There aren't many times in your life that you can sit there with raised eyebrows and think: what the hell? But that is exactly what I thought when I found out that J K Rowling had released a book under a different pen name and had taken every step possible to hide it. Well she almost too every step possible - she did tell the snitch after all it was her book.
But there are important publishing lessons that we can learn from this and here are six of them.
1. Publishers choose marketable rather than well written
As soon as it was announced that J K Rowling was the author, some of the big publishers admitted that they had turned down the book from who they thought was an unknown author. Interestingly their reason was not based on writing style, storyline or any technical aspect of writing. It was because they didn't think they could market it. This angers me slightly. How are we supposed to teach our children what is good writing or what is a good storyline if quality books aren't being produced because mummy porn is more attractive to market? If we removed the poor quality books from the shelve that are produced because people buy them (and sometimes they only do so because they want to see how horrible they are really) then perhaps people would buy quality writing.
2. The biggest marketing asset is your brand
The book in question had only sold about 1500 copies and was by no means a best seller despite good reviews. However as soon as the real author had been revealed but the book sold out and was number one on Amazon. Why? Because J K Rowling had written it. The name is associated with quality story lines and therefore people will buy her books. Therefore you should utilize your name and not your books.
3. Publishers aren't very good at marketing
Honestly, if the book sold only 1500 books with the publishers doing all they were willing to do to market it, it shows that while they will get books to the reader's shops, they won't get the books to the reader's home.
4. Readers care about you not your genre
The Cuckoo's Calling is hardly Harry Potter related in terms of story or genre and yet J K Rowling's fans wanted to buy it. There has long been an argument that you might consider pen names for different genres, yet this is evidence that isn't the case. Readers will buy your books because of you, not because of your genre.
5. You should keep trade secrets to your trusted circles
I'm sorry to say but J K Rowling made one mistake at keeping this a secret. She trusted someone that she couldn't possibly really trust 100%. Book publishing is a business and like with any business you need trade secrets to a need to know basis. It is unlikely that J K Rowling stuck to this principal.
6. Twitter is great for reporters
You're laughing I bet. But considering that the partner at Russells shared the news with his wife who then shared the news with a journalist on Twitter. So what can we learn from this? Be careful what you say on Twitter - you never know what paper is listening.
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