J.K. Rowling, Lynn Shepherd, and Why Putting Down Fandoms is Stupid

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART 2

Hey, writers, did you know J.K. Rowling is the reason you’re a big-ass failure?

That’s according to author Lynn Shepherd, who writes literary mysteries. She wrote an opinion piece on Huffington Post’s U.K. site. In a nutshell, she accuses J.K. Rowling of taking away HER chance of being a best-selling author because she’s stealing all her shelf space by writing adult books in her genre.

She also admits to not having ever read the Harry Potter books, then proceeds to insult every adult reader of the Harry Potter books, wishing we would all spend our time more wisely (the implication– by buying and reading HER books). She begs Rowling to stop writing–at least in her genre. She condescends that she can continue writing “for fun” and for children, but she needs to get out of Shepherd’s way, because she’s already had her success and needs to give other writers “room to breathe.”

Not surprisingly, she triggered a you-know-what storm from Rowling’s fans and some not-fans who thought Shepherd’s piece came across as sour grapes. Many went on the  Amazon page for her book and left 1 star reviews in retaliation.

For the record: I am TOTALLY against bullying anyone online for expressing an opinion. This is NEVER right. (And Amazon really needs to retool their policy about what kind of review you can leave on their site. Maybe make it like their Audible site–you can’t review unless you’ve bought the product through them? That would certainly cut down on big waves of retaliation reviews.)

However, much of the criticism against Shepherd’s piece–the REASONED and THOUGHTFUL criticism, not the insults and nastiness–is unfortunately deserved. Here’s a thought: any time someone decides to start off an opinion piece about an artist with “I’ve never read the book(s), seen the movie(s), watched the TV show(s) of (fill in the blank)…” they should probably stop right there, and then go read the books, see the movies, watch the TV shows, etc. If you’re determined to give an unpopular opinion, at least make it an INFORMED unpopular opinion.

Also, attacking an author for something the publishing world does–putting most of its eggs in the baskets of big-name authors–doesn’t make much sense. This is the fault of the publishing world, not the writers who benefit from their policy. It’s easy to forget they started out as unknowns, too, and at one time were fighting for shelf space like everyone else.

There’s the famous story about then-unknown writer John Grisham putting hundreds of copies of A Time To Kill in the trunk of his car and travelling all over the South, stopping at bookstores, introducing himself and selling a few books at a time. That’s part of the reason he became a success. The other part is pure luck. A copy of The Firm surfaced in Hollywood and ended up becoming a hit movie, which helped catapult his books to enormous sales.

Is it fair, that he got that chance and others haven’t? Maybe not. But seems to me once you reach a certain point in adulthood (yes, even when you’re an adult who occasionally reads children’s books) you should know that life isn’t always fair. In fact, life can sometimes be a totally random bitch.

The other thing that seems to escape Shepherd–and many others who insult or demonize fandoms: just because you like the Harry Potter books, it doesn’t mean that’s the limit of your reading interest. The same goes for adult readers of young adult fiction, or women who read romance novels, or whatever is on anyone’s bash list this particular week. There’s lots of cross-over among fandoms and genres. Many people like both commercial and literary fiction. I personally read a whole gamut of genres, and am continually baffled whenever someone tries to elevate their work by putting down other writers and their readers.

Let me put it another way:

My mom loves mysteries. She consumes them at an amazing rate.

She also loves the Harry Potter books.

You think she’s ever going to buy one of Shepherd’s books now?

Related Articles:

An Open Letter To J.K. Rowling: Please Don’t Stop Writing – (huffingtonpost.com/books)

Why It’s Bad Form To Tell a Writer to Stop Writing – (stevensalvatoreshaw.wordpress.com)

Writer’s Envy Gone Mad – (jobryantnz.wordpress.com)

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17 thoughts on “J.K. Rowling, Lynn Shepherd, and Why Putting Down Fandoms is Stupid

    1. I totally agree. Like I was saying about my mom, she reads lots of mystery books. She loved J.K. Rowling’s mystery novel. As soon as she finished it, she was looking for the next one to read. If you love a big name author, you keep looking for other good authors who write the same genre. Their success actually helps other writers.

  1. Yikes! I wasn’t aware of this but I totally agree with your take on the subject. How about the thought that encouraging people to read benefits all of us? I wonder how many young people got into reading because of the Harry Potter books, when they otherwise wouldn’t have been interested. It had to carry over onto other authors when they finished the Harry Potter series.

