Apparently the book scans sale numbers for The Cuckoo’s Calling were all of five hundred sales in the U.S.A. despite very strong reviews. The international numbers were 1,500 total. It would not have even gone to paperback from this major publisher. A smaller publisher would have viewed the 1,500 number less critically, but this is one of the now Big Five.
J. K. Rowling protested that she was in no way behind this revelation, exposing this Robert Galbraith debut as her own, admittedly a debut for her in the genre of detective novels. I have good reason to think her publisher, however, most likely was behind the revelation. She may not need the money, (though her ego is another factor) but Little Brown & Company would not, ever, pass an opportunity for mega-sales when it is just right there for the taking.
I doubt that without the pen-name-then-revelation strategy the sales (now) or the reviews (then) would have been as good as they are. So it is very possible this was a plan from the get-go. Someone will no doubt write a book (or two or three) about this when some who colluded will talk about it.
I find that in the kid-lit community, those who adore her Harry Potter books and idolize Rowling, believe her official pronouncements of innocence, and of seeking liberation from her brand name, while the rest find it depressing that it is so advantageous to be a brand-name when it comes to sales, even of a well-reviewed book.
To end on an upbeat note, I’ll start with the bad news we garner from this affair:
First, The thinking of a writer as a brand. (“They can only write XYZ)
Second, the holding a debut to a different standard when reviewing. (As if the debut author has not been writing for ions before they got a book accepted for publication; they are not new to writing, only publishing.)
Finally, the mega-sales, (it’s No #1 or close to now) all because of the writer’s name and the story-behind-the-story.
Three times questionable thinking…. When will we ever learn? Never.
But I find a bright spot in this sort of exposé. I am chuckling, and dreaming up possibilities. A talented author got to write what she wanted to write, and the world has one more good detective story. This is a two times cause for celebration.