The UK’s Monopolies Commission (and why was there only one? as the old joke went) used to look at whether certain companies were becoming too dominant in their market, which led to a great deal of work about how exactly you defined a particular company’s market. For example, is a bus company in the “bus travel” market or the “travel” market where it is also competing against train operators? It’s often not clear. The same logic applies with books. Is “Milligan and the Samurai Rebels” in the “Japanese historical fiction” market, or that for “historical fiction” or even just “fiction”? If the first of these then the Samurai Trilogy is my “competition”, but if the market is general fiction then everything up to Fifty Shades of Grey is a “competitor” (and suitably I’m getting spanked by EL James, as is every other author).
So one question without a clear answer is about the market, but another is that raised by Mr Walters – to what extent do books and authors “compete” with each other anyway? This is where the book market differs from say the travel market. On the whole, people don’t think “I had such a pleasant journey the other day on Company A’s bus that I’ll think I’ll make a journey I wasn’t otherwise going to make and try out the bus (or train) of company B”. But with books that is pretty much what they do; a book that is a positive experience for the reader may well lead on to purchases of books of a similar style, or even of books of a different style too because the pleasure of reading has become more evident to the individual concerned. Anecdotally, I understand that this is the positive impact the Harry Potter series had on the teenage fiction market.
So given the capacity to expand the market, whether that be narrowly or broadly defined, I don’t think authors are in competition with each other. I look forward to readers of the Samurai Trilogy trying “Milligan and the Samurai Rebels” and vice versa. And if I put any of them off Japanese historical fiction for life, I’m sorry David!