Why Mega-Successful Authors are Good News for Everyone

Photo credit: Beacon Radio on Flickr
So there’s this post floating around from the Huffington Post that activated some massive internal raging. 

I’m not going to link to it, because I don’t want to give it extra free traffic, but if you’re so inclined, it’s pretty easy to find on Twitter, as it involves telling J.K. Rowling to stop writing adult books because she’s hogging up all the success—but it’s ok for her to write kid lit because those books aren’t as good anyway. Yep. 

As much as I'd like to rage about why kidlit is just as important as adult literature, I know I'm preaching to the choir here, so I'm going to focus on something equally important (and a little less screamy).

The thing that some people, particularly people outside of the publishing industry tend to forget, is that there’s room for everyone to be successful. In fact, one author’s mega-success is actually good for everyone else.

Think about it.

Let’s take J.K. Rowling, for example. The Harry Potter series was one of the first major crossover kid lit titles that blew the door wide open for other kid lit successes. Why? Well let’s take a look.

Harry Potter, as we all know, sold incredibly well. Incredibly x a million. Hugely successful books means more money for publishers—who then have more cash to buy more books from writers and give more debuts a chance, more money for bookstores—who then run less of a risk of crashing and burning like Borders, and more money for the authors—who, quite frankly, deserve their success. But it’s not just the money—hugely successful books are the direct result of more people reading. 

Why is more people reading a good thing, you ask? I can’t even tell you how many people I’ve heard say “I didn’t like reading but I loved [insert popular book title here].” Successful books show people who didn’t think they liked to read that reading can actually be great. Successful books get more people buying books, and guess what? Many times when they finish reading said successful book, they look for another book. Because maybe reading isn’t so bad after all and they’ll like the next book just as much as that successful book they just read.

Time and time again, successful books have proven that they help so much more than the author.

The Twilight series brought the spotlight down on YA lit.

The Hunger Games series opened the door to a variety of fantastic dystopian novels, like say, a little series called Divergent.

The 50 Shades of Grey series gave a huge boost to erotica sales.

All of these books created new readers—people who didn’t really read much before because they thought they wouldn’t like it and changed their minds after reading that successful book. And that’s good for everyone, because more readers = more book sales, and more book sales = good news for writers.

See, this one huge aspect of the publishing world that I love—we can genuinely be happy for each other’s successes, even (and especially) crazy-massive successes, because it’s good news for everyone. Books are not a market like cars or laptops or iPads where the customer will only buy one for several years. The success of one book opens the door for the successes of many others, and to me, that’s one of the many things that makes this community so incredibly wonderful.

So let’s cut the jealousy and the bitterness and just be happy and supportive for one another, okay? There’s no need for negativity in this incredible community that I will always love.

What do you think? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Writer @Ava_Jae breaks down why mega-successes like J.K. Rowling & E.L. James are good for the publishing community. (Click to tweet)  
.@Ava_Jae says “…there’s room for everyone to be successful [in the publishing industry].” What do you think? (Click to tweet


AngWrites said...

I completely agree. As an avid reader, I have NEVER in my life bemoaned the fact that there are too many book and I've never thought: gee, I just wish people would stop writing. It's always MORE, MORE books, MORE authors, MORE MORE MORE NOW.

As a writer, other authors inspire me. Teach me. Sure, I'm in awe of them, but I've never wanted to be them or envied their words. I've got my own words. ;)

And an author like J.K. Rowling can only bring good things to the writing community. When she's selling books, she's hooking new readers, and bring others into the party.

I've been a reader since I was 12, but many of my friend didn't start reading until a lil book name Twilight came out. Up until then, I always felt a lil lonely as a bookworm. Suddenly, there was this whole community online that wanted to talk about books, discuss plots, fangirl over movies, and find new books to read and maybe even write a few of their own.

How awesome is that?! Why would you want that to stop?

Robin Red said...

"I can't think of a faster way to totally tank your career than to piss off a WORLD of readers by looking like a jealous, petty, wannabe hack” — Tymber Dalton. That was, by far, the funniest thing I've read this morning. I loved what you said about blowing the doors open. I've told people who—shockingly—don't like to read that there is always one book for everyone. So many books have been written since ancient times. There has to be one out there, just one, that resonates within your soul and leaves you clawing your way to the local library for more.

Lauren said...

I totally agree. This was a stupid article published by a jealous author who hasn't even read the Harry Potter Series. What she doesn't realize is that someone like myself who grew up on Harry Potter reads a lot of young adult books. As I grow older I am often more interesting in reading Adult books by authors I trust. Without people like J.K. Rowling who write in both categories I may never read that genre which means less money for that poor misguided author. Popular books open up the world of various types of wonderful fiction to people who would prefer to stay in their favorite genre or comfort area. As an author myself I LOVE hearing about other author's success especially with books I enjoy and even books I don't. If authors don't stick together we will never learn, never grow, and never succeed because we will be to busy worrying that so and so author managed to publish his book which isn't nearly as good as my unpublished one. Or that a successful author should stop publishing books so that you can have a shot at success. That is such a silly childish mindset. There isn't a limit on how many books can sell millions of copies at one time. Instead of complaining she could read JK's stuff to see why it is so popular and maybe learn from the way she writes/crafts stories. *gets off soapbox breathing heavily*

Ava Jae said...

