Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What’s A Name Worth In Publishing?

The Rowling Factor

The recent revelation that J.K. Rowling is really the author of a book called The Cuckoo’s Calling has set the book industry afire. Suddenly, a book that according to BookScan (which accounts for 75-85% of all sales) only sold 500 copies after three months, is now predicted to hit bestseller lists as the publisher, Little Brown Co. imprint Mulholland Books, scrambled to print 300,000 copies.

Many things are wrong with this, but I can’t put my finger on it.

First, why would she want to put out a book and doom it to failure by not putting her name on it?

Second, why did it suddenly become known that she is really the author?

Third, how could a major publisher, regardless of whether there’s any name on the book, only sell 500 copies of a book?

Fourth, the book simultaneously sold 1,500 copies in the UK, a much smaller market than America.  How could sales be triple overseas?

Fifth, did a book suddenly become better just because a different author appears on the cover?

Sixth, is it wrong to publish under a pseudonym and create a false back story, the way Rowling was listed as a male writer and military veteran?

Well, I happen to think these are significant questions, most of all: What chance does your ordinary unknown author have of making it if a big publisher can’t sell more than a handful of copies of a book that got some good reviews?

Rowling is obviously a lightning-strong brand and is a rare guaranteed success in an industry that can flake out on its authors.  But if someone is assured of success, why would they fail to put their Hancock on a book?  Was she experimenting to see what it’s like to publish as a nobody?  Was she afraid the book stunk and didn’t want her name linked to a clunker?  Was this just a well-planned stunt that is now leading to everyone discussing her name again?

One other thing is clear, whereas the name of the author seems to matter greatly, that of the publisher means little.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2013

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