The Green-Eyed Author (or, Is It Okay To Say I Hated Your Book?)

Let’s talk about jealousy for a minute.

I’m not talking about jealousy over a man or woman.  Not the kind of jealousy that makes people do crazy and stupid things when they think their special someone might have another special someone on the side.

I’m talking about professional jealousy. Namely, Fifty Shades of Grey.  Oh, my God, I hate that book.  I hate it with the kind of stomach-churning distaste that makes my lip curl into a sneer every time it is mentioned. I’ll admit that I even find myself wanting the movie to flop.  Big time.  We’re talking Heaven’s Gate flop.  Waterworld flop. When Justin Met Kelly flop.

But to be fair, I have to look inside myself to understand why the Fifty Shades phenomenon provokes such a strong reaction in me, especially after a young co-worker made a rather pointed comment to me yesterday.

“You’re just jealous that those books are so successful and yours aren’t,” she said.


Let me just say right here that I truly value this young lady’s opinion.  She was one of the few people in my circle who was honest enough to point out some glaring errors in my first book, and I find her honesty to be worth more than gold.  To put it into non-writing terms, she’s the kind of person every woman wants to take on shopping trips because she’ll give an honest answer to that age old question: “Does this make my butt look big?”

So yes, my butt looks big and I am jealous of E.L. James. Of course I want my books to be read by millions of fans.  I want a movie deal. I want my name to be known by millions, my books to be the center of discussion and controversy, my bank accounts to be overflowing . . .

Um . . . where was I going with this? Sorry, got a little distracted by the fantasies of money, fame and adulation.

But I guess I have to look a little deeper and question whether my negative opinion of Fifty Shades would be the same if it wasn’t so successful. I have to ask myself if I might like the books better if they weren’t such a huge success. As a writer, can I ever separate myself from that envy to form an honest, unbiased opinion of another author’s work? Are any of us able to do that?

I believe so. I didn’t like Fifty Shades.  There, I said it. I just don’t think it’s a very good book. If she had only sold a dozen copies, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it. That’s not jealousy; that’s the honest opinion of someone who started reading at age four and hasn’t stopped since.

I know I should be cheering for my fellow self-published author, but I just don’t understand what the fuss is all about.  I did not think the book was very good.

So, is my opinion invalid, simply because the book I dislike is doing so well? Is it fair to dismiss my opinion as petty jealousy on my part?

I like to think that I know the difference between a good book and a bad one.  That I can form an honest opinion regardless of my feelings about the author, regardless of my envying the success of others.  I like to think that I can be fair and impartial.

Then again, I also like to think that I look good in jeggings, and we all know that’s not true.

So let’s get to the point here.  When I say that I think another book is bad, am I saying that I think mine is better?  No, not necessarily.  When I wonder how a book that I dislike can possibly do so well, am I whining that its success is unfair or undeserved?  Again, no.  I am not.  Nor am I saying that the authors of these books don’t deserve their fame and fortune.

I’m simply saying that I don’t like certain books.

The fact that I am an author doesn’t take away my right to have an opinion. The fact that I wish I had E.L. James’ success and money doesn’t negate my opinions of her work.

Authors are allowed to have opinions of other books. We can say that we didn’t like Fifty Shades or Angela’s Ashes or even Catcher in The Rye if we really didn’t like those books.  It’s okay to question the popularity of something that we didn’t like.  And yes, it’s perfectly acceptable to feel a tiny bit of jealousy or envy once in a while.  Go ahead; own it.

What’s not okay is letting that jealousy take over.  It’s not all right to use it as an excuse to shred someone else’s work unfairly.  And it’s definitely not okay to continue to disparage another author or his/her work because of that jealousy.  Express your opinion in the fairest way possible, own your envy, and move on.  Go write your next book and make it better than the ones you dislike.

Because I can guarantee that there are people out there who won’t like what you write, and some of those people are going to be your fellow authors.  And guess what?

They have a right to their opinions, too.

Author: A.J. Goode

I am a romance novelist, single mother of three, and a high school lunchlady. To be completely honest, I have no idea which of those jobs is the most rewarding and which is the biggest challenge. I love them all. I write romance novels about the kind of people who might pass me on the street every day. My characters are often hurting in some way, and need to learn to trust others in order to heal themselves. I also blog about trying to focus on writing, and about my day-to-day experiences in small-town America. I write about life. The good, the bad, and the just plain odd.

10 thoughts on “The Green-Eyed Author (or, Is It Okay To Say I Hated Your Book?)”

  1. Okay, so I’m thinking that you’re finding your groove here with the funny stuff! That scene that you wrote above — totally would be one of the highlight scenes in a great RomCom. Probably as part of a plotline where the lead tries several disastrous ways to find Mr. Right (church group, bar cruising, etc.) before giving up — and then finds him accidentally living next door. Between that and the Amoebas, you’ve got the basis for two great films! I’m looking forward to reading what’s next from your autobiographical treasure trove!


  2. I don’t dislike 50 Shades from a “jealousy” perspective. One of the themes of my blog is “Just because I don’t like to read it, doesn’t mean YOU shouldn’t be able to read it.” The world is a diverse place. Different people like different things. Different authors can cater to those different needs. Another author’s success doesn’t impact me one way or the author. In fact, I hope, perhaps unrealistically, that one day success will find its way to every aspiring author who wants it.

    That being said, my problem with the book lies with society. If Christian Grey were ugly and poor instead of handsome and rich, would this movie even be possible? Wouldn’t it be released on Halloween instead of Valentine’s Day?

    Shameless plug for my blog – I wrote about this very subject, so feel free to stop by:

    To answer your question – I think it is ok to say “I hate a book.” But just know what the reasoning is and make sure it’s motivated by an actual problem with the book and not “I wish I had a book that made me rich too!”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You said it perfectly — if Christian Grey was ugly and poor, this would be a horror story instead of “romance”! And you also said it much more concisely than I did. I think it really IS okay to say I hate a book, as long as those feelings come from a true dislike rather than jealousy.

      Thanks for the link to your blog. You may not believe this, but I just finished reading your very funny post about romance novel covers.

      Thanks for commenting!


  3. Amy, I have not read 50 Shades of Utter Drivel, but I hate any modern so called erotica novel so I don’t need to. But having said that, I have read the few bits that people have mentioned and I have read the awful reviews and there are two other reasons I hate it. They are 1) because it is very badly written and 2) because something so badly written has no business getting famous and making lots of money. Had it been a book which was well written, I still would have hated it, but I would not have wished the author ill. This book has been the root cause of all the foul, porn ridden crap which appears on Amazon and makes the rest of us self published authors look bad. That is why I hate it. Can I put a link to my blog: You can delete it if you like, I shan’t mind, honest.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Absolutely, Margaret! I love your blog, and I hope others follow the link back to it.

      For anyone who isn’t familiar with Margaret Brazear, she writes historical fiction, and her blog is a wonderful combination of history, opinion, and pictures of beautiful Newfoundlands. She is also the subject of an upcoming interview here on Thursday, February 26th.


  4. First, let me say that I love your blog. It’s funny, thought provoking and a nice break from some of the garbage posted out on the web.
    Second, I agree, I do not like the whole 50 Shades franchise. I’m not a fan of porn, bondage, or kinky sex. I think the books promote bondage and the subjugation of women.
    As a librarian, I recognize that everyone is entitled to read what they want without censorship. Personally, I have the right to dislike any book that goes against my personal standards. Everyone has the right to dislike a book, author or not, and it should not automatically be labeled “jealousy”. You are a human being who has opinions, morals, likes and dislikes, and they have nothing at all to do with jealousy.

    Liked by 1 person

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