If JK Rowling stopped writing, people would totally buy my books, right? 4

If JK Rowling Cares About Writing, She Should Stop Doing It

Okay, it’s 7 in the morning and I haven’t even had a cup of tea yet, but someone said a dumb thing on the internet so I can’t even look away. Really, I’d normally just bitch about this on Twitter, but my thoughts are a bit more than 140 characters long so here you go.

Basic  summary of the above blog post: JK Rowling should stop writing because everyone is buying her books instead of mine.

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!”

Should have listened to your friend, dude.

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.

I can basically point to the above two sentences as the real problem with Ms. Shepherd’s piece. It basically boils down to, “well it’s okay if she sticks to her stinky genre, but she should get out of mine” crossed with barely concealed disdain that actual grown-ups are reading said stinky genre. Double special bonus fuck you asshole points for never having actually read Harry Potter while still being a patronizing douche about it.

This sort of attitude, I will note, is why plebes like myself often have the general impression that “literary” fiction is a place for pompous assholes. And why genre writers still get to nurse our treasured persecuted artist complex despite the fact that by all measures but for gatekeeper approval, we seem to be winning.

Look, I know it sucks when you’re struggling to make sales. I would sacrifice any number of goats to the Great Old Ones if I thought it’d give me a chance at your numbers on my novellas, Ms. Shepherd. I haven’t even managed to sell a full novel yet, and in my more crapulent moments of despair I can and have gone on ego-comforting rants about how the world is full of philistines that totally don’t get my genius, and what the fuck is wrong with the industry that they’re publishing shit like Twilight when my obviously superior talent is languishing unappreciated.

But this is the thing. I keep the wailing and ineffectual fist-waving limited to whatever audience is in my living room at the time (usually the cats, sometimes Mike, who keeps his headphones firmly on and just sort of nods along and makes vague noises of agreement until I’ve run out of steam) instead of recording it for posterity on a well-trafficked site. Apparently because I have the requisite self-awareness to know, in hindsight, just how pathetic it all sounds.

Four simple points:

  1. The major assumption here, that if people weren’t reading JK Rowling’s books, they would be reading yours or any you personally deem worthy is bullshit.
  2. Frankly, considering the wide range of other leisure activities that people have competing for their time, I maintain forevermore that we should be happy they’re reading at all. And they are reading, you realize. Don’t give me that “kids these days” shit.
  3. As a corollary to #2, if you hook someone in to reading with a piece of really popular fiction (eg: Harry Potter or Twilight) there is a good chance they will give the whole reading thing a go because it was so much fun this time around and try more books. (Whoops, maybe that’s why my stinky genre is doing so well!) For all that I love bitching about Twilight as much as the next feminist with delusions of being a writer, I am still actually glad for its existence because I personally know of people who started reading again because of those books. There are writers out there now who have sales because Stephenie Meyer and JK Rowling turned someone back on to reading. So back the fuck off.
  4. I, too, have had my moments of lamentation about how the masses only want to feast on shit and isn’t it a shame we can’t get real art made these days. (Normally in connection with movies; you try figuring out how to get a film funded when it lacks the requisite explosions and tits.) Well, them’s the breaks because we went with that whole capitalism thing. But it’s also, frankly, the huge commercial successes that even make the game possible for the little guys who might not ever earn out their advances. So many of these big sellers like Harry Potter just come whipping out of left field. No one has a formula for what’s going to catch on, and publishing moves slowly enough that writers are commonly advised to not try to chase what is “hot” because by the time you get it written and in the pipe, the next wave will have hit. Makes me wonder just how many writers have gotten their debut sales because someone was willing to take a chance on them thanks to the massive successes of others.

As someone who wasted money and valuable hours of my life I’ll never get back on The Casual Vacancy, it wouldn’t break my heart at all if JK Rowling went back to writing YA, because I really liked those books. But this is the thing. I know JK Rowling isn’t my bitch. I know you don’t get to tell other writers what to write. Ever.

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.

Christ, what an asshole.

4 thoughts on “If JK Rowling stopped writing, people would totally buy my books, right?

  1. Reply Ingvar Feb 26,2014 08:23

    I hate to point out spelling errors (actually, I lie, I relish pointing them out, especially if I consistently do them myself). Turns out that the Twilight author is “Stephenie Meyer”.

    Other than that, I agree fully. Things in print that people read, probably leads to more things in print that more people read. And maybe, just maybe, I will like enough of it to have delicious, unread books down the line.

    I used to use the same line of reasoning for comics, when I was younger. Because comics gets kids into the habit of reading, and once in the habit, they might just start reading books as well (or switch entirely to books). Shame, really, how much of comics is now a wasteland of assorted sexism and racism.

    • Reply Rachael Feb 26,2014 08:25

      No seriously, thank you for pointing that out. I feel like an asshole. Error fixed.

      That’s an interesting point about comics…

      • Reply Ingvar Feb 26,2014 09:42

        Reading the Swedish (at that point weekly) “Donald Duck &co” comic is definitely one of the contributing factors to me reading. You could just about make sense of it without the text, but with the text it was a gateway to more comics (Asterix, Spike and Suzy, the Smurfs, Bamse, …) and the works of Astrid Lindgren.

        From there, it basically snowballed and by the tender age of 11-or-so, I was granted the privilege of being able to take out books from the adult section at my local library (after two years of having to have it cleared by my mum, to the librarians). Normally, that was a “15 or older” privilege.

  2. Reply Daniel Dvorkin Feb 27,2014 18:24

    Wow. Just … wow.

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