The Rowling Experiment






There’s been a lot of discussion recently about J. K. Rowling’s experiment in publishing a crime novel under an assumed name.

For the benefit of those who may have been in limbo and out of touch with the news, Rowling—famous for her Harry Potter juvenile novels—decided to publish a debut detective novel under the name Robert Galbraith, alleged to be the married father of two and a former undercover investigator.

Though the book sold about 1,500 copies in hardback (not bad for a debut mystery), sales didn’t really begin to soar until her cover was blown in a newspaper article. Some have accused Rowling of engaging in chicanery and leaking her identity to the press.

Whether you believe that or not, is of no concern here.

What is obvious, and hasn’t been stressed enough, is this fact: Names sell.

This has always been true to a certain extent, but is even more true today. Readers, deluged with tons of books being published each year, must rely on certain factors to select their next book. Though reviews, a good cover and/or advertising may have some impact, nothing sells like NAME RECOGNITION.

And why should it not? If a reader enjoys one book, it encourages belief the next will similarly entertain. Each reader you please could lead to multiple recommendations. And there is no better advertising than word of mouth.

Naturally, most of us won’t emulate Rowling or other big names—at least not in the short term. But reader by reader, each of us CAN build a following.

How you choose to build your name recognition is a matter of choice. There are many methods of marketing available to us and no one is certain which works best. What we can all do, though, is strive to improve our product in every way possible.

Oh, and one other thing—be appreciative of your readers.

--J.R Lindermuth



Sooner Than Gold Blurb:
 
It’s the summer of 1898. The nation, just coming out of an economic slump, has been at war with Spain since April. And Sylvester Tilghman, sheriff of Arahpot, Jordan County, Pennsylvania, has a murder victim with too many enemies.

There’s Claude Kessler, who is found standing with a knife in his hand over the body of Willis Petry. There’s Rachel Webber, Petry’s surly teen-aged stepdaughter, who admits an act intended to cause him harm. Then there’s the band of gypsies who claim Petry is the goryo who stole one of their young women.

If this isn’t enough to complicate Tilghman’s life, add in threats to his job by McClean Ruppenthal, former town burgess; a run-in with a female horse thief; scary predictions by a gypsy fortuneteller, and the theft of Doc Mariner’s new motorcar.

There’s plenty of good eating, church-going and socializing along the way. And, before all is over, Sylvester solves the crime and even comes a little closer to his goal of finally marrying longtime girlfriend Lydia Longlow. 



BIO: The author of 12 novels, J. R. Lindermuth lives and writes in central Pennsylvania. A retired newspaper editor, he now serves as librarian of his county historical society, assisting patrons with genealogy and research and finding much material for stories in both the people he meets and the books in the stacks. He has two children and four grandsons who try—not always successfully—to keep him out of trouble.




Comments

Margaret Tanner said…
Hi John,
Interesting article. I too wondered whether Rowlands leaked the information to the press to beef up her sales.

