Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Is the Cuckoo Calling, or Was It the Kookiness of Us?

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.

11 comments:

  1. Brands are so tricky. I'm branded as a paranormal writer and I really can't get out of that box. Until things change that is.

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  2. I have no doubt the publisher was behind it. Because I think JKR just wanted to be left in peace to write without all the hype and the pressure. I have so much respect for her.

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    1. Rowling is admirable for many reasons, not least of which is her talent and not resting on her laurels by writing more HP ad infinitum.

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  3. I haven't read the new book yet but will read it soon. As someone who isn't naturally drawn to mysteries, this is probably not something I would select to read if JKR didn't write it. I do pay attention to reviews, however, which is why I still haven't gotten around to reading THE CASUAL VACANCY. I will eventually, though--I can't imagine that she would write anything less than good. I do think she is being honest about not knowing--she just wanted to write! Thanks for the thoughtful post, Mirka!

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  4. I agree in that the whole thing kind of blows my mind. And it's interesting how a series of events and a book coming out at the exact right time can be famous while another (like the Cuckoo Calling) which gets fabulous reviews but only gets so popular.

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  5. I enjoyed reading your interesting blog post, Mirka. I tend to think that J.K.'s motivation was as she said--i.e., that she wanted to write and publish something different without all the pressure. I agree with you that it was probably the publisher that leaked the secret. I don't have strong feelings about any of this. The fact that her initial sales weren't high despite the good reviews is sad, but it doesn't surprise me, because it often happens that books don't get the sales they deserve. It also doesn't surprise me that the sales were stellar once people knew it was J.K.'s because she has such a loyal following.

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  6. I think you've solved they mystery here, Mirka. It makes me sad to think how manipulated, calculated things can be in many industries and systems we have created.

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  7. Great post, Mirka! I'd been wondering for a while about branding, and the effect it has. It's such and interesting concept, and involves so much vision luck.

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  8. When the 3rd or 4th HP book came out, I was already wondering what JKR would ever do for an encore. I'm glad she got to "just write," and get published as a "newbie" all over again, which has got to say something about talent level. And yes, I can't imagine a publisher letting a book wither and die if there are magic words to turn it into a bestseller.

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  9. this is ridiculous. the lawyer and his respective agency who outed her publicly apologized and is donating to charity on her behalf after rowling *sued* them and *won*. that's not something a publisher could secretly be behind, and there is NO way a top law firm would let their reputation be tarnished for a publicity stunt.

    if rowling and little, brown wanted sales, they would have just announced she was writing a new series in the first place. besides, rowling doesn't need the money anyway and has consistently shown herself to be a person of good character and generosity. there is no reason to believe this was anything more than what rowling, her publisher, and the law firm say it is.

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    1. It is certainly possible that everything is exactly as everyone says it is.
      But why hide behind an anonymous reply? We* don't eat anyone here. We* think about things.
      * We= me and most who reply.

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