Author Hilariously Tells J.K. Rowling To Stop Writing "If She Cares"

Lynn Shepherd

Look, I'm not sure if I've ever poked fun at Fifty Shades of Grey, but I know that recently, I've avoided doing so for two reasons. First, I haven't read the book, and if I'm going to publicly criticize something I should base my assessment of its quality off of first-hand experience. Second, as someone who hopes to enter the literary world, I don't feel that it's wise to make enemies of authors and publishers that have already succeeded before I have the chance to succeed myself.

So when I was asked by our editor to write about author Lynn Shepherd's Huffington Post article, which basically attacks J.K. Rowling for being too successful, I felt somewhat trapped as to how I should respond. Thanks, Josh.

The article is a short read, but let's take a look at some of the highlights.

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.

In other words, "I can't comment on whether the books were good or bad because I haven't read them, but I'll give it the old college try anyway!"

She later states about The Casual Vacancy:

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 then later...

So this is my plea to J.K. Rowling. Remember what it was like when The Cuckoo's Calling had only sold a few boxes and think about those of us who are stuck there, because we can't wave a wand and turn our books into overnight bestsellers merely by saying the magic word.

It's a cute analogy to say "magic word" in reference to a fantasy author's success, but I wouldn't call writing one of the most famous books in the world during a period of divorce, homelessness, single-parenthood, and clinical depression with suicidal contemplations a "magic word" for success. In fact, I'd dare say she's earned every success for that reason alone.

By all means keep writing for kids, or for your personal pleasure — I would never deny anyone that — but when it comes to the adult market you've had your turn. Enjoy your vast fortune and the good you're doing with it, luxuriate in the love of your legions of fans, and good luck to you on both counts. But it's time to give other writers, and other writing, room to breathe.

"Please stop writing books for the market that my books are published in, since you've already got money and success, and I don't."

Look, I'm not a particularly capitalistic person, but if there is one thing I've realized about the writing world during the writing of my own novel, it's that nobody should get into this field with the expectation of fame and riches. You really have to be driven by something deep here, and every single word needs to feel like a small victory. But what Ms. Shepherd appears to be suggesting is that Rowling should be happy with the success she's earned, and should stop, because apparently, there is no more reason for Rowling to continue writing in the adult market. She's already got money, so why the hell else would she want to keep writing?

It's just a ridiculous argument. Although my book is a young adult novel dealing with magical realism, I in no way feel threatened by Rowling's success in the fantasy genre. Inspired, sure, and perhaps a bit intimidated that she could write something so successful, but I have no reason to believe that the Harry Potter books will keep my book off the shelf. If my book doesn't succeed, it's because it didn't resonate with fans the same way that Harry Potter did. There's room enough on the bookshelf for both.

Since Ms. Shepherd is so concerned about her own works getting exposure, I've posted one of her novels in the Amazon links below. I've also published the link to The Cuckoo's Calling, because it just feels right.

What do you think? Does she have a point? Is this a publicity stunt? Sour grapes? Sound off in the comments.

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Nathan Scalia

News by Nathan Scalia

Nathan Scalia earned a BA degree in psychology and considered medical school long enough to realize that he missed reading real books. He then went on to earn a Master's in Library Science and is currently working in a school library. He has written several new articles and columns for LitReactor, served for a time as the site's Community Manager, and can be found in the Writer's Workshop with some frequency.

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Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break February 24, 2014 - 12:05pm

Lynn really did a bang-up job of making herself look like an asshole. Kinda surprised HuffPo ran it...maybe because they knew it would be great click-bait. I actually did a little write-up on this myself.

Keith's picture
Keith from Phoenix, AZ is reading Growing Up Dead in Texas by Stephen Graham Jones February 24, 2014 - 12:08pm

I'll quote John Rector on this article: 

50+ 1-star reviews for her books on Amazon since that post went live… Sometimes I think the internet is an endless room filled with countless nooses hanging from beams along the ceiling, each one with a rickety old chair under it, and every once in a while someone comes along who thinks, "I wonder if my head will fit in there…"


DrM's picture
DrM from London, England is reading A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway February 24, 2014 - 12:20pm

That's completely ridiculous. If anything, the millions upon millions of people who read Harry Potter and enjoyed it are probably more likely to read more books. Not just more books, but more books from a similar genre aimed at a similar audience. Did she think that they would put down the book, all agree that it was a wonderful and fulfilling experience then decide they never want to go through it again? 

