Let's forget the underlying issues of the whole thing for a minute and just look at the surface complaint. Her novel, in her opinion, was superior, and deserved the bestseller status and readership.
It may be entirely true that her book is more deserving, but does that necessarily matter in the world of publishing?
I can think of several authors who are geniuses, in my opinion, who don't sell the numbers they should.
It's no secret that many of the books that win awards never win a place on most consumer's shelves.
Why is that?
The obvious answer is that many of the novels winning the awards are literary fiction and literary fiction tends to not sell that well. Call the readership masses simple-minded if you like, but they just want to read a good story that doesn't fly over their heads. Fair? Maybe not.
So, back to the excellent author whose novel hasn't sold very many copies. She may be the next Madeleine L'Engle, but just because you think you write an excellent novel doesn't mean everyone's going to agree, and dare I state the obvious? It might not even be true.
She forgot the first lesson the rest of us learned in Writing 101-- taste is, above all, subjective. You may think certain authors who sit atop of the NY Times list to be hacks, but obviously, not everyone agrees.
Secondly, even if every critic in the world shouts from the rooftop that your novel is the best ever, doesn't mean it will find an enormous readership.
I don't know why.
It could be because you have no way of getting your book out there. You have no platform. Your publisher is a cheapskate who doesn't believe in marketing or publicity. The two hundred people who read your novel aren't word-of-mouth types.
My debut, Crossing Oceans, is doing very well, but that doesn't mean my sophomore novel will. I realize and accept this. I learned long ago that life is not fair, and not so long ago, that the publishing business really isn't. I also understand human nature well enough to suspect it's a lot easier for me to be objective when it's my novel doing well.
I had no expectations that my debut would do particularly well. I hoped it would, but I didn't expect it would. I know how unpredictable this business is and accept that.
I suspect my excellent author friend is having such a hard time because she had high expectations that were dashed. The higher the expectations in life, the higher the disappointment tends to be.
All Excellent or myself can do is write the best novel we're capable of, check our expectations at the publishing door and accept the things we cannot change. It would also be nice if we could be happy for those who gain what we dream of, remembering how fickle and subjective this crazy business is. We may be one another's competition but we novelists are also a very small clan who few on the outside understand.
Today I may be at the top. Tomorrow, Excellent may be and next year we may both be has-beens who can't land another contract. I don't know any writer who doesn't suffer from heartache in one form or another, be that from rejections, bad reviews, poor sales, or whatever. Let's cheer each other on as we hope for the best, not just for ourselves, for one another.