While I’ve had a couple of people ask me if I’ve read “50 Shades of Grey,” I had an interesting question from a Facebook follower the other day. To the effect of whether or not I thought it was professional for an author to actively lobby for people not to read a book.
I didn’t have to think long on that one. My answer is no, of course it’s not professional.
Let me back up. Have I read “50 Shades of Grey?” No. Am I going to? I don’t know yet, quite honestly. My TBR list is already huge, filled with a ton of books written by personal friends, non-fiction books for research, and books by my favorite auto-buy authors. I’m not kidding when I say I’ve got several HUNDRED titles already queued up, in both e-books and dead-tree books.
Here’s another thing. Since I am active in the BDSM community, a switch with ample experience on both ends of the flogger, as it were, part of me is hesitant to read a book by an author who is, by her own admission on the TV interview I’ve seen her in, a ‘nilla author. She seemed almost embarrassed that she wrote the book.
HOWEVER, as I’ve told others who’ve asked me my opinion of it, that’s just my opinion. I tell people to download the sample or skim through it in a bookstore and see if it’s a fit for them and decide for themselves whether or not they want to read it. Lots of people seem to enjoy it, and that’s why there are plenty of writers and genres out there, because people don’t always like the same books, genres, authors, etc. Form your own opinion of the book. I like books that some people don’t, and some people like books that I don’t. That doesn’t mean I’d ever counsel someone not to read a book.
(Caveat: if someone was asking me for a recommendation on a specific type of book, and said, for example, that they absolutely did NOT like paranormal books, I certainly would warn them off of my books that are paranormal, if that makes sense?)
That being said, back to my Facebook friend’s question. After we’d discussed her question back and forth a couple of times, she got down to the reason for her question and sent me a blog post link to someone who, apparently, is a self-pubbed author of only two books. And who ripped “50 Shades” up one side and down the other.
I have rarely seen such unprofessional behavior as bad as what I read in that blog post. The author railed against “50 Shades” as being trash and horrible and warning people not to read it, ad nauseum. Frankly, I was stunned.
You know, I’m human. Am I jealous that as a person active in BDSM who writes about it that I haven’t sold 80 gazillion copies and have a movie deal? Duh. A little. But life goes on. Show me a writer who claims they aren’t jealous in some small way of any big-time author and I’ll show you a liar (or someone who needs to be on meds for having a psychotic break from reality).
Would I ever rip that author for their success?
Fuck no. Especially not on my blog, and DOUBLY especially if I only had two self-pubbed books to my credit.
I don’t even review books anymore, unless I REALLY like them, because as an author, it paints a target on my back. I don’t think writers SHOULD review books (at least negatively). I’m not saying don’t point out factual errors, I’m saying don’t slam a book, an author, and darn sure don’t lobby people not to read the author’s book. And they also shouldn’t be telling anyone who had the “audacity” to read and like the book that they were idiots.
What was even more amusing/shocking was that this blogger/author claims to be an academic with a degree, a teacher, even, and when it was suggested by one of the blog comments that they should be encouraging people to read for themselves and make up their own minds, the commenter was scoffed at as if they were an idiot.
The only thing I can think of is that the blogger is seething with jealousy that a newbie author had the audacity to hit it big on their first time out of the gate.
Obviously, that blogger has no practical, reasonable knowledge of how the publishing world can work. Lightning strikes of success are the exception, not the norm, but they certainly can and do happen. Suck it up, buttercup, and deal with it. That’s life.
Frankly, any book about BDSM that makes it to mainstream attention and helps open doors for other BDSM authors like myself is a GOOD thing, in my opinion. There are people out there afraid of losing their jobs and their children because of their fear of being outed for their participation in BDSM. If a book can help raise awareness and normalize it and help eliminate that stigma, then fan-fucking-tastic!
Here’s the thing, just because you don’t like a book doesn’t mean someone else won’t like it. That’s what the nature of this business is all about. I’ve had newbie writers tell me before how grateful they were to me for encouraging them when they’ve written me. Of course! Why wouldn’t I? As I wrote in my infamous “you are not a special snowflake” post, this isn’t some zero-sum game where there’s only so much room at “the top” of the mountain. There’s no reason not to encourage others to write what they are passionate about. Might not be my cuppa for reading material, but it doesn’t matter.
Writers have to first write for themselves. If a writer doesn’t feel passionately about what they’re writing, no one else will, either.
So will I read “50 Shades?” Maybe, maybe not. I don’t honestly know right now. Should you read it? That’s totally up to YOU, dear reader. And if you happen to like it, good for you. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel ashamed or stupid for liking (or disliking) a book. It’s like berating someone for not liking ice cream or spaghetti. It’s personal choice and taste.
And here’s some advice to my fellow authors — don’t slam a book just because YOU don’t like it. Damn sure don’t slam readers for reading the book. You never know how many of your readers (or potential readers) might have loved the same book and decide that YOU aren’t a writer they want to invest time and money reading. Discretion isn’t just the better part of valor, it’s also a wise career move.
Now go forth and read. And let me hear your opinions of an author who would publicly rip apart a book you love and call you an idiot for liking it in the first place.