Who Is Your Real Competition In The Writing World?

I’ve talked about markets and Amazon and publishing before.  I’ve also talked about targeting your market correctly.  The underlining question is: who is your real competition?

For many independent authors, the answer is, on the surface, only one person: me.  Except this sort of thinking has its disadvantages, as almost anyone who has spent time on social networking sites can attest to.  I can say that there are hundreds of people who have the listing “bestselling author” on their twitter profile.  Some, yes it’s true, but for some it’s subjective.

I can understand that most people love to think that by adding bestseller to their names on the social networking sites will get them book sales, but the fact is that as a reader, I don’t care if the book is a bestseller or not, if I like the book I will buy the book.  I also as a writer, see this as a means of competition, even if it’s unintentional on the authors part.  Social networking makes (even if it’s to see how it works) it seem the easiest thing to sell your book to a larger audience for self-published authors.
I understand that we all want people loving and buying our books, but if you don’t understand who your competition is, you won’t get very far.  I was reading a John Maxwell book recently, the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, and the one thing that stuck with me was the fact that he could take something as hard as  the concept of leadership and break it down into lay men’s terms.  

After a while, I also realized that Maxwell was being very smart, he talked about leadership in the business sense, but going to his website was an eye opener, he understood his competition very well, and it wasn’t where I expected.  I would say that coaching a person is more self-help, and it was when I realized that his main competition  was in the self-help section- from Steven R. Covey to Robin Sharma.

This man is smart.  His books are found in a brick and mortar store in the business section, whereas Sharma and Covey who wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
are found in the Self-help section of my local bookstore.  They all write about improving ourselves, but one has the advantage of finding two distinct audiences, and I am certain this is done with care and thought.
I don’t believe that Maxwell sees anyone as direct competition for money or sales of his books, but I think when it comes down to it, he spent a lot of time researching what his readers would read.
I think that most new writers, particularly independent authors should take note of this, there is a the focus on fame or publicity, but if you only look at your own book, you don’t see who you are either competing against, or who will help you in terms of increasing your book profits.  When you take a look at Amazon, some people can tell you how to look at your competition, and how to help your book succeed.  One of these books, Aiming at Amazon, explains this concept in detail.
I want to focus on one aspect that helped me define who to read and who to aim for.  As my co-author and I are writing a book about fan fiction, I can say I am on Amazon a lot more looking for books about this.  There are many, and they are all well written and each has a different take on writing.  Most of them are co-authored, and many of them have more than two authors.
My competition is not the bestselling author of this group, but the ones who have a similar focus or take on fan fiction.  Since I am working with a co-author, I have more of a chance to write and research.  I also have a book I’ve written before, so I do understand where the competition- and the help comes from.  I also plan on reading the books other authors have written, to see what makes this book sell better than the others, or if what I am saying is said before. My competition has things, wonderful things to say, so I should never repeat it.
I can see that having a different take on the concept of writing fan fiction is important, as is the time and effort needed to market my book correctly so that people will feel comfortable buying this book with others.