Author Spotlight: J. K. Rowling (aka Robert Galbraith)

J. K. Rowling is using a pen-name these days, and wrote the novel THE CUCKOO’S CALLING under the guise of Robert Galbraith. However, the purpose of a pen-name is lost when the author reveals herself later, don’t you think?

Apparently not. In this case, it was an attempt to eliminate any hype and allow reviewers to leave unbiased critiques. Here is a quote from J. K. Rowling’s website: “I hoped to keep this secret a little longer, because being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience! It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback from publishers and readers under a different name. The upside of being rumbled is that I can publicly thank my editor David Shelley, who has been a true partner in crime, all those people at Little, Brown who have been working so hard on The Cuckoo’s Calling without realizing that I wrote it, and the writers and reviewers, both in the newspapers and online, who have been so generous to the novel.  And to those who have asked for a sequel, Robert fully intends to keep writing the series, although he will probably continue to turn down personal appearances.”

Stephen King did something similar by writing books under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. He wanted to see if he could write a best-selling novel without having a best-selling author’s name attached to it. Bachman had some success, but not nearly as much as those obviously written by Stephen King. However, many might speculate that J. K. Rowling’s reveal was done on purpose. That perhaps the publisher was in on the author’s identity and had a plan in place to reveal the true identity of the author if it didn’t get X sales by a certain date. The Cuckoo’s Calling only sold 1,500 hardcover copies in approximately 3 months time, even after receiving pretty stellar reviews.

The Chicago Tribune details the events of her reveal as thus:  “The initial tip on Richard Galbraith’s real identity came from an “anonymous tweet” from a since-deleted account to an employee at The Sunday Times in London who had tweeted admiration for the book. On the scent, The Times quickly discovered that “The Cuckoo’s Calling” had the same agent, publisher and editor as Rowling. A computer-aided comparison of the writing to Rowling’s other work spurred Times editor Richard Brooks to confront Rowling with a direct question about her authorship, which was quickly answered in the affirmative.”

To get this book published, she went through all the normal wickets that a new author would, such as submitting her manuscript to publishers as Robert Galbraith – which shows great measures were taken to conceal her identity. However, even after she received tons of critical acclaim for her writing, it didn’t sell well. While this was a great exercise to test the quality of her writing, what does this say about the book industry? That the general public doesn’t like new authors? That book sales are declining? That the standard marketing methods are poor?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below.