J.K. Rowling Scored Better Reviews When Using a Male Pseudonym
4:20 pm, July 15th | by Grace Rasmus
[Disclaimer: Please excuse the lack of witty Harry Potter references in this article; I've never read any of the books or seen any of the movies and any attempt to fake it would be totally obvious, RE: "Emma Watson! Ron has red hair! Moaning Myrtle was in the one movie I saw!" You don't need to tell me that I'm missing out on something great or I'm a major social pariah or whatever because I know, but do feel free to provide the hilarious H.P. references/jokes I should have used in the comment section.]
The Times of London revealed Sunday that J.K. Rowling is the author behind The Cuckoo’s Calling, a detective novel published in April under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Galbraith’s bio admitted the name was a pseudonym and claimed the author was a first-time writer and ex-military police investigator.
The Cuckoo’s Calling saw poor sales but excellent reviews; thriller writer Val McDermid said the book “reminds me why I fell in love with crime fiction in the first place.” Rowling’s debut adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, received just the opposite: ridiculously high sales (probably because the book was by freakin’ J.K. Rowling) but luke-warm reviews (at best), with many reviewers lamenting Casual Vacancy’s “lack of sophistication.”
As the Times points out, something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Of course it’s possible that Rowling just happened to write one lame book and then pen another fantastic one just seven months later, but that doesn’t seem likely. I mean, isn’t it odd that the world’s most famous female author couldn’t get a good review for her own work but, when operating under the guise of an unknown military police investigator, she could? (Of course, once Rob’s true name was revealed, The Cuckoo’s Calling shot up in sales by 507,000 percent.)
It’s easy to guess why Rowling used a pseudonym — she probably felt that The Casual Vacancy suffered critically due to her reputation — but why did she choose a male name? Was it that she knew readers and reviewers have a gender bias? After all, this is an author who was told by her publishers to use her initials when she published her first Harry Potter book because a lady name might scare off a male audience…
Interestingly, as Death and Taxes points out, the only author to top “The Casual Vacancy” for adult fiction sales is Dan Brown, who wrote his first (much less successful) book under the female pseudonym Danielle Brown.
“I had hoped to keep this secret a little longer because being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience,” Rowling said this weekend. “It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name.”