19 July 2013

Fame - A Double-Edged Blade

Which writer doesn’t occasionally dream of acclaim - or at least fantastic sales? Of sitting at a book signing running out of ink for your pen, or taking eager questions for an hour after a half hour talk?

Fame, however, is not all it’s cracked up to be.

It’s been quite a week. In a scene that could have come from one of her own Crime novels, writer Val McDermid saw her ink-attacker convicted of assault. The person had harboured a grudge for years due to a line in one of her novels.

She’s not the only well-known writer to fall foul of a reader. Peter James, another Crime writer, seems to collect them, as does JK Rowling.

JK Rowling recently had published her first Crime novel (ahem… I notice a dangerous pattern developing) under the name of Robert Galbraith. Despite puffs from some of the illustrious names in British Crime, it sold somewhat meagrely, ie in figures normal for most debut writers – until the author was unmasked, when sales soared.

Amid howls of ‘conspiracy’ and ‘publisher marketing ploys’ it would now seem that the lawyer did it, m’lud. Her lawyer in fact, or at least one from the firm she uses. Or perhaps, did use.

So why the subterfuge, the anger at being unmasked?

Writers write, period. Yes, they prefer to eat as well, hence the need for good sales, but the bottom line is that writers want their work to receive acclaim, not themselves personally. JK Rowling seems to have few true writer friends, or one of them would have told her in words of one syllable that it ain’t gonna happen, love.

And not just to her; it doesn’t happen to any of us. Take a look on Amazon at any novel carrying a lot of reviews. Along with the 4 and 5 star there will be smattering of 2 and 1 star, and if the writer is particularly unlucky a vitriolic attack on the writer about wasting the reader’s time.

Moral 1: you cannot please all of the people all of the time, so it’s better to please yourself.

Moral 2: never trust a lawyer.


  1. The trolls get everywhere, it seems. And, of course, the untalented, or sometimes the simply unlucky, find inappropriate vents for their frustration. So long as the author doesn't respond to anything of a personal nature, it generally seems to die a natural death. And,of course, informed readers can spot personal attacks for the envy/hate-driven drivel they are. As you say, Linda: please yourself; there are bound to be enough readers out there with similar tastes to the authors, who will enjoy a well-written piece and give a considered review.

    1. If you want to see Trolls take time to read the comments under the piece in the Telegraph. By the bottom of page 2 it is better than the original news!

      Telegraph 21 July