It is a truth universally acknowledged that in publishing, if something goes wrong the safest tactic is to blame the author. Industrial publishing thinks that writers are the simplest component to replace and so do when the bottom line doesn’t meet their expectations.
The latest incarnation of this has been in the wake of J. K. Rowling being outed as mystery author, Robert Galbraith. Galbraith’s The Cuckoo’s Calling came out to good reviews and sales respectable for a new writer and series. All hell broke loose when it was then revealed on Twitter that Galbraith was actually J. K. Rowling.
You can read a good article HERE, that links to other articles with varying points-of-view about Rowling and whether this was an attempt to embarrass the industry or just a writer wanting to do what she loves without the glaring lights of comparison distorting the view.
At some point, the industry was suggesting it was a stunt to pump up lackluster sales. If the point of Rowling writing under a secret pen name was, secrecy, why would she out herself? And really, does J. K. Rowling need to go through all the gyrations of using pseudonym if all she cared about were sales? I don’t think so. I also think a woman who has come as far as Rowling, is past stunts.
There are things that happen in life that wring the enjoyment of stunts right out of you. Rowling has been open about where she came from. When you go to a coffee shop to write because it’s too cold at home, that’s stoney cold broke. I know what that’s like. I’ve had to stand in line for food stamps. And that was when they were paper, stapled together in a coupon book of various denominations. I’ve used free clinics for my kids and myself. I’ve gotten food parcels from the Salvation Army and done a happy dance to find a bag of Doritos tucked below the “good” food. (Thank God for individuals and businesses that donate unnecessary things like junk food, because while Doritos are not healthy, they can be a real boost to the spirit.) I’ve also picked up windblown fruit off the sidewalk, taken it home and cut away the bruises, dirt, and worms to make cobblers and pies.
I will guarantee you, that sort of poverty changes you. Your DNA is the same, but your inner core is remade a little. I hated every minute of it, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I learned so much about how much pounding my marriage can endure. I learned how much I was willing to do for my kids. And I learned that what doesn’t kill you makes you strong is true most of the time.
In saying this, I think I am safe in assuming that J. K. Rowling has outgrown stunts. I would be shocked beyond reckoning to hear her say that she really did want to see how many people she could con by setting up this elaborate scheme. (And the leak was evidently from a law firm she used to negotiate the deal. I hope whoever leaked this is never allowed to walk by a law office, much less practice law.) I have a sneaking suspicion that regardless of the stack of cash Rowling sits on–which by all reports is greater than the GDP of a lot of countries–she is never very far from her coffee shop.
I know I’m never far from “mine.”
Jane Started It! is taking a break for the summer and will be back August first. Until then browse the archives and see what you may have missed.
Take care–Susan Kaye