Truly moronic. If you have such a poor understanding of your target audience, there's a good chance it's not Rowling's fault that you're failing as an author.  

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig February 24, 2014 - 12:30pm

She manages to be a book snob and a cry baby in the same article -- not a good combo. I'm really, really tired of writers bitching and moaning about books they don't like (but haven't read) being more successful than the stuff they write. It's life. Some of us will get Stephen King rich on writing, and most of us won't. You want to make it in this game, you don't do it by attempting to condescend a powerhouse author of the world's most beloved books "by all means keep writing for kids..." BARF.

I'm not a fan of Rowling but I totally respect what she has done, and I admire the circumstances under which she acheived it. The Casual Vacancy didn't sell low numbers under her penname because it was bad, it sold low numbers because that's what happens to books by unknown authors unless something big happens. It was her right to publish it under any name she felt like, and it's her right to cash in on her previous successes. Everyone (but especially the autho of the huffpo piece) would do a lot better to focus on their own successes and failures than to bitch and moan when other authors sell more copies than they do.

Zackery Olson's picture
Zackery Olson from Rockford, IL is reading pretty much anything I can get my hands on February 24, 2014 - 12:59pm

Yikes. Career suicide much?

Angel Colón's picture
Angel Colón from The Bronx now living in New Jersey is reading A Big Ol' Pile of Books February 24, 2014 - 1:00pm

For one, I despise people who take potshots at adults for reading material 'aimed at children'. People like what they like. Rowling got a metric crap-ton of people reading. That's all that matters - whether you like the genre, subject or level of success. Her success was one for ALL writers.

Second, yeah this is clickbait.

Don't get me wrong, it's tough seeing people succeed in your field when you're not succeeding at all, but maybe use that to actually, you know, accomplish something more than a long winded, crybaby rant?

Jack Campbell Jr.'s picture
Jack Campbell Jr. from Lawrence, KS is reading American Rust by Phillipp Meyer February 24, 2014 - 1:19pm

J.K. Rowling, like the rest of us, can write whatever she wants. The idea of turns or what she should or shouldn't do is asinine. Why shouldn't she write for adults? The first book came out in 1997. A reader who was 8 then is 25 now. Her original audience is all adults. It's not like Harry Potter fans were an island of lost boys who never aged. If she doesn't like the books, then she doesn't like the books, but attacking Rowling for being sucessful just seems stupid.

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this February 24, 2014 - 1:32pm

This is crazytown. I asked Josh if I could write about it, but Nathan got there first. I'm glad he did because whatever I wrote would have been way angrier. Especially since I was only on my second cup of coffee at that point. 

Now that I've had four, I can say that, this blatant attention-grabbing stupidity aside—this is so indicative of the shitty, frustrating side of the publishing industry. Everyone is so desperate for sales that they'll post whatever dumb shit they think of, figuring if they can write it, it's profound.

And no real editor with experience or news sense would publish such a dumb piece, unless they were specifically looking for cause an uproar. The Huffington Post is, once again, lowering the bar on reasoned debate in favor of getting clicks. 

Fucking stupid, all around.

And a great example of how sometimes we do need gatekeepers. 

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break February 24, 2014 - 1:42pm

"The Huffington Post is, once again, lowering the bar on reasoned debate in favor of getting clicks."

They haven't quite sunk to the bottom of the barrel where Return of Kings resides, but they're flirting with it. Ugh...I feel horrible for drawing even more attention to it because it's only going to benefit their bottom line, but's an absolute horseshit article. I mean you know it's bad when you see 99% of the internet agreeing on a topic.

DaveShepherd's picture
DaveShepherd from Calgary is reading No Country for Old Men February 24, 2014 - 2:29pm

Stupid, stupid career move. I count 20+ 1-star reviews of her novel "The Solitary House," all posted either today or yesterday, most citing the article she wrote about Rowling. The best being "If Lynn Shepherd cares about writing she should stop."

