Was Sun Tzu a Literary Strategist?

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. (from The Art of War by Sun Tzu, c. 500 BC)

After acknowledging that we don’t really like to think of other authors as competitors, my g+ friend and Literary Strategist Tom Blubaugh asked me to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of my three biggest competitors.

It’s an interesting assignment. “Competitor” almost sounds like “enemy”; that’s certainly how Sun Tzu would have seen it. So, apparently, do some hockey players–and some young hockey players’ parents. But I think of Heather, a sales rep for a large publisher, who asked her company’s permission to allow me to share her table at a trade show. They refused, but I was touched by Heather’s kindness. My one book was clearly not going to crowd out the hundreds of titles she can order, nor would it have detracted from her lovely display, but the point is–she saw me as an ally.

But we’re competitors, too. A customer with only $10.00 to spend on a paperback will buy either mine or one of Heather’s, not both. So Tom’s suggestion is an invitation to think about why someone might choose Scissortown over one of Heather’s books, and to build on that.

I started with the Berenstain Bears. Coralie and I had poured through some BB books when she was illustrating Scissortown; here’s what my research turned up now:

Strengths:

*A beautiful and interesting website that includes activities for children http://www.berenstainbears.com/

*Many, many titles

*Choice of Christian or secular stories

*Choice of formats—p-books, e-books, apps, a recordable book and DVDs

*Choice of levels—stories written at a “regular” level, and those written for emerging readers

*Wide choice of retailers

*Charitable giving

*Related products

*All titles on the first BB page of Amazon have 4-5 stars

*High Best Sellers Rank relative to comparable books

*Over fifty years of success

On a personal note, my nine-year-old granddaughter enjoyed these stories years ago–and she still does.

Weaknesses?

That’s a tough one. I was on page 3 of google before I got to anything negative. Only one of the (fairly sparse) negative comments resonated with me: the older books often portrayed Papa Bear (and by extension other papas) as a buffoon. That had troubled me too, and I believe the newer books are an improvement.

Although the adults in Scissortown clearly need the children’s help, my intention was not to portray them as fools–and hopefully I haven’t.

An additional note: Scissortown does not appeal to people like the woman I met who does not want her children to read fantasy. I suspect that she would not like talking bears, either.

So does that put Tommy and Tina on a level playing field with the bruins?  🙂

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Categories: Journey | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Was Sun Tzu a Literary Strategist?

  1. Coralie

    Interesting research, Margaret!

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