Disliking the Book and Not the Author

I’d like to tackle the subject of liking a book vs. liking the author who wrote it.

The short of it is…you can dislike a book but when you hate on the authors hardcore, you’re in bad territory.

The long of it is under the cut. I get kinda ranty in this so if you want to skip, you may go ahead.

I’ll admit this, I like reading about diva authors. As in I like reading about the authors who are vastly popular despite their really bigoted/crappy writing and who are able to avoid being edited  because they’re so popular. I have a healthy appetite for Schadenfreude apparently. That being said, I’m not a fan of hating a book so much that you go overboard.

I’ll also give you this: some authors are bad people. Because they’re people. If I read a book by a guy that’s filled with racism and misogyny, you bet I’m gonna assume the worst about him. If I read a book by a girl who completely trashes on any group of people, I’m gonna assume the worst of her.

Most authors don’t fall into those extreme categories, especially not the really popular ones. There may be undertones of it that you see during a closer look but nothing that echoes a modern day Hitler.

I’ll say it: Twilight does have troubling relationship issues. And I don’t doubt that there are some susceptible tweenyboppers (or members of any age group) who might take what they learned in Twilight and apply it to their life. But I think the argument that all these girls are going to be led astray reminds me a lot about the argument people have against romance novels: that it makes women have unrealistic expectations about their romance. Because obviously women can’t be trusted to distinguish fiction from reality. Yeah there are silly girls out there. There are also smart girls.

When does hate escalate to something out of control and why? I’m not a fan of the Eragon books and for a long time I was indignant over the fact that Paolini had been published by his parents and that was why he made it big. Then I learned that wasn’t the case. His family self-published it and he toured across bookstores trying to sell his book to earn some extra income for his family. He got lucky, a publisher happened to be at one of the bookstores and bought the book for his son who ate up that novel. So maybe the hate is from misconstrued facts.

I think people are also angry that certain books become best sellers when there are “better, unpublished writers out there.” To this point I’ll quote my favorite author Meg Cabot, who is both a popular and an excellent author and if there’s any justice in the world I will one day meet her, if only to babble like an idiot about how much her books speak to me.

Meanwhile, since I’ve been over here I’ve noticed that some people have been harshing on The Hills Lauren Conrad and her YA book deal. Some people seem to think it’s unfair that someone like Lauren like has gotten a book deal when there are other, possibly better writers out there who can’t get book deals at all.

I don’t think these people are seeing the big picture. Lauren’s book will make a lot of money, as celebrity books always do, and with that money, her publisher will be able to buy many books by unknown writers that they wouldn’t necessarily have been as inclined to buy otherwise.

(I specifically asked my publishers about this, and they assured me this is true. This is one of the reasons publishers buy celebrity books—to make a lot of money so they can then buy books they know probably won’t make any money at all. Editors, remember, love quality fiction and being able to launch a new talent they believe in but know perhaps won’t rake in the bucks. Please note I am not saying Lauren’s book won’t be quality fiction, because whoever writes it might do a really good job. We just don’t know yet.)

The truth is, basically all so-called “trashy fiction,” which generates a lot sales, enables publishers to buy so-called “literary fiction,” which has much smaller print runs, and makes much less money.

So every Jordan out there enables a dozen new unknown so called “literary” authors to be published.

Maybe you hate Harry Potter. But it revitalized the YA industry. Maybe you hate Meyer and Paolini but the sales of those books may be the reason your favorite book was published or the reason you were able to be published. One thing that I’ve learned that sorta sucks but is true is that at the end of the day, books are a business. Some bestsellers are real stinkers but people buy them so they get published. Some amazing works will never be published because its simply not the market for them. The rise of self-publishing is evening some of the playing field but not enough to change the facts.

Now by profession I’m a graphic designer and so yes I’m aware of the importance of criticism. I also know that an artist or a writer needs to learn to separate him/herself from their work. (If you take it personally, especially in the design business but really in any business, you’re not going to last.) If I criticize a book (and do it fairly, which I hope I do) I’m not criticizing the author. I’m criticizing the work. There’s a difference.

Alright, that’s enough preaching at you. I debated putting up this for awhile and I changed it a few times to make it less harsh. Hopefully it will prompt some discussion. If you didn’t like this article…well go read the review I just put up of Vampire beat and cheer yourself.


3 Responses to “Disliking the Book and Not the Author”

  1. 1 Tori August 13, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Another great article (you told me about this before, but I never tire of hearing it). And you can probably apply this sort of logic to other fields, like video games, movies and television. And it certainly seems to be that way in the manga industry. The more popular, shonen titles make way for the lesser known, less marketable works… but I wish I could think of good examples (well, Naruto being a rather obvious shonen title, but for a lesser known one? I mean, they do exist in published form, and I’ve read a few of them, that much I know Haha, sorry, this is such a dumb comment 8D).

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