From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Why the J.K. Rowling Pseudonym Story is NOT Depressing News for Aspiring Writers

So we've all heard the news about J.K. Rowling publishing a book under a pseudonym, right? The Cuckoos Calling by "Robert Galbraith". Slash J.K. Rowling.

Anyway, ever since the news broke I've been seeing all these articles about what a terrible sign this is for newbie and aspiring authors. People saying stuff like OH MY WORD EVEN ROWLING CAN'T SELL BOOKS. People saying that if even Rowling can't have a hit, what's there for the rest of us?

I think this is totally bologna. Totally the wrong way of looking at it.

What I think this actually does is show how level is the playing field. Let's not use Harry Potter as the example for success for a second. Let's define writerly success as having a book accepted, published, be critically well-received and sell moderately well. We'd all be fine with a career made of that, right? So J.K. Rowling did that plus some with Harry Potter, obviously. And then she did it again.

As far as I know The Cuckoos Calling sold okay, and the critics liked it much more than Casual Vacancy. Honestly I think this is a brilliant move by Rowling, and a chance for her to get some unbiased response, some feedback without her name getting in the way. 

I think what this whole thing proves is that you don't have to be J.K. Rowling to be successful. Robert Galbraith is us, is a newbie author who worked hard and produced a good book, got it published, and had some people like it. But comparing it to Harry Potter of course makes it look like a failure.

All in all, I applaud Rowling for a smart move. So maybe the level of success for this book is not the same level as Harry Potter. Maybe it's not even enough to found a career. But its a great place to start one, and you don't have to be J.K. Rowling to do it.

Thoughts? What do you think about this new development?

Sarah Allen


  1. Most people would be thrilled to have a book sell even moderately well. If only Harry Potter success will do, then a writer is in the wrong business, because that person is going to be disappointed.

  2. Great way to look at it from the other side. I wouldn't have been disappointed to sell as many copies as she did before it became known she was Robert Galbraith. Although I do admit it shows what having a brand can do to a novel. It just means we'll have to keep writing and publishing to create our brand. :)

  3. You're always positive. That's a good thing.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  4. That's a great way of looking at it. The book was at #4500-ish on Amazon UK before the story broke, which isn't a bad place to be for a debut novelist.

  5. I think it's one of those things where, in time, had she not been revealed, the book would have done a lot better. Harry Potter wasn't an overnight success no matter how successful it was. I think we can't expect something good to be huge right away. Sometimes it's the later word of mouth that gets a book going.

  6. I think I may be living under a rock, because I totally didn't know that! But I agree with you. All it takes a bit of hard work. :)

  7. Interesting perspective.

    I haven't read Casual Vacancy, but I wondered if a big part of its poor reception was that Rowling jumped genres, but brought HP fans along because of the name--meaning reader expectation played more of a role in the negative reviews than the writing itself. What would have happened if she'd published CV under a pen name?

  8. I hate to throw some cold water on the debate, but her changing genres or writing under a pseudonym is not the same as a new writer starting out, because Rowling already had an agent and a publisher that would look at whatever she wrote! I read Casual Vacancy and really did not like it - had a hard time finding a connection to any of the characters except perhaps the children. Will have to check out this latest.

  9. Reader expectation does play a big role. We have a writer here in Australia, Paul Jennings, who, for many years, wrote wonderful, hilarious children's fiction. His sales were phenomenal, his fans every child who opened one of his books. One day, he decided he wanted to be taken seriously and write a serious YA novel. I think it was a case of the clown who wants to play Hamlet. Well, it sold because it had his name in the cover, but it was not a success. Nobody wanted to read serious by the king of funny. The pity of it was, it was a perfectly good novel in it's own right and might ave done better if it hadn't had his name on it.

    Noelle, I was wondering the same thing - was it only her readers she was deceiving? That said, a friend of mine who had a sharp disagreement with her publishers wrote her next novel under a pen name and still managed to sell it. The quality shone through. She did have to get a friend to visit the publishers, who wanted to meet the new author. ;-)

  10. What would happen if books never had the authors name on them? Would all that celebrity claptrap dissappear? I appreciate it would be difficult for biography, though how many so called autobiographies mare actually written by the subject?

  11. I think the pressure to write a best seller must be pushed aside. Writing the story that's in you and writing the best you can are much more important.

    Just one woman's opinion. :-)


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