jk rowling stop writingThis article from Huffington Post has been lighting up the blogosphere this week. It’s premise? That JK Rowling’s adult novel “sucked the oxygen from the entire publishing and reading atmosphere” and that she should “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.”

There are over 800 comments on the original post, so clearly author Lynn Shepherd has struck a nerve. And that nerve, judging from a comment sampling, seems to be ‘are you out of your effing mind?’ Even Shepherd herself concedes that her article could be construed as sour grapes, but she presses forward anyway and basically says that Rowling is doing other authors a disservice by continuing to suck up best-seller spots even though she’s had such success already.

I think she is terribly wrong, and it’s not just because it IS sour grapes, and so horribly unprofessional. It’s just that I don’t think the creative market works that way. One author’s success does not necessarily take away a sale from another one, because readers like to read books. And then they finish them. I have half a dozen mystery authors I follow, not just one, because when I finish a new book, I need to find something else to read. So I could read their book, and your book too. Their success doesn’t threaten your possible sale at all.

Where I do see Shepherd’s point is in the publicity issue. There IS a fight to be noticed out there, and many authors do find it hard to get the word out and connect with readers who might like their stuff if only they knew about it. Maybe Shepherd wrote the article hoping to reach those people and get them to discover her. I certainly had never heard of her before this article came out. But now that I have, I have no desire to read her books because my first impression of her was this ridiculous nonsense. She got her name out—and sullied it.

I absolutely do not think Rowling owes it to anyone to stop writing. She came from obscurity, same as every author once did, and through both work and luck, she made herself successful, More power to her. In today’s increasingly open marketplace, everybody else has that same chance. If Shepherd wants Rowling’s status, she has to earn it, the same as Rowling, and other authors before her, did. I think that if she were the one another author was asking to step aside, she’d have a very different take on this issue.

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  1. Agreed – I feel sorry for Shepard, because it’s so easy to make a mistake and get savaged for it (I was at her Amazon listing, and as of yesterday it had been reviewed way down by Rowling fans who hadn’t read her work). It seems like disproportionate fallout for saying something goofy that went viral.

    I have a very minor quibble, regarding “she has to earn it, the same as Rowling, and other authors before her, did.” Though everyone has a shot, and everyone has to put in the time and work, I don’t think it’s a clear meritocracy: Shepard could work as hard to earn it as anyone else, and still not make it – that’s just part of the gig that you have to be at peace with (and a potential origin of sour grapes!).

  2. I don’t at all feel sorry for Ms Shepard. It’s one thing to have a opinion, it’s another to publish it on the Huffington Post. The only thing I have read by Ms Shepard is her post there, so I am not commenting on her writing skills.
    The article is just wrong on so many levels it leaves one stunned.
    The second paragraph is priceless. “I cannot understand why adults would read those books…” Showing a total lack of understanding of why someone might invest the time required to read seven books and something like a million words.
    And more to the point, she would know that JK Rowling worked very hard to get where she is. I have not read The Casual Vacancy, but have read Cuckoo’s Calling and it stands quite well on it’s own. I am glad to hear there will be more.
    Maybe she should read some Rowling and get a idea of what it takes to be a good writer before she starts trying to give advise to her. She might also want to brush up on her social skills a bit…

  3. Agreed!

    I might add that the real enemy that all writers face is the limited number of people who read for fun, as opposed to slouching on a couch in front of a screen. Through her Harry Potter books, J. K. Rowlings has increased the number of readers, particularly among the young, and that benefits all of us.

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