So a Huffington Post writer wants JK Rowling to stop writing books, apparently like most people who don’t understand how math or economics work, they think that if somebody else made a dollar, they lost one. Or if somebody else got pie, then there is no pie for them. Apparently this stupidity isn’t limited to just whining about economics anymore.
Read this first. Read it and gawk at the lameness.
Somebody posted this to my Facebook page, wanting my honest opinion as a relatively successful author who is more into the nuts and bolts of business rather than mystical muses and other assorted writerly bullshit. I can’t take every request that comes along because I’m kind of busy writing stuff that gets me paid, but this one needs to get clubbed before any other aspiring writers buy into this line of defeatist thinking. Some ideas just deserve to be mocked.
As usual, the person being fisked is in italics. My comments are in bold.
If JK Rowling Cares About Writing, She Should Stop Doing It
When I told a friend the title of this piece she looked at me in horror and said, “You can’t say that, everyone will just put it down to sour grapes!”
After reading this, I just put it down to willful ignorance.
And she does, of course, have a point. No struggling but relatively ambitious writer can possibly be anything other than envious. You’d be scarcely human otherwise.
Not really. I’m willing to bet that most of us who went from aspiring nobody to successful author aren’t human then. Back then when I looked at the writers at the top of the heap, I wasn’t jealous or angry at their selling more books, instead I tried to figure out why they were successful so that I could learn from them.
But this particular piece isn’t about that.
Oh, thank goodness. I was really looking forward to having a liberal lecture me on the value of envy and wanting to drag the more successful down to their level (of course, I don’t know if Lynn Shepherd is a prog, but she writes for HuffPo and is whining about somebody having more money than her, and wrote Occupy Rowling Street, so I’m going to go out on a limb and make an educated guess she leans that way).
I didn’t much mind Rowling when she was Pottering about. I’ve never read a word (or seen a minute) so I can’t comment on whether the books were good, bad or indifferent. I did think it a shame that adults were reading them (rather than just reading them to their children, which is another thing altogether), mainly because there’s so many other books out there that are surely more stimulating for grown-up minds.
Wait… So Lynn never read Rowling’s work, but she had already decided that Rowling wasn’t a *real* writer. Now where have we heard that before? (hint, all my regular readers just groaned at Lynn’s pretentious judgmental bullshit)
First off, who the hell are you to decide that somebody else is enjoying themselves wrong? Get off your high horse, lady. You’ve got your opinion, and apparently a hundred million people disagree with you and threw large piles of money at JK Rowling. To paraphrase Dr. Henry Jones Senior perhaps you goose stepping morons should spend more time writing books than judging them.
Second, despite the criticisms from the self-righteous literati, Rowling has a very solid skill set. She wrote books that appealed to one demographic which then spread from there because they appealed to eternal human notions like friendship, heroism, sacrifice, and courage. They aren’t dreary pretentious award winning twaddle, so shockingly enough, lots and lots of people liked them.
But, then again, any reading is better than no reading, right?
Not if the literati get their way. They won’t be happy as long as anybody reads “unapproved” books for fun, or genre fiction dies entirely.
Let’s put it this way, JK Rowling did more to get millions of young people to become readers than every English professor in the world. The only reason you have a market to sell to at all is because of writers like her.
But The Casual Vacancy changed all that.
It wasn’t just that the hype was drearily excessive, or that (by all accounts) the novel was no masterpiece and yet sold by the hundredweight, it was the way it crowded out everything else, however good, however worthwhile.
This is such bullshit, and I can explain why on a very, extremely personal level.
I do better in audiobook than I do in print. It is because I write in a very cinematic style that translates really well to narration. My Grimnoir Chronicles trilogy had been doing amazing. The first two books had won the Audie two years running. I’d done really well, but I’ve never reached #1. As a writer, we love big milestones like that. I really wanted that #1 spot, because hey, bragging rights.
Then when I was on book tour last year for Warbound, the 3rd Grimnoir novel, I found out that I’d reached the #2 bestseller spot, but I’d been beaten by some dude I’d never heard of. So when I got to that day’s signing I asked the clerk where I could find this “Robert Galbraith” person. “Oh! You mean the new JK Rowling!” and she took me to this GIGANTIC display of books. (my display of books disappeared into its shadow, and Barnes and Noble likes me!)
Well, that certainly explained my coming in second. JK Rowling’s pen name had gotten revealed right when both of our books came out. My reaction? GOOD FOR HER. Because I’m not a whiny little statist, I patted myself on the back for even coming close to beating the MVP with all the Superbowl rings and then got on with writing my next book. And then I spent the rest of the book tour having fun and telling fans in my best melodramatic Voldemort “Next time victory will be mine. CURSE YOU, HARRY POTTER! CURSE YOU!”
