As the famed writer of the gazillion-selling Harry Potter series, she knew she could publish her grocery list and it would sail to the top of the charts. However, JK, in an attempt to return to humble origins, decided she would put out a crime thriller called The Cuckoo’s Calling under a pseudonym. She wanted to “publish without hype or expectation” and allow herself to bask in the “pure pleasure to get feedback from publishers and readers under a different name.”
Wow, turning the literary world “upside down”, as it were.
She created a persona for her fake name, including gender-switching, presenting herself as one “Robert Galbraith”, a man with long experience in the army and in the private security business. Sounds like a lot of fun, doesn’t it?
Following a couple of ill-advised submissions under her pseudonym to publishers, and subsequent rejections (“Doesn’t stand out”, wrote one editor), she decided to bring her publisher (Little, Brown UK), editor, and agent into it. Presto! The book was published and mysteriously acquired blurbs from many of the biggest names in the world of literature. In addition, it received universally good reviews, starred, I might add. Not bad for a debut author, wouldn’t you say?
Well, after all this initial hoopla, the publisher sent out 1500 books, of which fewer than 500 sold in the first three months. The book was clearly tanking, and poor JK didn’t know what went wrong with her little experiment. I mean, it was a well-written book, right? Look at all those great reviews! And all the big names who blurbed it! Doesn’t that count for anything? Why aren’t people buying it?
Refusing to face failure, she took action. An “anonymous” tweet was received by the London Times, saying the book was really written by JK Rowling. The Times tweeted back asking how does this person know and they received a tweet saying something to the effect of “I just know”. The Twitter account of this anonymous person was then immediately deleted, wiping out any trace of who sent the message.
According to the legend that is currently being confected, the Times used great detective work in uncovering Rowling as the true writer of The Cuckoo’s Calling. They discovered the fake writer shared the same publisher, editor, and agent as Rowling. Hmmm. Coincidence? I don’t think so! Sherlock Holmes would certainly be proud.
Amazingly, not long afterward, Rowling “confessed” to being the true writer. Overnight, the book zoomed to #1 on Amazon, where it still is today.
JK did not achieve her goal of “publishing without hype or expectation”, since Little, Brown moved mountains for her to get the blurbs and reviews, which they would’ve never done for an unknown writer. Despite this big unwarranted assist, she received what nearly every other debut author gets: a one-way ticket to oblivion. Despite the heavy hand of Little, Brown’s promotional juggernaut, the book was circling the drain after three months. I’m sure JK preferred to sell another gazillion books and cash those big royalty checks instead of reveling in the “pure pleasure(of getting) feedback from publishers and readers under a different name”, especially since that feedback could be distilled into two words: “No, thanks.”
Put me down as saying she outed herself. Like I said, she couldn’t face the failure and rejection the rest of us face on a daily basis. She really has no idea how we live and her brief flirtation with rejection was just too much for her to bear, poor thing. Or maybe she just figured the unwashed reading public down there just needed to realize what a great book it was, so they could spend their money on it.