YES. So much yes. To every paragraph. I could not agree more. Thank you, Ang!

Ava Jae said...

I like that quote. Very true. I've also said something along similar lines to the reading bit—I truly believe there's a book out there for everyone, if they'd take the time to give reading a chance.

Ava Jae said...

Ugh, that got me too—she was completely judging an author whose most popular works she hadn't even read. Gahhhhhhhh!

I completely agree with your soapboxing. Publishing success is always good news for writers regardless of the genre or whether or not you like the book or have any interest in reading the book.

Most of the writing community is so supportive of each other and that's something that I will never tire of—it's so wonderful to see that most writers get that we're all in this together, and every success deserves a celebration. :)

Jen Donohue said...

I was weirded out by the HuffPo article, to be honest. As I read it, I thought "is this person really saying what I think they're saying? Yup, they are."

And I think you're right. People who liked a book want more books, be it from the same author or from a similar author with a close enough style.

Heather said...

What really got me about the article was that she seemed to be saying that JK Rowling didn't have the right to be an author, or something. Like, you have a sort of quota, or limit, as a writer and once you hit it then NO MORE WRITING FOR YOU.

I wish people were excited for other people as they grow as writers and readers and understanders of the world. It's sort of sad that people have decided it's now a win or lose situation for everyone. Cuz it's not.

Luke Moy said...

Successful books to be celebrated? Sure, no question. But we should also be celebrating intelligent and thought-provoking writing as well. Harry Potter, one of my all-time favorite series ever, worked because it focussed not on the magic exactly, but on how the magic affected the characters. It was the characters and the world in which this was set that drew us in and made us fall in love with these people.
50 Shades of Grey is glorified Twilight fanfiction, and it makes the already boring and lifeless Twilight series seem great by comparison because Grey is so poorly written and realized. I think it is important to distinguish between success and actual art. No, Twilight and Grey are not ruining books. The Hunger Games has come out since Twilight and its awesome. All I'm saying in response to this article is that to hold up Grey and Twilight as inspiring ways to get people to read and write does a disservice to writing. By having these titles be successful, we are essentially telling writers that they are free to skate by by doing the least amount of work or by putting the least amount of care into their work, because Grey and Twilight have done extremely well.
I'm not out to get you, Ava, I'm just pointing out a potential weakness to your argument (and also implying rather heavily that I don't like the Twilight series, and I especially don't like 50 Shades of Grey). Still a big fan, don't take this personally. If you do, I apologize in advance.

Ava Jae said...

Yeah, the post seemed too incredulously off to be real, but it was, sadly.

And agreed—successful authors can serve as fantastic gateways to other lesser-known authors in the same genre. :)

Ava Jae said...

The insinuations were definitely petty and you're right—the article did seem to indicate that the author believed J.K. Rowling had hit some sort of imaginary glass ceiling and shouldn't be successful anymore. Or at least, not within the adult book world. Blech.

And you're completely right about the win or lose situation as well—the publishing world isn't like that at all. There's more than enough room for everyone to have a wonderful career, and there's no reason for us not to support each other and celebrate in everyone else's successes. :)

Ava Jae said...

Firstly, no worries, I'm not taking it personally. I always welcome differing opinions on Writability, even if the opinions don't align with mine. I like a good discussion. :)

That being said, I'm going to have to disagree with you.

Regardless of whether or not you liked or read 50 Shades of Grey and Twilight, to say that their successes tell writers that they are "free to skate by doing the least amount of work/care" is making huge insinuations about the books and their respective writers. I'm not E.L. James or Stephanie Meyer, but I am a writer, and I know that every book we write has a hell of a lot of work put into it. I personally will never discount an author's hard work regardless of whether or not I enjoyed a book.

I will openly admit that I haven't read 50 Shades of Grey, but that's more because I'm not a fan of erotica than anything else. I did however, read Twilight. Was it written to a John Green-like literary level? No, of course not, but that wasn't the goal, either. The heart of the Twilight series was love and excitement and being young, and yes, there are tons of problems with it, and no, it's nowhere near perfect, but it's entertaining. Twilight became popular because people read it and they had fun reading it. And really, that's all you need.

So to me, writing is writing, and I will never put an author down or insinuate that their work is somehow inferior to anything else. Whether or not I like something doesn't dictate whether it's worth being read, you know?

So those are my thoughts. Just to clarify, I'm not upset or offended in any way. I love these kinds of discussions, and I think sharing differing opinions is important. :)

Luke Moy said...

