I debated whether or not to address this issue, since it’s already gotten so much media attention and commentary, but I just wanted to say a few words about Lynn Shepherd’s piece for The Huffington Post titled, If JK Rowling Cares About Writing, She Should Stop Doing It. Obviously, this is a sensationalist title, and the article goes on to say that — although Shepherd has not read Rowling’s books — she believes that Rowling should give up writing adult books: “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,” Shepherd says.
Pretty strong words, no? So much so that my first thought was that the post must be intended as hyperbole. She couldn’t possibly mean she wanted JK Rowling to really stop writing adult books. Seriously? Then I thought it was a marketing ploy, a way to boost Shepherd’s profile, get more comments, higher search results — you know, in a there’s-no-such-thing-as-bad-publicity kind of way. After all, we authors need all the help we can get. But, guess what? Turns out, there might just be such as thing as bad publicity.
As you would imagine, the response to Shepherd’s post was insane. Authors (including Anne Rice) began condemning the piece and Shepherd, and legions of JK Rowling fans were calling for Shepherd’s head on a platter, many of them taking to Twitter and to Shepherd’s Facebook page to tell her so and also posting one-star reviews of Shepherd’s books on Amazon and Goodreads. It was nuts. I kept wondering to myself, Was she hoping to stir the pot? Did she intend to offend? Could she have imagined this crazy response, a response so big that the BBC News covered it?
Interestingly, Shepherd is actually an author I know — well, sort of know, as anyone knows anyone through social media circles. She and I “met” years ago when I started this blog, and she was one of the first debut authors I featured. And I can see what she is trying to say. As an indie author, I know how hard it is to sell books. I KNOW. There are just so many review sites and store shelves out there, and it can be difficult for those of us who are not household names to get a chance. But, as I said in the comments of her piece, I would hate to think that the answer is for a writer — any writer — to stop writing. Conversely, I think the answer is for all of us to KEEP WRITING. I truly believe that if the writing is good enough, it will find readers. And shelf and review space.
The publishing industry is not like, say, the refrigerator industry. When one person buys a refrigerator, she’s out of the market for a good twenty years, so it’s understandable that refrigerator makers are killing each other to make a sale. But in publishing, when a reader buys a book, chances are good that she will buy lots more. We really don’t compete with one another in the same business sense, which is what I found so puzzling about Shepherd’s post. Why target Rowling?
In the end, there’s room in the adult market for all authors, and that includes Rowling and Shepherd. And, hopefully, me. :)