My Flog a Pro post in Writer Unboxed last month was about Cuckoo’s Calling, ostensibly by Robert Galbraith, in reality by J.K. Rowling.
I voted not to turn the page. It was pretty dull to me. The votes were split pretty evenly amount WU’s writer audience: 52% Yes, 48% no.
It seems clear that the reason it has sold more than 1,300,000 copies is the “brand” that was revealed to be behind it. There’s an interesting article in The New York Times about it, “Long Odds for Authors Newly Published.”
A stand-out paragraph for me was this:
Given how difficult it is for first-time fiction authors, especially in a crowded genre like mystery, to find both an agent and publisher, it’s not clear “The Cuckoo’s Calling” would have made it off the slush piles. At least one other publisher, Orion Books, which like Little, Brown, is a subsidiary of the Hachette Book Group, rejected the manuscript. An editor there told The Telegraph in London that the book “didn’t stand out.”
Here's what that editor said:
Kate Mills, publishing director of Orion, said she thought the work was “perfectly decent, but quiet” and confessed she could not find a unique selling-point with which to market it.
“Didn’t stand out.” Yeah, that’s the task we all face, and here at FtQ it’s always clear when an opening truly does stand out, and the reasons why are pretty clear—and difficult to achieve.
Another bit from the NYT article:
What’s clear is that without the aura of celebrity, “The Cuckoos’ Calling” would have been just another work of debut crime fiction. Its author might have gotten a modest TV deal, and maybe another book contract, while working another job to make ends meet. “Most books come out and do nothing,” Ms. Coady (founder of R. J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, Conn.) said. “There are still too many books being published. We can only get behind so many books, and then hope they take off on their own. It worries me that so many slip through the cracks.”
Yeah, we know about those cracks, don’t we. And so did J.K. Rowling with Harry Potter, until she persisted and wrote something that truly did stand out. I hope she does it again.
For what it’s worth,
© 2013 Ray Rhamey