This is almost veering off into Tell it Like it is territory. But I’m not entirely telling it how it is. I’m more attempting to point out how someone else has told it how it isn’t.
So I read a very frustrating and provocative article by Lynn Shepherd on JK Rowling’s role as a writer who (shockingly!) didn’t immediately decide to give up writing when she earned a ‘vast fortune’ off the back of it.
Before I go into this in any depth, if you haven’t read this article by Lynn yet, you should do it now: click here.
All done? I know there’s a part of your brain going ‘she has a point kind of, doesn’t she? I mean, big bad mainstream authors do kind of ruin it for the little guys, don’t they?’ I have to admit, I sort of started thinking that way – I was reluctant to jump on the hating Lynn Shepherd bandwagon. But then I thought some more about it. It seems as though Lynn is trying to justify this tyrade against Rowling by asking us to agree that popular, arguably mainstream authors are making it more difficult for struggling authors to find agents, publishers and buyers when the books hit the shelves. That’s fine. You can make that argument, and I’m sure many other authors out there would feel that pain and empathise. What you can’t do is couple a self-righteous comment on the closed community of publishing/journalism with an attack (and I think it is an attack, albeit one that seems to constantly premise with ‘I don’t mean this in a mean way, but…’) on one of the world’s most successful, charitable and charismatic writers. Particularly when you haven’t even read any of her most successful works.
I feel as though Lynn has got a little bit carried away with herself – her frustration has overflowed and targeted the wrong victim. About halfway through the article, I really did start to see her point of view, and did begin to empathise with how difficult it is to find column inches in any newspaper when you have giants like Rowling to compete with – JK Rowling’s writing already has an audience, and a fanbase, so it is more attractive and a safer bet for journalists who want to encourage people to buy their newspapers.
Comments like ‘the novel was no masterpiece and yet sold by the hundredweight’ and ‘there’s so many other books out there that are surely more stimulating for grown-up minds’ drag her main argument down into the ground, and many critics have already countered some of her more discursive comments.
‘Shepherd misunderstands literary economics, says author Larry Correia:
“JK Rowling making a dollar does not take a dollar out of your pocket,” he writes. “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. “‘
It would have been interesting to read a coherent, objective discussion on the impact of successful, established writers moving from one market to another, but this verged too much into ‘sour grapes’ territory, though as Lynn says, ‘this particular piece isn’t about that.’
Let me know what you think about this article, or about any of the counter-arguments. I’m very interested to hear everyone’s thoughts on this.