But here’s the kicker. I didn’t start out at that level. Warbound was my 9th novel and came out after six long, hard years of self-promotion, effort, and continual improvement. A few years before I was ecstatic when I even got on any list at all. I geeked out last year when my latest came out and I got as high as the #3 fantasy author on all of Amazon, losing only to Martin and Gaiman, but it was a far happier and more memorable moment years before when my name actually showed up for the first time in mid-nineties of the top 100, simply for the realization that I can do this!
News flash aspiring authors, writing is a job, and it is a challenging one. It is like any other career field, and just like them there are some overnight success stories, but most people who get to the top have only done so after a long hard slog of continually getting better at what they do. Depending on your genre, it isn’t Steven King, or George Martin, or John Grisham, or Laurel Hamilton, or Stephanie Myers holding you back, IT IS YOU.
That book sucked the oxygen from the entire publishing and reading atmosphere. And I chose that analogy quite deliberately,
Then you chose your analogy quite deliberately in a manner that makes you sound like a total loser. What complete and utter defeatist garbage. If you are that thin skinned you will have an extremely difficult time.
because I think that sort of monopoly can make it next to impossible for anything else to survive, let alone thrive.
That is simply a lie, just on the fact that there are a whole bunch of us thriving right now. Blaming JK Rowling for your lack of success if foolish. In fact, because Rowling did so much to bring new, younger readers into genre fiction you should THANK HER for giving you a bigger potential customer base.
I write NOTHING like JK Rowling, but many of my fans who are in their twenties now became readers because Harry Potter was their gateway drug. I have friends and acquaintances who write for the Harry Potter demographic, ranging in success from relative newbie to total badass, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard any of them bitch like this.
There are plenty of authors who are thriving right now. I’m not making Tom Clancy lotto by any means, but I’m making a damn good living writing books. Only the top 1% of pro published authors make over 100k a year, but pretty much every one of us I know in that category has a few things in common, as in they write their asses off, they understand their target market, and they treat writing like it is a real proper professional job.
Publishing a book is hard enough at the best of times, especially in an industry already far too fixated with Big Names and Sure Things, but what can an ordinary author do, up against such a Golgomath?
You know, I really wanted to play in the NFL, but there were all of these Big Names and Sure Things who were better at things like running, tackling, throwing, catching, or just the game of football in general. If only all of the good athletes would have recused themselves, then us fat, slow, uncoordinated types would have a chance to play in the big time! (sure, nobody would ever watch football again, but that’s besides the point!)
And then there was the whole Cuckoo’s Calling saga. I know she used a pseudonym, and no doubt strenuous efforts were indeed made to conceal her identity, but there is no spell strong enough to keep that concealed for long. Her boy hero may be able to resort to an invisibility cloak, but in the real world, they just don’t exist.
Hey, if anybody should be bitching, it is me. If only they would have kept that secret for one more week, I could put #1 Best Seller on my resume and then rest on my laurels for the rest of my life.
With a secret as sensational as that, it was only a matter of time until the inevitable happened, and then, of course, this apparently well-written and well-received crime novel which seems to have sold no more than 1,500 copies under its own steam, suddenly went stratospheric.
Duh… Think about it. Robert Galbraith had yet to distinguish himself from the pack of 100,000 other writers just like him. JK Rowling was already an international brand name. She has literally tens of millions of faithful readers just waiting to throw money at her. So when Galbraith turns out to be Rowling, and those fans show up with cash in hand, the results shouldn’t be a shocker.
So maybe instead of getting mad at the superstar who tried to go incognito, specifically to protect your delicate feelings, what you should do is write some really good books and build up a super loyal fan base. That way when you write something they will all purchase it. Crazy, I know.
And as with The Casual Vacancy, so with this. The book dominated crime lists, and crime reviews in newspapers, and crime sections in bookshops, making it even more difficult than it already was for other books – just as well-written, and just as well-received – to get a look in.
Damn you capitalism! The system that allows us to actually get paid for telling imaginary stories is flawed! WHAAAAAA!
Cry me a river. I’ve had two major releases in a row where I got to go head to head against a new season of Game of Thrones on HBO, and one year it was new GoT AND a new season of True Blood. That’s loads of fun when you are a fantasy novelist and you look at the Nielsen Bookscan numbers, and your new book is the bestselling book you’ve ever had, but 18 of the top 20 spots are being taken up by various Game of Thrones and True Blood tie ins. That can be frustrating, and if I was a HuffPo contributor I’d probably go water my crying pillow (it smells of lilacs and shame) but as a devout capitalist I look at those stats and think to myself “man, I really need a TV show!”
