J. K. Rowling and the Power of Brand…

Interesting article by Lev Grossman for Time magazine concerning the recent revelation that mega-popular Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling secretly published a novel under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith last year and the implications of this revelation…


I’ve long realized -and it seems only obvious- that once you become a recognized “name” in the literary field, you automatically sell far more books than if you’re a newcomer and/or nobody.  True, sometimes a book by an unknown author seems to appear out of no where and become incredibly popular -this could be said of Ms. Rowling’s initial entry into the Harry Potter series- but once you’re established, your books sell.

But when you’re not…

I’ve read in other articles that Ms. Rowling’s pseudonymous novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, sold something in the order of 1500 copies worldwide before the revelation of her involvement in the book.  Naturally, post-revelation the book is a hot seller and as of yesterday was #1 on Amazon sales for novels.  When it was initially released, the book was apparently well received by critics, yet despite that the novel fell into the black hole of public indifference many, many novels good and bad fall on a daily basis.

The fact that the novel is now a big seller further emphasizes the obvious…once you’re a well known author audiences tend to be interested and receptive to your works.  I noted a couple of days ago the passing and my admiration of the works of Richard Matheson (you can read about that here).  Toward the end of the blog article I mentioned his novel Hunted Past Reason.  The only (ahem) reason I bought the novel was because I saw it in a bookstore in the “new arrivals” section and noted it was written by Mr. Matheson.  Simply seeing his name on the book made me reach out for it.  I read the description of the book on the dust jacket and wasn’t all that impressed.

But it was a new novel by Richard Matheson!

I had to give it a try.

In the end, the book proved a BIG disappointment, perhaps the absolute worst thing I’ve ever read by Mr. Matheson.  If the novel had been written by Joe Blow, I probably wouldn’t have given the book a second glance.

The moral of the story is that if you’re an author and hope to have any success, you have to try your best to create a buzz (any buzz) regarding your book.  Otherwise, expect mediocre to terrible sale figures.

C’est la vie.