Every now and then a book becomes popular. Sometimes, we enjoy that book. At other times, we think it’s terrible. A complete disaster. Rubbish. How could that stupid thing be so popular? How can people like it so much? And so on.
Some not-yet-popular writers get upset about such books for another reason: they believe it hurts their chances. But does it, really?
Everybody’s reading that horrible sex book, 50 Shades of Grey, and that’s why nobody will look at my horror novel.
Actually, since I don’t write steamy stuff, 50 Shades of Grey, popular or not, can’t possibly hurt my chances. Our audience is completely different — there may be a small number of people who would read both 50 Shades and my work, but, um, they can read both. Avid readers normally read more than three books per year, and people who only want to read erotic fiction won’t look at my stories anyway.
I hate those stupid sparkly Twilight vampires! They’re not real vampires! And now nobody will read about my monstrous bloodsuckers!
Real vampires, seriously? Like real fairies? People who want to read this love fantasy called Twilight will read it, and fantasize about their immortal beloved. People who want to read about creepy monstrous bloodsuckers will read about them. And about creepy monstrous bloodsuckers killing sparkling vampires. And bunnies. And then they’ll read about the revenge of the bunnies. Or something. Point being, people who want to read about monstrous bunnies are more likely to read The Girl and Her Bunny than Twilight. (See what I did here?)
That popular book, written in my usual genre, is horrible. People will think the entire genre is rubbish, won’t give my great book a chance, and they’ll think bad of me.
If The Terrible Book is popular, it’s more likely to attract new readers to the genre. Some of them will think that the entire genre is rubbish. It’s a pity, but there will always be people who judge the entire genre based on one half-read book, or rumors of that book. But hey, if they don’t want to explore and learn new things, nobody can force them, and crying about it won’t help. And if somebody thinks bad of me because of a lousy book which I didn’t write and have nothing to do with… Hey, thanks for making me laugh. 😆
If The Terrible Book is so popular, some readers, newbies to that genre, might become curious, and explore it. Since many people look for more of the same of the thing they liked, they will soon realize that the genre is actually different from The Terrible Book and that it’s simply not their cup of tea, and that’s fine. And some will discover already respected authors of the genre, and might explore more, and discover me, and you.
Tl; dr version: popular books, whether I think that they’re rubbish or not, don’t hurt my chances at becoming a successful author. They either slightly increase my chances, or do nothing about them. The only person who can truly damage my chances is me.
DISCLAIMER: I’ve got nothing against 50 Shades of Grey (didn’t even read them), Twilight (read them), or their authors (I wish them all the best, actually). I’ve just used these books as examples because of everything that’s written about them.