Monday, February 24, 2014

Why It Doesn't Matter That JK Rowling is Still Writing.

Today I read this article that basically says that JK Rowling should stop publishing adult novels because it makes it harder for first time authors to get read.
Now, ignoring the opening where she openly bashes adults who have read Harry Potter for their own personal pleasure without having read the books (or even seen the movies) as a deeply flawed statement all on it’s own, this woman, Lynn Shepherd makes a few very basic assumptions that don’t hold true to the lightest of scrutinizes. 
For starters she assumes that readers will only read a book because of a big name, and that’s why she’s targeting Rowling. Now it’s true that there are some readers, I like to think of them as Once a Year readers, who will only pick up the latest Stephen King, or Dan Brown, or whatever the sleeper hit of the summer ends up being. They want to be in the know but they aren’t readers, at least they’re not readers who are on the lookout for anything else. They’re a market that non-blockbuster authors are never going to tap because they’re just not interested. They want the flash and big name and the guarantee that there’s a community around this book that they can become a part of. There’s nothing wrong with this. They just aren't going to change their habits. They came in for one book, they left with that book. They're done until the next big hit comes out. So yeah, they might come and buy Casual Vacancy or Cuckoo's Calling, but they were never going to buy anything else. If they found the display empty they would leave empty handed. I hope I am making my point here because It is one I really don't think Ms. Shepherd understands. 
But does that sound like the whole reading community? No. Sure publishers would love if everyone sold like Rowling, but they don't, but that doesn't mean that a market doesn't exist. Which brings me to the reader readers. You know them, the ones (like myself) who are always carrying a book and always on the lookout for the next amazing story. Sure they might read King, Green or Rowling, but they’ll also delve deeper into the shelves. They’ll use what they loved about The Fault in Our Stars to find other books that are similar, and use author recommendations to find other writers with a similar style. These are the readers you can sell too, and guess what, they still want to buy books. They'll browse shelves and troll goodreads lists. They can be picky, but it's only because they know what they like. These readers go through dozens of books a year.  They're the people who will walk by the display of the latest YA series and purse the actual shelves. They are the people who will find that lone book. 

Basically what I'm trying, albeit longwindedly, to say is that If you write a good book someone will find it. It's not fair to blame lack of success on another author existing. If Rowling and company just stopped writing it doesn't bring you more readers, it just leaves the general public with less. So Lynn Shepherd can calm down, I'm not one of the ones who'll attack you over your ridiculous statement on Harry Potter (right now. Don't check facebook.) but your not giving anyone, least of all your future readers, any credit. 


Red said...

That article was so stupid for so many reasons. I mean really, first insult people for reading and enjoying a book you've decided is just for kids. Ones who you then say you WANT as your readers but can't get because Rowling is hoarding them all? Huh?

I have to assume this piece was written as a flame piece though. Something to just drive clicks but that they can't actually mean. Cos really, it makes no sense.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Well said! I was so frustrated after reading that article. Can you imagine telling a CEO of a company or a successful band to stop doing what they do because they are successful? So stupid.