February 18, 2014
J.K. Rowling dips her toes in the mid-list, decides to keep splashing around
by Kirsten Reach
The sequel to The Cuckoo’s Calling, titled The Silkworm, will be published by Little, Brown this summer (June 19 in the States and June 24 in the UK), according to reports from every national news source you can name. The papers are making up for lost time after they ignored the modestly successful debut from Robert Galbraith… that is, until his name was revealed to be a pen name for J.K. Rowling.
Unsurprisingly, the sales for The Cuckoo’s Calling increased 500,000% after Rowling’s lawyer’s wife’s friend leaked the news. The lawyer was fined for leaking her identity.
If the gap in sales, publicity, and marketing between publishing an unknown debut novelist and one of the biggest author brands of our time wasn’t glaringly obvious already, Rowling’s experiment in undercover publishing demonstrated how dramatically an author’s identity could change a book’s campaign. The teams at Sphere and Mulholland must have had to work double duty: first convincing accounts and media to pay attention to an unknown writer, then responding to the demand to make books available overnight as soon as the news broke.
A second novel will give them a chance to break the series out without hiding the power of her name (and sales track). Will it make anyone look twice at a new writer, suspecting the pen name might belong to the likes of Stephenie Meyer?
Eh, probably not. But if Rowling wants to start blurbing debut novelists in hopes of using her powers for good, we have a few authors we’d be happy to suggest.
Kirsten Reach was an editor at Melville House.