Thank you so much for replying! I realize that I might have been a bit candid in my response to this. It is never my intention to put down a writer in how I view a book; I don't know Stephanie Meyer, I'm sure she's a lovely person. But in terms of writing, I don't think she's very good, and her success as a writer shows people that her style, whatever that may be, sells (the sad truth about writing nowadays is it isn't about writing, it's about money). Enjoying a book is great, but I think great books offer something more than just entertainment. It's the same with movies: we don't consider Serenity to be fantastic because of its action factor. We love it because it offers something for us to think about. Twilight doesn't do that; when it does, the subjects that it offers us to chew on are simple. To offer up another example, we don't consider Transformers great because it has action in it; we hate it because it has no story, no characters, etc. Not bad, but not really what I look for in books or movies.

And to the point about how writing is writing: yes, writing is writing, and ultimately what we do as writers is we try to have fun. No argument there. I aim to never put down an author as a person (if I do do that, I apologize). But to say that I "insinuate that their work is somehow inferior to anything else", well, I'm sorry, but isn't that the point of book reviews? You're doing the reverse of this. You're reviewing a book that you loved, and within that you are insinuating that this book is somehow better than others of its genre or category (I loved that post, btw). Whether or not I like something doesn't dictate whether it is good (I am not some sort of authority person with this), but I do let the book's content, be it its prose, themes, characters, pacing, etc. inform me of what the book has to offer.

I'm actually really happy you responded to me, even if mine is not an opinion that sits well with you. Again, I hope you don't judge my rebuttal too harshly; I'm not aiming to annoy you, but merely to continue a great dialogue!

Ava Jae said...

I will start by saying I'm not annoyed! Really, truly and honestly I enjoy these discussions. Debates are fun, especially when you can debate with people who won't get offended if not everyone agrees with them. :)

So, to me, I think I have different expectations of different types of books and movies, which allows me to enjoy them equally. For example, I happen to be of the crowd that really enjoyed (and owns) the Transformers series. I am fully aware that the story isn't the best and I never expected it to win any awards for that, but I really enjoyed it because I went in hoping to watch something funny with action and great special effects, and that's what I got—humor, fabulous CGI and things exploding. Had I, however, gone in wanting something that was going to challenge me intellectually, I would have been disappointed.

Sherlock, on the other hand, I completely and utterly adore for it's ability to be thrilling and make me think at the same time. It's the kind of show I love to watch repeatedly because the wit never gets old and there are always more clues to pick up on. I enjoy both Sherlock and Transformers (though to be fair, I will admit I love Sherlock far more than Transformers, but I mean, it's Sherlock. So.)

Getting back to books, when I picked up Twilight, I expected something entertaining with vampires and werewolves...and that's basically it. I wasn't expecting beautiful literary prose or something that would really make me think, and so when I didn't get it, I wasn't disappointed. I got what I expected—an entertaining book with it's share of problems, sure, but entertaining nonetheless. And to me, I don't see that as a problem.

So I think, maybe, where we differ is you really crave that extra in books in movies, whereas I appreciate the extra and I'll really enjoy the extra, but I can still enjoy books and movies without them (as long as I wasn't expecting it).

As for reviews...I'm going to have to disagree again. When I rave about something, it's because I absolutely adored it and I'd love for others to read it. And that's it. I'm not making any insinuations about other books in the genre, and I'd never say it was better than another book of the genre—all I can speak for is how I personally felt when reading it. And maybe, for example, I liked the Shatter Me series as a whole more than the Divergent series as a whole, but that doesn't mean one is better than the other and it doesn't mean that everyone who read both series will agree with me. So that's how I view my reviews—not so much of a "this book is better" than a "I really enjoyed this book and think maybe you will too." That's all there is to it, to me.

That was a super long answer. I'm going to stop typing now. Or at least, I'm going to stop typing after this: I'm really enjoying this discussion, so thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!

TheBrokenShelf said...

I never thought of it that way. You are 100% right. And I love reading and I love the wide variety of books available to me in all different voices and writing styles. Those things help me grow as a reader. I learn about new genres and learn what I do and do not like as a reader. I would never say there were too many books.

Ava Jae said...

Absolutely agreed! To me, every book is a possibility, and I, for one, will never complain about having too many possibilities. :)

Luke Moy said...

You're a Transformers fan?! Awesome! Me too!

I didn't like the film series, but I love the comics (because those have characters and plot and rich world-building) and my favorite Transformers show is Transformers Prime! I'm really happy now actually that you are a fan of the franchise.

Have you read Nervous Conditions? It's by Tsitsi Dangarembga, and it is one of the most character-driven books I have ever had the absolute pleasure of reading!

Ava Jae said...

Heh, ok, sooo you're going to be a little disappointed. I enjoyed the movies, but I was never really a comic person, so I haven't read the comics. >.<

Also, I can't say that I've read Nervous Conditions. What genre/category is it?

Luke Moy said...

Nervous Conditions is a semi-autobiographic fictional character drama set in Zimbabwe during the 1970s. It examines the dynamics of character choices, identity, and culture in post-colonial Zimbabwe. It's just a fantastic read! I'm reading the sequel, The Book of Not, which is more traditionally Western, imo, but both are very jarring in terms of how they present the world to the reader. It's not hiding behind Western norms!

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