Cheers

Margaret
It has always been that way. When Stephen King published THINNER as Richard Bachman, it sold 30,000 copies. When it was revealed King wrote it, it sold 300,000 more.
Earl Staggs said…
Very interesting, John, and your logic certainly rings true. Becoming a bestselling writer gets harder every year, but that won't stop us from writing, will it?
Patricia Gligor said…
John,
Very interesting post. I completely agree that name recognition is crucial to selling books but how far are we willing to go to get our name out there?
How often have we heard it said that any publicity is good publicity? I don't think that's necessarily true. The authors I admire (and read) are honest, genuine people with integrity. Yes, selling a lot of books is what all authors want but, if we sacrifice our own standards of conduct to achieve increased sales, what have we really gained? And, more importantly, what have we lost?
Janet Greger said…
John, Ive been thinking along the same lines. Names and gimmicks are important in selling books. Leaking her name was a successful publicity getting gimmick. Seehttp://jlgregerblog.blogspot.com/2013/07/what-you-can-learn-about-writing-from.html
JL Greger
jrlindermuth said…
Margaret and Janet, if Rowling did indeed leak her name I'd say it was a smart ploy. Thanks for commenting.
jrlindermuth said…
Right you are, Earl.
jrlindermuth said…
I agree, Pat. Integrity is important. That's why I believe it's important to build rapport with readers. It's a slow process--one at a time.
James Callan said…
As alwlays, John, a good post. I doubt JK leaked her name. Why would she? She certainly doesn't need the money. But, that aside, I'm thinking of doing the same thing - putting a book out there without my real name on it. But I haven't decided which name to use. I've considered Rowlings, and S. King, and J. Lindermuth. What do you think? Should I then leak my real name out and see if sales sore?
Jennifer Wilck said…
You're right, John, names and how you conduct yourself, are very important. My understanding is that the lawyer leaked it. :)
jrlindermuth said…
You better use Rowlings or King, Jim. I don't think mine is on the same plane. At least not yet.
jrlindermuth said…
Okay, Jennifer. Blame something else on those poor lawyers.
john M. Daniel said…
Maybe it would help to get my name known far and wide in a field outside writing. Perhaps if I ran for public office, bilked the public, and got involved in a sex scandal my book sales would soar.
No doubt about it, name recognition sells books.
James Callan said…
Absolutely, John. And then, if you'd repent publically, the sequel would sell even more.
Cora said…
Good point on name recognition being important to selling books. Good reason to use social media to get your name seen all over the place. Then write more books.
jrlindermuth said…
Sex scandals may work for politicians. I'm not sure about writers, though.
jrlindermuth said…
Sex scandals may work for politicians. I'm not sure about writers, though.
The news is relatively recent, yet when I visited B&N yesterday, I sought out the book out of curiosity; I found it in a tall, individual & sturdy display near the entrance. On the left side was the recently-released paperback version of The Casual Vacancy, and the right side was the hardcover editions of The Cuckoo's Calling. I checked the inside jackets to see how much info on "Robert Galbraith" was included. It wasn't. It clearly stated the author was a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling.

When I first read the breaking news story, it indicated the publisher was putting a "rush" to supply more copies for the anticipated demand. Looks like they happily explained who the author truly was. I must say that whether intentional or not, it was a great publicity stunt ~ plenty of "free" advertising, which must be assisting sales tremendously. Apparently, in less than three months since release, only 500 out of the 1500 shipped copies sold. It was nearing time for "plan B."

This only goes to show how tough it is for a debut author to break out. Rowling had it easy, she wasn't going to be rejected by her own publisher! I'm sure that an unwritten agreement existed, that if sales weren't up to par, it would somehow be revealed that she was the author, and then they'd see sales skyrocket. They had nothing to lose in their experiment; it would generate tremendous press and get a lot of conversation going.

Allegedly, an "anonymous" tweet (account later deleted) was sent to a Sunday Times London reporter about the true author's ID. He checked & learned that the publisher for The Casual Vacancy & The Cuckoo's Calling were one & the same; he also wondered how a "debut" author could warrant such attention (and a hardcover book at 464 pages, I'd wonder, too...). He did his HW, though, and sent the two books and the last Harry Potter book to computer linguistics experts, who found similarities among them; I'm surprised he just didn't call the publisher & ask for confirmation, saving a lot of time & energy :-)

J.R., you're absolutely right about name recognition, which is so true in publishing and in politics, too. It's so encouraging to see "unknown" authors who self-publish and have tremendous sales due to word-of-mouth, reviews, social media, etc. Once they reach stratospheric sales, it's amazing how major publishers suddenly gain an interest, yet wouldn't have given them time of day in the beginning.

SOONER THAN GOLD sounds intriguing. I've been a genealogy nut since taking Ethnic Studies in 11th grade ~ which I purposely chose as one of my electives b/c of the family tree project.

Some of my Irish ancestors lived in West Conshohocken (Montgomery Cty), PA, in the 1860s. I live on LI, and my mom, uncle, and I (we are the family's genealogy detectives, we've even travelled to Ireland) took a trip there to do some research a few years back.

Best wishes with Sooner Than Gold!

I thoroughly enjoy reading through archives, which give plenty of grist for the writing mill.

Thanks, Marilyn, for having JR on your blog. It's an interesting topic to discuss. BTW, yet another outstanding job you did at the Public Safety Writers Conference in Vegas a couple of weeks ago. It was terrific :-)
jrlindermuth said…
Thanks, Kathleen, for the interesting legwork on the Rowling case as well as for the comment on Sooner Than Gold. Genealogy is lots of fun, though often as frustrating as the writing. Best wishes.
jrlindermuth said…
Thanks for hosting me, Marilyn. I've enjoyed it.
That was a great topic, JR, definitely brought in the viewers.

Marilyn
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