concept of better does have drawbacks:
- Other people may feel jealous of someone who seems to be better.
- A feeling of superiority can lead to a variety of social consequences.
A Better Balance
The trick is to try to derive the benefits of the idea of doing better while avoiding the drawbacks.
I will apply this specifically to books and authors so that we have a concrete example in mind.
Striving to write a better book, focus on these positives:
- Use this goal to motivate your writing.
- Do research that will help with your book.
- Seek feedback that may help you improve.
- Think of how your book may benefit readers.
- When dealing with criticism, remind yourself of the extra efforts that you made.
but avoid these negatives:
- Feeling that your book is better than others. It probably is in some ways, but can’t be better in every way; so in some ways, it will be worse. Not every author has the same priorities: Maybe richer, more in-depth characterization appeals to you, and this makes your book better to readers who appreciate this, but it doesn’t make your book better to all readers. Maybe realism appeals to you, which makes your book better for readers who want that, but for those who want a fantastic world different from reality, it’s not better. Maybe your story is better, but the way the words are strung together isn’t. Different books are better for different readers. No book is best. Find one book that thousands love, and you’ll find that hundreds hate it.
- Claiming that your book is better than another book. It may seem tempting to say, “If you liked ___, you’ll love ___,” but this can cause problems. First, this creates unrealistic expectations. Second, you don’t want to insult another book’s loyal fan base. It can be helpful to mention another book to give an idea of what to expect, but if you do this, do it in such a way that it in no conceivable way makes your book sound better than the other book.
- Feeling that you’re a better author. Maybe you spent more time studying the craft of writing, but others may make up for this through life experience or imagination. Maybe you have done years of research, while others have a gift for knowing how to please an audience. You may be better in some ways, but you can’t be better in every way.
It is definitely worth trying to do better. This pursuit leads to better books, which creates more enjoyable reading experiences.
Trying to write a book that is better, in various ways, than other books you’ve read is good. Other readers are likely to appreciate this. But not all readers will agree.
Trying to improve over what you’ve seen other authors do, in various ways, is good. But you won’t be better in every way.
Comparing yourself to others can lead to jealousy, if other books seem to be selling better or receiving better reviews. Comparing yourself to others can lead to an air of superiority if your book seems to be above average. Either way, thee comparisons can create big problems.
There is one person you should compare yourself to. That’s you. Try to improve over your former self. That’s a noble ambition, it will make the world a better place, and you have no reason to feel jealous or superior when you’re comparing yourself to yourself.
I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:
Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers