On Galbraith, JK Rowling & Debut Novellists

Cuckoo's CallingI can’t say I agree with this argument

But there’s another downside, which is the negative impact on thousands of writers the public has never heard of or, more importantly, had the opportunity to read. In that sense, it could even be argued that Rowling’s well-intended hoax has backfired, turning into yet another story about fame in the modern world.

via JK Rowling’s book ruse is a cautionary tale for unknown writers | Joan Smith | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

For one thing, readers always have the opportunity to read debut authors, though they may never consider them and they may choose not to read them, given that readers’ time is limited and the chances of getting a bad book are high, it’s understandable that they often pick authors they already know and like.

Secondly the publishing industry has always been hit driven, there’s some argument that it is becoming even more so with the bandwagoning effect of the internet, but that’s a question of scale rather than kind. New writers always struggle to get exposure in this environment. But even the hits start small until something or someone pushes them over an edge, that can be advertising spend, celebrity endorsement, top line publicity, word of mouth or just dumb luck, but even JK Rowling started at the bottom with Harry Potter, the initial print run for The Philosopher’s Stone was around 1,00 copies!

Finally no writer is entitled to success, just as no publisher or bookseller is entitled to it. We all have to work to reach readers and entice them to read book (hopefully our books). Sometimes that means publishing a few books before gaining a readership, sometimes it may mean a writer never gains that readership despite being talented. There’s no foolproof way to guarantee success, you just have to keep plugging away at it and finding good partners to work with and hoping you can do everything right so that if success comes, you’re ready.

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4 comments

  1. One has to wonder how exactly The Sunday Times got the info. 1500 in sales probably appalled her. It was time to get back some of the money for the time she put in writing the book, I presume. Therefore, tell the world.

  2. I don’t think so, tellingly the paperback hadn’t even been printed yet, if it was a leak, you’d be damn sure they’d have had that ready to roll! Seems more likely a case of loose lips sinking ships!

  3. If you found out a book was by JK Rowling, who’d ever manage to keep quiet about that? It’s just too newsworthy to stay hidden. I completely agree with your last paragraph Eoin – for a book to be a bestseller it has to touch some nerve in the general public (beyond those books stacked on supermarket shelves, I mean), and that is a completely unguessable equation. Dan Brown is such an interesting case in point – three thrillers with very middling sales and then The Da Vinci Code! The question is whether publishers are able to live with the uncertainty and the low sales for a bit, and see whether a writer takes off. In France, Gallimard used to pay a salary to its literary authors like Sartre and Duras, in the belief that they’d become important names one day. Of course, they’ve paid them back handsomely now, but it took decades of nerve holding to reach that point – who would do that now in order to allow an author the time and focus to write?

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