“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, because we can’t wave a wand and turn our books into overnight bestsellers merely by saying the magic word. 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. 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.”
This is what I read on my feed this morning. Curious, because the link was to Hufftington Post, I clicked through to the article. Lynn Shepherd basically says that she hasn’t read a word of Potter, but since Rowling, just by virtue of her fame alone, can turn a non-seller to a mega-bestseller, she should stop writing.
I’d like to say a few things to Lynn Shepherd, who I understand is a literary mystery writer. I’d like you guys to tell me if you disagree/ agree with any/ all of it.
Dear Lynn Shepherd,
1. Writing is like golf, you’re your only competitor. Someone else’s success doesn’t automatically ensure your failure. If you are a writer, it’s because you have a story to tell. What other reason is there? How does someone else selling a gazillion copies play into it?
2. “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. That book sucked the oxygen from the entire publishing and reading atmosphere. And I chose that analogy quite deliberately, because I think that sort of monopoly can make it next to impossible for anything else to survive, let alone thrive.”
The publication of a mega best seller actually helps the ecology of writing: it draws more folks into reading, it encourages publishers to take more chances because their pockets are deeper.
3. “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.”
Writing for children is way harder than writing for adults. So stop patronizing those who write Children’s fiction or YA. Or maybe try writing some.
4. If you’re going to ask an author to stop publishing her writing, you should have read at least one of her books. She worked hard at writing those novels– and kept writing despite adversities.
5. When Rowling first broke into the industry, there were mega-sellers before her. That didn’t prevent her from selling. Amanda Hocking self-published her way to stardom, this was post-Rowling. So, there’s enough oxygen for all of us to breathe.
6. Rowling didn’t expect to sell at all, her agent told her she wouldn’t make any money. She was rejected by 12 publishers. I met one of them, and his fave dinner story was his tragedy of rejecting Rowling. No one knows what will make a book sell, so it is pointless to accuse a more successful colleague of your failure.
Could the Potter books use a better editor? Definitely. Would we have had less of a noise about The Casual Vacancy and The Cuckoo’s Calling if it weren’t for the hallowed Rowling name? Absolutely.
Does Rowling’s work have as much literary merit as Alice Munro or Toni Morrison or Franz Kafka or Ernest Hemingway or Amy Hempel or Lydia Davis?
In my own, very subjective opinion?
Possibly not. (I have read all these authors, and worship all of them. I loved reading Rowling as well and have read all the Potters, and The Cuckoo’s Calling.)
But does JK Rowling have the right to write whatever she wants, when she wants, and publish it? Hell, yeah.
As long as she has a story to tell, in my not so humble opinion, she should be able to tell it. At the end of the day, that’s why a writer writes at the core of it all, in order to write. Not to please other writers (All Nobel Laureates should stop writing, then). Not even to please readers. (Stephen King would stop writing too, in that case, because his readers are happy).
As a writer, dear Lynn Shepherd, I don’t understand those in my profession who want to pull their colleagues down. And how do you think this article of yours is going to win over more readers and writers to your side?
Do You, dear reader, think JK Rowling should stop writing just because she sells a gazillion copies with each book she writes? Does Shepherd’s article have anything to do with rumors of a seven-part crime series from Rowling?