On Rowling….

Over the weekend it was announced that J.K. Rowling, the almost ridiculously well-known author of the Harry Potter series of children’s fantasy novels and one adult mainstream novel, earlier this year published a crime novel under a male pseudonym.

In the period between the publication of her fantasy series and her mainstream novel, Rowling had mentioned she’d been working on a crime novel. That novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, published as by Robert Galbraith, was published in April of this year to strong reviews and, if the reports I saw online are accurate, modest sales.

On hearing the news I said on Twitter that “So J.K. Rowling put out new crime novel under pseudonym. Sells poorly, but great reviews. Says lots about publishing, little about the book”. This fairly innocuous note was retweeted quite a bit, and led to a lot of comment.

While comment is always welcome, I thought I’d clarify what I meant. Rowling is famous. She wanted to see how a book of hers would be received if it didn’t come out as by her. She got positive affirmation that she can write terrifically well, but as often happens in the world, sometimes good books don’t sell.

It’s terrifically hard to get a book to market, to connect it to an audience, and to do all of the things that make it sell in large numbers (this is why authors want a good publisher). Writing a good book is a great thing, but in and of itself it doesn’t guarantee sales. That’s what I meant.

And yes, while I am pretty confident this was not a marketing ploy, the novel is now #1 on Amazon and likely to be a world-wide bestseller.