Rowling has no need of either the shelf space or the column inches, but other writers desperately do.
What crap. I bet you think she also doesn’t NEED a car that goes fast, a business that makes a profit, a soda over 16 ounces, or a gun that holds more than seven rounds. What is it with you people and the NEED to tell everybody else what they NEED.
First off, Rowling doesn’t decide how much shelf space she gets, bookstores do, and the reason she gets her own shelf and you don’t is because customers actually come in and want to purchase her books. Even if Rowling’s books were to be discontinued tomorrow, you still wouldn’t get her shelf space, because the stores would switch it to something else that actually sells.
And what about the internet? What about Amazon and eBooks? There isn’t even any shelf space there for Rowling to be kicking you out of, so what the hell is your excuse now? Electrons that touched her books won’t touch yours?
And now there’s going to be a sequel, and you can bet the same thing is going to happen all over again.
And I say good for Rowling and better for her hardcore fans.
So this is my plea to JK Rowling. Remember what it was like when The Cuckoo’s Calling had only sold a few boxes and think about those of us who are stuck there,
Oh, I’m sure she does. Once poor, never rich. If I recall correctly this woman went from living off of Ramen noodle to being a billionaire, and believe me, us folks that grew up dirt poor never forget.
because we can’t wave a wand and turn our books into overnight bestsellers merely by saying the magic word.
I hate to break this to you, Lynn, but her “overnight” bestsellers took a lot of time and books worth of growing a dedicated fan base. I’ve had oblivious people ask me about my “overnight” success, which is ironic since overnight sure felt a lot more like 2 years of trying to get published followed by 5 years of effort while still working my day job, to me.
By all means keep writing for kids, or for your personal pleasure – I would never deny anyone that – but when it comes to the adult market you’ve had your turn.
Oh fuck off.
That’s mighty white of you, Lynn, to ALLOW one of the most successful writers in all of recorded human history to keep writing on the side. You’d like totally never DENY somebody that, except after reading your petty screed we’re all pretty sure if you had the power to do so you would.
Enjoy your vast fortune and the good you’re doing with it, luxuriate in the love of your legions of fans, and good luck to you on both counts. But it’s time to give other writers, and other writing, room to breathe.
You want success, Lynn? THEN EARN IT.
If Rowling did what you wanted (which she won’t, because she doesn’t have to give a shit what some nobody from the HuffPo wants) it wouldn’t make a lick of difference to your career, because somebody else better than you would step into the void first. Your demand reads suspiciously like the South Park Underwear Gnomes plan for world domination.
- Room to breathe.
Now it is time for a rant.
Okay, aspiring and new writers, nobody owes you shit. Deal with it. You are an entertainer. Nothing more. If you get really good at entertaining people they will pay you money for your work, so then you need to go find the people who will give you money for your work. If you want more fans, you better keep on improving. As the number of fans grows, you will make more money and sell more books. How you accomplish this is irrelevant, because no matter what, the burden of success is on you and you alone.
JK Rowling making a dollar does not take a dollar out of your pocket. That is loser talk. Quite the contrary, she has grown our market, and brought more readers into genre fiction, so she’s actually put dollars IN your pocket.
Lynn here is bitching about somebody who is more successful than she is while wishing they’d step aside to make room for her, but there is some little self-published nobody out there right now crying because “if only I had a blog on the Huffington Post then I’d be successful too, so Lynn should step aside to make room for ME!” And for the self-published nobodies, that isn’t an insult, that is where I started too.
Apparently blogging on HuffPo, even though that puts your name in front of thousands of potential new readers, can’t save you (yeah, sorry self-published nobody, but we learned from last week’s Book Bomb of an author who’d been reviewed by the HuffPo that my blog sells more books than they do).
That’s not how business works, and I hate to break it to you artistic special snowflakes, writing is a business. You need to create your brand, expand your brand, and continually improve your brand.
Once in a great while somebody comes along and blows up huge and their first book makes a zillion dollars and gets a blockbuster movie franchise. Those writers are anomalies. Most of us who make a living at this just plug along, turning out another book or two a year, and after a few years we’ve got enough fans and work under contract to safely quit our day jobs, and then we just do the same thing, but more. We can throw a temper tantrum and demand they step aside, but the odds of you being the Next Big Thing are jack and shit, and jack just left town.
Your garage band can whine about Justin Bieber being a no talent hack and how it isn’t fair, but just because he goes away (hopefully soon because I have teenage daughters) doesn’t mean your little garage band is now going to be playing to sold out stadiums.
No matter where you are, there will always be somebody out there doing better than you, unless of course they are JK Rowling.