Recently, a debut novel called THE CUCKOO’S CALLING by Robert Galbraith created nothing but praise in the book world, not much in the way of sales, and then shock and a bit of that good old egg on the face type of embarrassment.
The book is about a man, named Cormoran Strike, who, after losing a leg in a land mine in Afghanistan, becomes a private investigator, except, he’s not doing so good. He’s got one client, piles of bills are due, he lives in his office and he’s just broken up with his girlfriend. A potential client walks through the door and says his super model sister, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, fell to her death and that it was ruled as a suicide…, except, the brother doesn’t believe it. Strike takes on the case, and from there is thrust into the world of, “multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man. You may think you know detectives, but you’ve never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you’ve never seen them under an investigation like this.”
What do you think? Does it sound remarkable? Does it sound intriguing enough that you would buy the book?
First of all, if it didn’t sound all that unique or stellar to you, you should know that several publisher’s turned it down. One editor at Orion, Kate Mills, said, ““When the book came in, I thought it was perfectly good – it was certainly well written – but it didn’t stand out. Strange as it might seem, that’s not quite enough. Editors have to fall in love with debuts. It’s very hard to **launch new authors and crime is a very crowded market.”
(**don’t we know.)
Finally, the book was picked up and published by Mulholland, a three year old imprint of Little, Brown. It was treated like any other debut novel. (not many prints run) Good thing too, since the sales weren’t phenomenal. I’m not even sure they were respectable, at something like 500 copies since it’s launch in April 2013.
(don’t get me wrong, if I ever get published, 500 sold would be WONDERFUL)
The book received critical acclaim from other crime writers, and good reviews from a variety of publications. But someone, somewhere, felt the self assured, mature writing, “sparkling dialogue,” and confidence of this debut author were, well, suspicious. Eventually, that someone decided to check or have it checked out, and what do you know.
It turns out that Robert Galbraith is the one and only J.K. Rowling.
Since this became known, actually this past weekend, the book’s sales have shot up, moving it to the best seller list. And according to various articles, J.K. Rowling is feeling a bit of vindication on this book, after her first foray into the adult market with the tepid reviews of THE CASUAL VACANCY. She stated that she wished she could have kept the secret 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 under a different name.”
Honestly? I wish it had been kept a secret longer too. It would have been interesting to see how the sales would have done, say a year from now, without everyone knowing it was J.K.Rowling. And then, if the publisher wanted, they could have shared who really wrote the book.
They’ve only proven what we already do know. If you’ve been highly successful in publishing, it automatically turns your book into a bestseller overnight, and we didn’t need J.K. Rowling’s secret crime debut to show us that.