First, I want to say that I have absolutely no gripe with JK Rowling. In fact, I even support and applaud her decision to publish a book that she wanted to write without all of the fanfare and hype. Remember Rowling’s first foray into expanding her reach as a writer? By 9:00am Eastern on the morning that her title A Casual Vacancy hit stores, it already had over 300 reviews on Amazon for an average of only three stars. Reviewers, it would seem, couldn’t get past the fact that it was not another Harry Potter book. We’ll never know how the book would have been received had it been written under a secret pseudonym.
But now we do know how a book written by a talent like Rowling gets received when it’s written under a pseudonym. Thanks to her desire to simply write and publish a book without all of the attention and accusations of it not being like her other books, Rowling released a book that very few people were talking about before this week. In fact, only 1,500 copies were even sold that first month.
Who’s fault is that? Do we blame the author for not doing her legwork and establishing an “online presence” and building a fan base? Do we blame the traditional publisher for what was obviously an epic marketing fail? Do we blame the readers for not racing out and taking a risk on an unheard of author?
Why are we blaming anyone at all?
Where the naysayers are accurately speaking out this week is to the rabid response once Rowling’s secret identity was leaked, something that she claims she wished had not happened, especially in light of the fact that there is a second book coming in her crime series, again under her pen name, Robert Gilbraith. Now that the secret is out, will the industry respond as favorably–albeit quietly–to this second book as they did to the first? Or will there be comparisons and sneers for Rowling’s constant attempts to be something other than the author of the Harry Potter series?
Now that the secret is out, bookstores can’t stock copies of this first book fast enough. Message boards are lighting up with names of locations that still have copies of the print edition. Records have been set, broken, and set again for the ebook sales, and I have to wonder. Where were all these fans when the book was just a quiet, great crime novel? Where were the reporters waiting to interview anyone connected to the publication of the book? Why did poor debut author Robert Gilbraith not get the attention that literary icon JK Rowling is getting?
Because the book wasn’t good enough when it was written by a nobody. Now that there’s a famous name behind it, we care. This hype proves that it is still not enough to write a great book or share a well-crafted story, and that a book is only as worthy as how much attention you can throw its way.
Mercy Pilkington is a Senior Editor for Good e-Reader. She is also the CEO and founder of a hybrid publishing and consulting company.