Granted there are exceptions, but in my experience, there tends to be a disconnect between the most iconic authors and the rest of us. And by disconnect, I mean the wealthier and more famous an author gets and the longer they’re at that level, the more out of touch they are with evolving worldviews and how to get from word one to book deal and beyond. On the former, and I’m just guessing at this, but if I’ve got a staff to free me up time for writing, and most everyone else reliant on me for paychecks says yes to me more than they dare say no, then I’m in an echo chamber. As to the latter, if I’m no longer fighting to get published/sell books, then my knowledge about what it takes for most authors to achieve these goals started tapering off the year I made it big.
Take this scenario. You’re a debut or midlist author who writes something oppressive on social media. Your agent emails you and says, hey, I recommend walking that statement back, and you immediately write an apology, because you don’t want to lose said agent, or you don’t and there’s a chance you and the agent part ways. Now imagine J.K. Rowling is the author who says the shitty thing. Her agent might disagree with her, but does he value his ethics more than his Cormoran Strike commissions? In this real-world situation, Rowling’s agent did indeed value his commissions more than the rights of trans people. And a really rich cis author was spared the slap-on-the-wrist email she was more likely to have received from her agent had Harry Potter never made it past midlist.
Scenario number 2: You’re not J.K. famous, but you’re about as renowned as a Canadian author can get, and then one day, you get Hulu famous. You’ve long advocated for freedom of speech, so when a peer asks you to co-sign a letter that on the surface, if you ignore the context of the letter writers’ motive, seems to be about that, you do.
“Concerns over PC culture seem to have long been a preoccupation for the letter’s ringleaders. Williams has previously written in the pages of Harper’s about his concerns over the left’s “fanaticism” and “totalitarianism.” Mark Lilla, who according to the New York Times was involved in early conversations that sparked the letter, has spent much of the past four years denouncing efforts to bring diversity and inclusion initiatives to politics and calling for society to move beyond identity politics. George Packer, another early participant in discussions that led to the letter, has used his prestigious platforms at The New Yorker and The Atlantic to warn at length of how culture wars are threatening our children, in the form of privilege checklists, gender-neutral bathrooms and school integration.” Quote from The Problem with ‘The Letter’ by Jeff Yang, CNN
And then when a co-signer pulls out once they learn that context, and a group of journalists writes a letter addressing the flaws in the one you signed, you don’t acknowledge this side of the debate on Twitter even though it’s open debate your letter asks for. You instead tweet a day after the second letter is published, an op-ed that both validates the term ‘cancel culture’ and denounces those who disagreed with you, when you could have just owned up to the fact that you signed a letter that…
“Under the guise of free speech and free exchange of ideas, the letter appears to be asking for unrestricted freedom to espouse their points of view free from consequence or criticism. There are only so many outlets, and while these individuals have the ability to write in them, they have no intention of sharing that space or acknowledging their role in perpetuating a culture of fear and silence among writers who, for the most part, do not look like the majority of the signatories. When they demand debates, it is on their terms, on their turf.” Quote from A More Specific Letter on Justice and Open Debate, TheObjective.Substack.com
Last scenario: You’re so successful, your backlist takes up entire shelves at bookstores. You’re so successful, Masterclass invites you to teach an online course, and I sign up. The course workbook, written by Masterclass but endorsed by you, goes out with the following confusion. The excerpt teaches authors to find an agent but also insinuates authors can easily directly query the Big 5 without one. I emailed Masterclass about this incongruity in January 2017, but they’ve made no material changes to the text as of this writing.
This post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. So many great blogs to keep hopping through. Click here to join the hop and to see what other writing tips you can glean from this month’s edition.
Have any iconic authors ever done anything that made you trust them less? Or maybe it’s something they didn’t say or do when they should have? Can you think of any exceptions to my logic, iconic authors with advice that never fails and/or consistently thoughtful worldviews.