Sit Down and Shuddup

“I don’t mean this to sound like sour grapes,” says the lady in the audience, “but your books actually suck. I haven’t read them and to do so would be to lower myself, but I think they suck, because I HEARD that they suck. I’ve written books, but nobody buys them. My books are better. So how about you quit writing, and then all of your fans will buy my books instead?”

This didn’t happen at a reading, to me. It happened online, to JK Rowling. A writer of mysteries penned an article entreating Rowling to sit herself down and shuddup and give all the rest of us struggling yokel writers a break.

I would have left a comment on the article, but Huffington Post keeps telling me I’m not verified (though my Facebook account is verified and linked) and, me being me, I can never sit down and shuddup myself. I HAD TO WRITE IT HERE before my brain exploded! YESSS. I’m probably saying many similar things to what the other indignant commenters said.

Here are a couple paragraphs from the article, so you know to what I’m referring.

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. But, then again, any reading is better than no reading, right? But The Casual Vacancy changed all that.

It wasn’t just that the hype was drearily excessive, or that (by all accounts) the novel was no masterpiece and yet sold by the hundredweight, it was the way it crowded out everything else, however good, however worthwhile. That book sucked the oxygen from the entire publishing and reading atmosphere. And I chose that analogy quite deliberately, because I think that sort of monopoly can make it next to impossible for anything else to survive, let alone thrive. Publishing a book is hard enough at the best of times, especially in an industry already far too fixated with Big Names and Sure Things, but what can an ordinary author do, up against such a Golgomath?

Yes. What can an ordinary author do?

Publishers should also stop publishing ALL celebrity books. Snookie, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, all the Housewives, etcetera etcetera etcetera. And they should quit with all the big authors and book series. Fifty Shades of Grey. Twilight. Danielle Steel. Stephen King. Dean Koontz. Such gar-baaaahhhge. Not real high fiber Fiction. We should all be reading  li-ter-a-TURE. The kind your college professor would make you read.

But wait! S&S reported a 32% rise in print books largely due to  just four books. Interesting. What books were they?

A Rush Limbaugh kids’ book and three Duck Dynasty books.

That is right. Your favorite right wing blowhard and Uncle Si are largely responsible for helping to keep a major publisher in business.

Celebrity books help keep the publishing industry chugging along. They always have (for example, George Putnam asked Amelia Earhart to write a book because she was a celebrity. My kid just did a report on Earhart).

If JK Rowling didn’t publish her book, would all the people who didn’t buy say, “Well, since I can’t buy a Rowling book, I will certainly buy this lady’s book instead”? Or would they just spend money on other things entirely, like movies and magazines or cupcakes? My guess is that most of the people weren’t thinking of buying ANY book at all, until they found out that Rowling wrote this one.

These juggernaut Big Name authors help keep pubs in business and allows them to take chances on lesser known authors. Such as, I don’t know, Margaret Dilloway.

Plus, it’s not very nice to judge other peoples’ reading tastes(except for James Frey. I am totally judgy of you then. I’m not a perfect person). I’m not in charge of other peoples’ reading material (and if someone was in charge of your reading material, you’d be living someplace like North Korea).

I am only in charge of what I write. I write to the best of my ability and sometimes people don’t buy a lot of my work. But that’s not JK Rowling’s fault. There are many uber-talented authors who don’t have huge audiences, due to a lot of different factors, luck and marketing and more luck and an idea that resonates with people and fairy dust. Just like there are a lot of talented actors working who never get their big break and people with wonderful business ideas whose ventures fall flat.

It’s called life, isn’t it? Maybe someday, if I keep working hard and am very very very lucky, I can become an author other authors want to keep out of the game. Maybe not.

Also, dissing Harry Potter without reading a word of it? “…there’s so many other books out there that are surely more stimulating for grown-up minds.” How very open minded of you! Open minded writers create the best work, I think.

Oh, wait.

Why is it not stimulating for grown-up minds? Because the struggle between choosing the dark side of yourself over the good side of yourself is NOT found in any great literature? And because it’s super easy to build an entire alternate universe that is fun and scary and thrilling, and to come up with a complex plot that makes sense over the course of a whole series? Go try to write something like Harry Potter and come back and tell us how easy that was.

You’re allowed to state your opinion, of course, but I’m also allowed to tell you mine. Personally, this adult woman found plenty to enjoy and mull in Harry Potter. Kids’ books can be great literature. Read some books on this list.

So that, my friends, is how the world works. Some people have fortunate careers, but them quitting isn’t going to make your own fortunes rise. Publishers are in a business, in which they have to pay people and show profit and things like that. And condemning books you haven’t read will not increase your street cred.

And also, just saying, “This isn’t sour grapes” doesn’t make it not sour grapes, when it is.

Published by Margaret Dilloway

Middle grade and women's fiction novelist. FIVE THINGS ABOUT AVA ANDREWS, (Balzer + Bray 2020); SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES. MOMOTARO: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Disney Hyperion); TALE OF THE WARRIOR GEISHA and SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW, out now from Putnam Books. HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE was a finalist for the John Gardner fiction award. THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS is the 2013 Literary Tastes Best Women's Fiction Pick for the American Library Association. Mother of three children, wife to one, slave to a cat, and caretaker of the best overgrown teddy bear on Earth, Gatsby the Goldendoodle.

9 thoughts on “Sit Down and Shuddup

  1. Yuuuup.

    What’s sad is, this woman’s agenda worked. She stirred the pot just to seek attention — and she got it.

    My only consolation is that her attention will be short-lived and largely negative, which does not bode well for true success.

  2. I read the article yesterday and thought my head would blow off! How can one write such a ridiculous tirade and not have read Rowling’s books? I felt it made the writer of the article look petty and small and even if I saw her books free and they were on my doorstep I would not bother. They say bad publicity helps ones career. Will she see a boost in sales just for people to compare her work? Hope now. I’m not a mean spirited person but this was asinine. Hurtful and unnecessary. Good thing Rowling has a bed of money to recline on when she reads that piece of baloney.

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