The big literary news last week was the revalation that crime novel The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith, was actually written by Harry Potter auhor JK Rowling. It seems that the secret was revealed by a member of the law firm employed by Rowling, after he told one of his wife’s friends.
Sales of The Cuckoo’s Calling, once fairly modest, have suddenly rocketed, with the book moving up from 4709th place in the Amazon sales chart to the top spot in a matter of days. It’s hard not to think that this whole thing has been nothing more than a publicity stunt, though both Rowling and the law firm in question have stated unreservedly that this is not the case. I can imagine that for Rowling, it probably was quite liberating, as she put it, to write something anonymously – no song and dance made about the publication, none of the pressure that must come with being attached to such a famous series of novels. But I have written before about this kind of thing – whether the name on the cover sells the book rather than the story to be found within. I can’t see that the sales of The Cuckoo’s Calling can be attributed to anything but the fact that it was written by JK, and I do wonder how many people who bought it because of this fact actually enjoyed it. I haven’t read it, so can’t comment on that. But it’s an interesting experiment on the power of the brand that comes with a book – in this case, the brand of JK Rowling has proved to be more powerful than that of Robert Galbraith, unsurprisingly, but also even more powerful than her own ability to write a novel.