I turned on my laptop to write my usual Sunday music post when Twitter was flooded with the news that JK Rowling had written a crime novel under a pseudonym. The Cuckoo’s Calling was published a couple of months ago under the name Robert Galbraith and has had some good reviews on Amazon and in the press and sold a respectable amount for a debut hardback. JK Rowling has said: “I had hoped to keep this secret a little 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.”
It’s only been a year since she she published her first adult book The Casual Vacancy, which was released to huge publicity and expectations. I have to admit I wasn’t a fan of the book. Interestingly, when it was first revealed she would be publishing a adult book I thought it would be a detective novel and I was surprised by what that book turned out to be. To be fair, it’s not the kind of book I’d usually pick up and only did so because it was written by JK Rowling. I think it’s a great move for her to have turned to a pseudonym this time – not only is it another big genre shift for her (and many authors use a new name for this anyway) but it meant the novel would gets on its own merits and not her name. There was a long gap between the last Harry Potter and The Casual Vacancy being released so it seems she has written more during this time than we thought. A sequel to this detective book is due out next year.
Pseudonym’s have been a tool for writers for many years – the Bronte sisters and George Eliot used them at a time when writing was male dominated and Lewis Caroll used his to differentiate from his mathematical writing. And they are still used today by authors trying different genres or in increasing numbers self published authors. The growth of erotic fiction has also produced many – EL James is one example. Even JK Rowling was a pen name used instead of her real name Joanne Rowling. The use of initials is sometimes used as publishers believe it will encourage both genders to read a book. Using a pen name means the book can stand for itself but it can be a risky move – if you already have an established readership, you won’t have that support and if you plan to do a lot of publicity the chances are your real name will be discovered. And in this case, JK Rowling has been unmasked fairly quickly but managed to keep it a secret enough for the novel to stand on its own feet for a while.
I’m impressed with and inspired by Ms Rowling’s determination to put stories into the world – she obviously loves writing and I hope this book will continue to live on its merits and not her name as she wanted it to. An editor on Twitter has revealed the book was sent to publishers under the pseudonym and she turned it down so JK Rowling really did want it to sell on its own. I suspect a lot of copies will be purchased now though 🙂
Would you ever want to use a pseudonym? Or if you do already why did you chose to?