    1. When I first saw Shepherd’s original post, I thought, wow, she is really in for it! As I was saying in my previous comment, mega-successful writers probably help other writers more than hurt them. (Nice to see you here, Hannah! :))

  2. I read this article and came away upset. First of all, as a Harry Potter nerd and an adult, I didn’t want to be told (from someone who had never read the books) that I was wasting my time. Second, JK Rowling earned her shelf space, by going through querying and rejections. She told a good story one that will be loved forever. But everyone is allowed to have their opinion, so I will shake my head and move on.

    1. Yes–we’re all equal in that we all have to do the hard work and face the same obstacles. I like when others succeed–it actually gives me hope. Too bad some people see it as a negative.

  3. I’m definitely against the 1-star reviews, but Shepherd should have really thought through what she was about to write before writing it and publishing it online. I guess she has something new to learn from now.

  4. Excellently put! I was so shocked when I read that article. At first I thought that it was a joke and then I saw the name of the author and was shocked even more because I knew it to be a name of some importance in her genre and I think that she totally damaged her reputation with that article. She should have kept it to her personal diary or something. How can you tell another writer to stop writing?! Does she really think that with JK Rowling out of her way she will become more read? Can people be so delusional?

    1. Thank you! I keep wondering if she’s going to eventually state that she meant to be “satirical” and that we all failed to get the joke. I’m sure she’s going to try to find some way to wriggle out of this mess, which can’t be doing her any good, career-wise. They say any publicity is good publicity, but if she really wants to be a best-selling author, making millions of readers mad isn’t the way to go about it.

    1. Absolutely. I can understand being baffled by why some people are more successful than others. But demanding successful people stop writing so others can (supposedly) grab a share of the success is taking it to an absurd point.

  5. What a rubbish article. She hasn’t even read HP and she’s denouncing it? That drives me CRAZY. Also, you can’t tell artists not to create art. Unless you’re a dictator. Then you can do what you like. But I’m fairly certain some random mystery author isn’t our supreme overlord — and if she is, she needs to work on her publicity campaign!

    1. That also drives me nuts, when people denounce art they’ve never seen or read. It’s one thing when it’s some random troll saying it–but she’s a professional writer! How would she like it if people said the same about HER work? I don’t mean the retaliatory reviews on Amazon–I mean if someone walked up to her and said a thing like that.

      Even when I don’t like someone’s work, I hope I’m always respectful of them as A PERSON. And I certainly wouldn’t comment on something I never read, or ridicule the people who have read it.

  6. What people like her don’t understand is that buying a book is not the same as buying a car. When you buy a car odds are that in the next five years, at least, you won’t buy another one. So, Toyota, Ford, Mazda, whatever, they are a true competition to one another. When you buy a book, however, you’re not buying it for the next five years. As in, you can only afford one book per five years. A voracious reader goes through a ton of books in 5 years time. If I buy a J. K. book, that doesn’t automatically mean I’m done with books for this decade. I’m not going to reread the same book over and over for the next five years until I’m ready to buy another one. It’s much more likely that I’ll go buy another book after I read that one, maybe in the same genre. Which means that writers are in no way a direct competition to one another. I might be a fan of J. K., but that doesn’t mean I’ll buy only and exclusively her books. That would be ridiculous. It’s not like it’s my favorite brand of coffee and it’s the only brand I ever buy. It’s not as if I’m only ever watching movies with Johnny Depp, shows produced by Joss Whedon, and music performed by Nightwish—that would mean I’d only watch one new movie per year, if that, one new show per year, if that, and one new album per year, if that. I do prefer a little more entertainment in my life than that.

    If she had read any of the Harry Potter books, she would realize that every one of them, except maybe the seventh book, has strong elements of the mystery genre. If you look closely at the plot, and remove the fantasy stuff, you’re left with nothing but a who-done-it. Who wants to steal the sorcerer’s stone, who opened the chamber of secrets, who’s the half-blood prince… So it’s the most natural transition for J. K. Rowling, after she’s done with the H. P. series, to switch to mystery genre. She was already half there to begin with. And in the process, she’s more likely to bring more readers to the genre (HP fans that weren’t necessarily into mystery genre before) than to steal anyone’s readers.

    Also, if miss Shepherd only relies on shelf space to sell her books, she’s doing it wrong. But if she fails as a mystery writer, she can always write a “How to commit career suicide by insulting a famous writer and her huge fan base”.

    1. I agree totally; much of the HP books were mysteries and it’s a natural progression of Rowling’s writing to move into that genre.

      LOL at your suggestion for Shepherd’s next career move.

  7. Lynn Shepherd sounds like an immature little brat to me. If her books aren’t good enough to compete against J.K. Rowling or authors then she shouldn’t have published her books in the fist place. Suck it up, try harder instead of blaming, what is she five? Hello, J.K. Rowling got famous by making something new, that is written well. Blaming another author for her own failings is pathetic.

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