Are you only as good as your last Dementor?

Elsewhere, I’ve been a staunch defender of that endangered species, the snark. But there are times when you have to be thankful it’s rare. And one of them is Lynn Shepherd’s screed in the UK Huffington Post, declaring “If JK Rowling cares about writing, she should stop doing it.”dementor

Lynn Shepherd is not exactly an unknown writer. As her own website explains, her novel A Fatal Likeness, on the death of Percy Bysshe Shelley, is “One of Kirkus Reviews’ 100 Best Fiction Books for 2013, and a BBC History magazine historical novel of the year.” But she does seem to begrudge Rowling the recognition she’s received, even though, as she admits, when it comes to the Harry Potter series, “I’ve never read a word (or seen a minute) so I can’t comment on whether the books were good, bad or indifferent.” And she protests, “it’s time to give other writers, and other writing, room to breathe.”

Subject of her special ire is [easyazon-link asin=”B00AA20E5Y” locale=”us”]The Cuckoo’s Calling[/easyazon-link], for its pseudonymous origins and its hogging of the bestseller lists since its secret identity was revealed. But Shepherd doesn’t seem especially to complain about the quality of the book’s writing, or about Rowling’s level of talent as a novelist in general. All she seems concerned about is the hype, and the amount of marketing push and media attention Rowling’s books for adults have received.

So, blame the author for what was almost certainly the publisher’s decision? Without reference to the writer’s best-known work? That seems to make huge sense.

Above all, though, the argument that marketing bandwidth should be something to judge an author by seems misguided to say the least. Some over-promotion may be distasteful, but the publisher is the decision-maker about this, and if they are just looking for a phenomenon, no question of relative creative value is necessarily involved. Arguably, Dan Brown should have stopped writing long long ago. But his presence doesn’t appear to have stifled other writers. And hasn’t J K Rowling actually created more new writers by engendering the Harry Potter universe of fan fiction?

And if promotional muscle is the determinant for authorly success, why is Hugh Howey able to report such good numbers for self-publishing? This seems rather the wrong time to advance such an argument. Kindle Direct Publishing may have made the world safe even for Lynn Shepherd.

3 Comments on Are you only as good as your last Dementor?

  1. Royalty statements have been coming out from the big publishers recently. The piddling money, even for a well-written if not well-bought book, is more than enough to make most authors bitter of the promotion via publishers and the news media.

  2. ‘pseudonymous origins’
    I call it outright lying.

    From the ‘about the author’ blurb at the end of the book.

    ‘ROBERT GALBRAITH spent several years with the Royal Military Police before being attached to the SIB (Special Investigative Branch), the plainclothes branch of the RMP. He left the military in 2003 and has been working since then in the civilian security industry. The idea for Cormoran Strike grew directly out of his own experiences and those of his military friends who returned to the civilian world. “Robert Galbraith” is a pseudonym.’

  3. @Keri, you bring up the one point about the whole Rowling/Galbraith thing that bothered me. My dad was military, and it bugs me that her alter ego claims military experience. If she’d created an alter ego who had been, I don’t know, an office worker, I wouldn’t have cared. But claiming military service did.

    I did try the book, but it didn’t work for me. I found it too long winded.

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