Yesterday, Harry Potter author JK Rowling was outed by the Sunday Times as Robert Galbraith, author of The Cuckoo’s Calling, a “debut” crime novel already receiving acclaim from critics and fellow crime writers. Today she posted her official statement on Facebook
“I hoped to keep this secret a little longer, because being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience! It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback from publishers and readers under a different name.
The upside of being rumbled is that I can publicly thank my editor David Shelley, who has been a true partner in crime, all those people at Little, Brown who have been working so hard on The Cuckoo’s Calling without realising that I wrote it, and the writers and reviewers, both in the newspapers and online, who have been so generous to the novel. And to those who have asked for a sequel, Robert fully intends to keep writing the series, although he will probably continue to turn down personal appearances.”
The Sunday Times became suspicious that a first-time author could write such an assured novel, and went to great lengths to uncover the author’s identity, including using an expert in computer linguistics. They gave Professor Peter Millican of Hertford College, University of Oxford, eight novels to analyse. He was given two novels by each author, JK Rowling, Ruth Rendell, Val McDermid and P.D James. Professor Millican said
“I was testing things like word length, sentence length, paragraph length, frequency of particular words and the pattern of punctuation. What was striking about the tests was how often The Cuckoo’s Calling came closest to the texts by JK Rowling and it was closer to those than to any other crime novels. In the vast majority of these tests I found that the new book came closer to A Casual Vacancy and/or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows than it came to the other six books by the other three authors.”
It is hardly surprising Jo chose to use a pen name for her latest novel. She is no stranger to secrecy in book marketing, Bloomsbury asked her to choose some initials for her debut novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, rather than use her full name, so potential readers would not know it was written by a woman. She expressed the desire to use a pen name for post-Harry Potter novels many times in interviews.
Her 2012 mystery novel, The Casual Vacancy, received mixed reviews from critics and fans alike after a massive marketing campaign. Many parents unwittingly purchased the book for their children before discovering the contents (swearing and murder). The pressure for one of the most successful authors of all time to deliver something “just as good” as Harry Potter, whatever the genre, was on, with the critics hungering to bring her down a notch or three.
So Jo and her editor David Shelley, decided published The Cuckoo’s Calling under the name Robert Galbraith. After all, it’s not like she needed the book to sell quickly, she is the richest author in the world.
Her publisher, Mulholland Books, an imprint of Little, Brown and Company, described Robert Galbraith as a former member of the Special Investigative Branch of the Royal Military Police, but had to of course refuse requests for interviews. The book was selling fairly steadily, with 1500 copies of the hardback having sold since the April 2013 release. Since the author was revealed as J.K Rowling ales on Amazon sky-rocketed overnight, with the book now Number 1 on the bestseller list.
Little Brown is now reaping the rewards, scrambling to get a huge reprint ready. Meanwhile Kate Mills from Orion has confessed she turned the book down. No other publishers are coming out of the closet yet.
In other JK Rowling news, Bloomsbury are releasing these awesome new adult covers for the Harry Potter series this week, on July 18th, illustrated by Andrew Davidson.