Monday, July 15, 2013

Pseudonyms: J.K. Rowling style

Oh, pseudonyms. Sometimes I don't understand why people use them, and other times, I do. Sometimes it's about a day job versus writing career, other times a difficult to pronounce/remember name. Then there are those times where writers just want one (that's what I'll never understand LOL).

But, I think, the trickiest time to figure out the most beneficial move when it comes to a pseudonym is when an already established author wants to write in a completely different genre. Do you use a pen name so that your audience doesn't get confused, or so people who might not read your other genre will still pick up your new book? Or do you say to hell with it and try to use your clout and name recognition to pull in readers?

For example, J.K. Rowling.

This morning, news broke that the Harry Potter author has published a crime novel under a different name (even a different gender, might I add). When the info came to light, her sales increased by 1000 percent.

BCC News tells us more:

The Harry Potter novelist published the book - The Cuckoo's Calling - as Robert Galbraith. 
The book had sold less than 500 copies before the secret emerged in the Sunday Times, according to Nielsen BookScan's figures. 
Within hours, it rose more than 5,000 places to top Amazon's sales list. 
The digital version is now also at number one in the iTunes book chart. 
The book was published by Sphere, part of Little, Brown Book Group which published Rowling's first foray into writing novels for adults, The Casual Vacancy. 
Little, Brown's David Shelley confirmed to The Bookseller the publisher had ordered an "immediate reprint" with the number not yet confirmed. 
Rowling said she had "hoped to keep this secret a little longer". 
The author described "being Robert Galbraith" as "such a liberating experience". 
A spokesman for bookseller Waterstones said: "This is the best act of literary deception since Stephen King was outed as Richard Bachman back in the 1980s." 
One reviewer described The Cuckoo's Calling as a "scintillating debut", while another praised the male author's ability to describe women's clothes. 
Crime writer Peter James told the Sunday Times: "I thought it was by a very mature writer, and not a first-timer." 
Fellow crime author Mark Billingham, who reviewed the book ahead of its publication in April, said he was "gobsmacked" at the revelation. 
The fictitious Galbraith was supposed to have been a former plain-clothes Royal Military Police investigator who had left the armed forces in 2003 to work in the civilian security industry. 
However a clue that Rowling was behind the novel was that she and Galbraith shared an agent and editor. 
In previous interviews, Rowling has said she would prefer to write novels after Harry Potter under a pseudonym. 
Another Cormoran Strike book by Robert Galbraith is in the pipeline, to be published next year. 
See the original post HERE

While I'll agree it's a surprise that Robert Galbraith is, in fact, J.K. Rowling, I think the reaction people are having is a little overboard. Why would anyone assume a creative of any kind can only thrive in one specific format or style? Just because someone is a painter, doesn't mean they can't sculpt. It doesn't mean they can, of course, but no one would simply assume they can't. Personally, I am thrilled for Rowling and applaud her reaching outside the media's perceived comfort zone to write something she really just wanted to write.

But the news leak does beg the publicity question--was writing under a pen name really the best move for the book itself? Rowling had already breached the gap between children's lit and adult fiction with Casual Vacancy, so why the need to be so secretive all of a sudden? Some might speculate that the intention may have been to create a publicity stunt in the first place with an intentional pseudonym leak. Or maybe she really did just want to see how her book would do on its own merit, without any preconceived notions.

I guess we may never know.

What do YOU think?

1 comment:

  1. I don't blame Rowling for attempting to write under a different name. When Casual Vacancy was released there was a lot of hype because it was her first post-Harry Potter title. She's been locked into that series so long that, even when she warned fans it was going to be different, people were disappointed.

    Rowling doesn't have to write anymore, she's got more money than she could possibly spend, so she's writing for the love of writing now. If she wants to see if she can be successful without the safety net of Harry Potter to fall back on, let her.