Two days ago, I posted a short note on a article in the Huffington Post that suggested JK Rowling should give up writing and leave room for other authors to take over the market. I confess I didn’t do much actual research (headache, sorry) and I assumed (bad mistake, I know) that the author in question was where I was several years ago. No contracts, no published books, no real hope of getting them. I was wrong.
A check on Amazon revealed that the article’s author was actually a published author. I could be wrong, but judging by the book pricing she actually has a very good deal with a publisher (most small press produced books tend to be expensive). And yet she believes that JK Rowling is distorting the market? How can that possibly be true?
One of the arguments commonly put forward by the Entitled (as they consider themselves) is that the Haves are stealing from the Have-Nots. In their worldview, the world has only a finite amount of … well, anything … and someone who Has is effectively stealing it from those who Don’t Have. According to this line of logic, there’s only a million pounds or so in the entire world and it will never get any bigger, therefore the person with most of the money has stolen it from everyone else. This is the logic used to justify ‘redistributing the wealth’, a claim beloved of communists and people who have never lived in a redistributionist state.
It is, of course, a very flawed argument. The millionaire, having concentrated such wealth in his hands, might put it back to work and start growing it, perhaps by opening a factory and offering jobs to the poor. He pays wages, the employees use their wages to buy stuff, the people who make and sell that stuff get money from the employees … and, in short, the economy continues to grow. This is very well demonstrated by the sudden upsurge in food production in China after collective farming was abandoned by the Chinese Communists.
There are some circumstances, of course, where the argument may seem to hold water. A person who follows one football club will not, as a general rule, follow another. If there are ten football clubs in any given country, they will be competing for the attention of a finite number of fans.
But this is not true of writing.
Consider JK Rowling. She has written seven Harry Potter stories, two spin-offs and two adult novels. That’s (so far) eleven published books. And yes, they have been massively popular; she has legions of devoted fans and she deserves each and every one of them. But they’re not her exclusive fans.
Think about it. I read quickly; eleven books wouldn’t take me more than a week to devour, perhaps two weeks if I wanted to reread one or more of them. What am I meant to do while waiting for her to write the next book?
I go read someone else’s book, of course.
I’m a fan of David Weber. But I’m also a fan of John Ringo, Peter F. Hamilton, Tom Kratman, Iain M. Banks, Eric Flint … the list of writers I like is quite a long one. And, as I have a favourite publisher too, I have little hesitation in trying someone new from their stable.
There’s no reason why I have to be an exclusive fan of one author. There isn’t an author alive who writes fast enough to keep me content. Nor, really, am I making a massive commitment. Buying David Weber’s entire backlist wouldn’t cost more than a hundred pounds, assuming I didn’t try to buy any autographed copies or anything else that might be significantly marked up. I can buy Weber one week, Kratman the next … and so on, and so on.
JK Rowling does not force out other authors, nor is she stealing their fans. (Nor, for that matter, do they have any right to the fans. Fans have to be earned.) The later Potter books, IIRC, came out with a two or three year gap between them. What did those fans do in the meantime? They read other books (and wrote lots of fan fiction <grin>). A fan of JK Rowling might also be a fan of any of the other authors I mentioned. He or she might even be a fan of mine.
Authors rarely win fans through anything, but writing. A bad writer tends to attract negative reviews; eventually, the author will be discontinued. There are no shortcuts to success, as Pippa Middleton (sister of Kate Middleton) discovered when she tried to sell her book, nor is there any way to cheat. JK Rowling won her fans through very good writing. If you, or the writer of the article, write as well as her, you’ll get fans too.
But you won’t be stealing them from her, any more than she’s stealing them from you.
Because there’s no such thing as an exclusive writing fan.