Some jokes just don’t die… and neither do some rumors. Last week, an April Fool’s prank in the form of a press release announcing an eighth installment of the Harry Potter series made a resurgence. (Perhaps it was a way for Harry Potter fans to steal the Hunger Games’s thunder. Catching Fire has broken box office records either way). This Trending News Monday, we’re unfortunately reminding everyone that an eight Harry Potter book is highly unlikely, but that’s not to say Potter fans are left with nothing as J.K. Rowling still has offerings for fans (beyond Potter).
In a testament to the power her name carries, Rowling’s latest book, The Cuckoo’s Calling, went from #4,709 to #1 on Amazon this summer in a matter of hours after it was revealed she had published it under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Readers were left to wonder what had instigated this chain of events but happy to receive another piece of work from a talented writer.
When The Casual Vacancy (2012) was published to high sales but mixed reviews, it wasn’t exactly a surprise. Readers struggled to accept another work from her that wasn’t Harry Potter-related. The decision to publish The Cuckoo’s Calling under a pseudonym felt like a test of her talent against her brand. By removing her name and the baggage associated with it, the book premiered to very positive reviews but low sales. Publishers even turned down the manuscript when it was submitted, and she had to turn to a publisher who knew she wrote it.
Rowling is far from the first writer to try and remove expectations about her work with a pseudonym. Stephen King famously published several books under the name Richard Bachman early in his career. The books similarly received positive reviews and lesser sales; however, he was able to keep the game going long enough for Bachman to build his own separate degree of star power over time. When King was uncovered, it was by a bookstore clerk who noticed similarities between their writing styles and followed up by examining publisher’s records at the Library of Congress.
Rowling’s discovery is much less romantic, and though she predicted in 2003 that she would be found out in seconds thanks to technology, her reveal was caused only by someone unable to keep a secret (if only people were bound to their promises as they were in the world Harry Potter). Never the less, the story made a big splash this summer after a partner at Rowling’s legal representatives, Russells Solicitors, passed the information along to his wife who passed it on to her friend Judith Callegari who mentioned it in a tweet to India Knight, a columnist at the Sunday Times.
Some claim the entire situation was a publicity stunt to counteract the mixed reviews of the last book with a conspiracy event. However, as her publisher pointed out, the fact that they needed to order a new printing of the book to meet demand after the discovery was made suggests a lack of preparedness if it were a stunt all along.
While (obviously) Rowling fans would love to see another Harry Potter book based on the reactions to the longest-running April Fool’s joke of 2013, this situation reinforces the necessity of proper branding. Rowling’s brand carries immense weight and it was enough to take a book from selling 500 copies to selling hundreds of thousands. Even quality products like a new book by a bestselling author can’t get a foothold in a world with endless similar options. The Cuckoo’s Calling entered a crowded marketplace and good reviews weren’t enough to stand out. However, like anything else, the branding can only do so much. Having the quality product behind the gold standard name certainly helps.
BUT, if you’re a fan dying for some new tales from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Rowling and Warner Bros. announced Rowling was working on the script for Fantastic Beasts. While it’s “not a prequel or a squeal” to Harry Potter according to Rowling, the movie does take place in the beloved Harry Potter World.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://wpmaster.sjadv.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2014/05/Our-Space-Kaz.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Kaz is a Junior Executive at SJG. He earned BAs in English Writing and Business Marketing at Illinois Wesleyan University and is currently pursuing an MA in Advertising at The University of Texas at Austin. Outside the office, Kaz consumes gobs of media including but not limited to books, magazines, music, movies and television.[/author_info] [/author]