Abundance Vs. Scarcity
Finally, we arrive at the fifth tenet of the Pirate Author Code: Abundance vs. Scarcity. This tenet is the mortar that holds all the bricks together. It's not obvious from an outside observer, but it's integral to the integrity of everything we build. Here is a snippet of the tenet lifted from the PAC:
Pirate Authors live out of a world-view based on abundance. Creativity itself insists on a foundation of abundance. By snatching words or images out of the air, do we deplete the available stock of creativity? Preposterous!
By shaping words into story, we make the world richer. And the more those stories are shared, the richer we all become! Share your maps with other ships. Inform other crews of potential hazards. We can never out-write the global demand for reading, as long as we are working together to strengthen and protect the storytelling industry.
For the time being, paid advertising pits us against each other (as we attempt to outbid each other for eyeballs), while also adding friction to the readers’ experience. But our competition is not other authors. Our competition is the information dealers and their efforts to tear down our industry by pumping it full of bilge and by polluting our reader's expectations and trust.
To succeed over the long-term, the publishing industry must find a means to connect the abundant creativity of storytelling with our abundant audience without brokering the connection with an ecosystem built on a foundation of competition and scarcity.
There is no shortage of readers.
Despite some of the things I’ve said in this book, the sky is not falling. Despite the decreasing number of pre-teens and teens that identify themselves as readers, there is no shortage of readers. Guess what? The human population has long been on an upward trend, and somewhere around 86% of those humans are literate. So...that’s like lots of readers. With translation technology improving, we’ll be able to reach a larger percentage of those readers. And once the StoryVerse comes fully online, we’ll engage even more readers.
Take these numbers with several grains of salt, but in the United States there were 45,000 people working as writers in 2018 and a total population of 327,000,000. Somewhere around 50,000,000 of those can’t read or don’t read, leaving us with a total reading population of 277,000,000. That means that in 2018 there were 6,155 readers per writer in the United States.
The takeaway here is that writing is not and should not be a competitive sport. Readers consume content faster than writers can create it, and there are over 6,000 readers for every writer. We’re fine.
Our competition is not other authors. It isn’t other books. We can’t write more than people can read. We are competing against other forms of digital media and entertainment. We are competing with mobile apps and social media. The more we combine our writerly efforts to bring reading back to relevancy, the more all of us win. The more humanity wins.
Scarcity Mindset 101
There is no reading quota for the average human. There is no word count at which my ability or desire to read more shuts down. There is no set number of tomes allowed for the human race and once we reach that number no more books can be written. There isn’t even a limit to the amount of human waking hours that can be invested in the activity of reading before light’s out. Standard scarcity economics don’t apply to reading.
Scarcity economics apply for commodity-driven retail outlets such as Amazon. There is a finite number of units of kitty litter sold in the United States every year, and if Amazon doesn’t sell those units, a competitor such as Walmart will. As a consumer, I don’t buy kitty litter from Walmart and then find the user experience so rewarding that I decide to buy more kitty litter for the thrill. Pretty soon, I can’t get enough. Scratching around in it is just so damn rewarding! And the freshness! While this is NOT the type of behavior that dominates commodities, it is the type of behavior that dominates ideas and entertainment.
Abundance and the Non-Zero-Sum
With my beloved kitty litter, the exchange of goods is an example of zero-sum. I need a bag of kitty litter. I’m only going to buy one bag of kitty litter right now. Amazon and Walmart compete by offering lower prices or higher convenience. One retailer wins and I buy my kitty litter from the winner. My money leaves my account and goes to the winner’s account. The kitty litter goes from their possession to my possession. The loser has lost the opportunity to make that exchange and now must focus on winning the next.
Nowhere in this process is there every an increase or decrease in the amount of kitty litter or the amount of money. The items simply shift from one entity to another. The net loss occurs in “opportunity losses” on the part of the retailer that was not able to win my business. So...sitting still makes you a loser. This is how the zero-sum game works when coupled with scarcity economics.
Non-zero-sum is the opposite. As a writer, I work my butt off to lovingly craft a micro-batched story for my particular audience. When I share that story with readers, I don’t lose the story while they gain it one at a time. Preposterous! When I share the story, I retain the wonder and love involved in creating it, plus I gain the joy of sharing it! And each reader who enjoys it gains from the passion and energy I invested in creating it.
By sharing the story with a single person, both of us are enriched. Thus, writing is a non-zero-sum game. The result of the exchange is greater than zero. Repeating this process over and over creates an abundance.
The more people start to read, the more those people want to finish reading. Reading begets more reading. The higher the quality of the reading, the more people want to read. The more relevant the reading delivery vehicle, the more people want to read. More begets more, not the other way around.
Conditioned for Competition
And yet, reversing our mindset is no easy task. Supply and demand is pounded into our heads from a very early age. And so is competition. You want to star in the game or ride the pine? You want to win? Because second place is first loser.
It’s hard to pour your heart and soul into your writing and then watch some upstart land a deal that seems to be based one-hundred percent on luck not pluck. For many of us, it’s natural to compare ourselves to the successes around us and either become discouraged or competitive. The only cure is collaboration and giving.
Bare with me as I get a little woo-woo once more. This mindset shift from scarcity to abundance is something that will improve every aspect of your life exponentially. Take your closest relationship as an example. The vast majority of us live out our relationships with a virtual scale of reciprocity in our minds. (This is classic scarcity thinking.) When you do something selfless and/or kind for the other person, you mentally tip the scales in your favor and hope for them to reciprocate. If they do, great! Everything in the relationship is either back to even or you feel inspired to tip the scale in your favor to see if they reciprocate again.
This sort of relationship is driven by the scarcity mindset that assumes you only have so much love and kindness to offer, and if the other person doesn’t reciprocate you’ll dry up and wither. They will have all the love and you will have none! (Those selfish bastards!) The first problem with this tit for tat relationship scale is that we all go through seasons in life where we already feel dried up (and seasons when we’re naturally overflowing). This means there will inevitably be a time when you will do something kind for your significant other and they will not reciprocate. They might not even notice!
The second problem with this kind of scarcity driven tit for tat is that the underlying assumptions are totally false. Emotions are non-zero-sum. Sharing your kindness and love with your significant other doesn’t deplete you while adding to them. In fact, the only time giving depletes the one doing the giving is when it is done out of an expectation of reciprocation.
When we live out of abundance, every kind and giving gesture we offer to others builds up ourselves as well as the receiver. Looping back around to your closest relationship, if you pour into the other as much as it takes to fill them up, eventually they will be inspired to love others as well. And instead of a back and forth, you create a spiral that continues to draw the two of your closer.
Resist the temptation to get competitive or to become bitter when life pours out reward on others but seemingly neglects you. Continue to share. Continue to give and collaborate. By doing so, you’ll create an abundance that will at some point spiral back around to include you and to draw all involved closer.
Okay. That was my last bit of woo-woo (for this post). Now onward into the future with the next post!
And incase you missed it, "I Say Publish the Pirate Way" is now available for purchase as a book! Basically, the 160 page book takes the content of this blog, organizes it, polishes it up, and ads some references.
And if you want to join us at the official event/gathering of Pirate Authors, there is still time to buy a ticket for S3 in Austin, TX over February 3-4, 2020.