Given her sales rank is ~90 000, it would seem to me that while she has successfully managed to get people to find her book on Amazon, they're not buying it, just trashing it. 

I don't agree with anything she said -- JK should absolutely write what she wants to write, and I'll continue to read it. However, does what she said warrant a plethora of one-star reviews? I'm not sure it does. I'm fine with articles like this that point out the inanity of her arguments, but the one-star reviews... I don't know. Where do we draw the line? 

Not that my opinion matters -- but in the digital age, taking a shot at someone with a rabid fan base is the height of stupidity. 

SammyB's picture
SammyB from Las Vegas is reading currently too many to list February 24, 2014 - 10:49pm

It really bums me out that people like her make silly arguments such as this. I hear this argument around the lunch table at my day job ALL THE TIME. "Well, I've never read the book, but I don't see why anyone would want to teach something that is not of the utmost literary merit" and so on.

People read. That's it. They read. It doesn't matter what age group it is marketed to, how successful it is, or what literary merit it has. The fact that people are choosing to read is a big deal. There are far too many people who would rather watch a movie based on the book than actually take the time to read the book. JK Rowling did great things for reading because she captured the attention of people who didn't like to read, and those people continued reading because they found that it could be enjoyable for them.

My classroom library is stocked with books that I don't personally enjoy (and a lot that I do enjoy), but damn it! I don't care if I personally enjoy it or not. It makes me so freaking happy when my students ask to borrow one of the books.

And as a final note: SOUR GRAPES. JK Rowling has nothing to do with this woman's success or failure. Though she's done a great job of cutting her own throat. [sigh].

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like February 25, 2014 - 9:15am

People disagree with her, cool, but the flaming with negative reviews is bullshit.  She writes an opinion, people then go out their way to harm her career?  That's worse to me than saying something half-baked.

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like February 25, 2014 - 9:17am

Of course, if anyone took her statements seriously, it'd be like she was "attacking" Rowling's career.  Was she really serious?  Hard to believe.  I don't know.  Haven't read the article.  (nyuk nyuk)

Angel Colón's picture
Angel Colón from The Bronx now living in New Jersey is reading A Big Ol' Pile of Books February 25, 2014 - 11:42am

The negative reviews are a little far, but hey, you criticize a person and their work without having read a page, you sort of got karma coming.

It's okay, though, because someone willing to write ill-informed clickbait like this will only use all of this negative response as a springboard for another book about her "struggles".

Dino Parenti's picture
Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Everything He Gets His Hands On February 25, 2014 - 11:42am

I don't get the whining over Rowling taking up "adult book space" from other writers struggling to break through. As if writing books for grown-ups were a covet brownstone in the East Village with a finite number of rooms that people like Rowling keep getting first dibs at before anyone else. There's plenty of room for great adult books. Shut up and write one, and write it not for money and fame, but from the heart and because you're compelled to do it above all else in the world. You're not owed a damn thing in life.

OnlyAshes89's picture
OnlyAshes89 from England is reading The Count of Monte Cristo February 25, 2014 - 12:00pm

Just saw the reviews on Amazon of the author's book.

So very petty...

Everyone's on a high horse, thinking they're morally superior to the author. "How dare she do this," etc. Then doing exactly the same damn thing to the author in their reviews which serve only to sabotage the author's work.

She's well within her right to say whatever she likes, and these reviews are basically a form of institutionalised bullying.

Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things February 25, 2014 - 12:05pm

Having read some of the responses to this, I do want to point out that I have no problem with someone who wants to take on a high-profile author. I don't think that JK Rowling's status as a successful, famous author should render her immune to criticism.

I just don't think Ms. Shepherd's assertion made any sense, and was everything she claimed it wasn't.

Churtward's picture
Churtward from Gainesville, VA is reading Play It As It Lays February 25, 2014 - 12:42pm

Sounds like she needs that humble pie. 

Work harder. All it is. 

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK February 25, 2014 - 3:56pm

I thought it was quite funny, satire written with her tongue planted firmly in her cheek.


Then again, I've not actually seen the article, just read about it.


Perhaps she should write to Shia LaBeouf next to point out that his attention-seeking-satire-cum-performance-art-shenanigans are ruining it for everyone else, and if he took that bag off his head more people would read her article.