J. K. Rowling Publishes Crime Novel Under Pseudonym

JK Rowling

Today, I woke up to the news that J. K Rowling has published a crime novel called ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ under the name Robert Galbraith.  Published about three months ago, the book has so far sold about 1,500 copies in hardback and tells the story of a war veteran turned private investigator.  The publisher’s website confirmed that Robert Galbraith was a pseudonym but the true identity of the author has only just been revealed today.

Publishing work under a false name is a shrewd move for J. K. Rowling although perhaps not entirely unexpected.  I am really pleased that she has now had some fair and unbiased reviews of her writing as it was obvious that no matter how hard people tried to read ‘The Casual Vacancy’ objectively, it was always inevitable that the shadow of her success with Harry Potter would be hanging over it. I still haven’t read ‘The Casual Vacancy’ and I admit to having been a bit wary of it due to the mixed reviews.  ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’, on the other hand, has received more or less unanimously positive reviews including several from renowned crime fiction writers.  I now wonder how many people will read the book “differently” with the knowledge that Robert Galbraith isn’t in fact a début author but one of the most successful writers of all time.   It is inevitable that there will be a lot of interest in the book which had only sold a modest number of copies up until now.  ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ has already jumped from 4231 to 210 in the amazon.co.uk Kindle chart since the news was announced and I am pretty sure it will be somewhere near the top by the end of the day.  I am not rushing out to buy it, just like I didn’t rush out to buy ‘The Casual Vacancy’, but I am open to reading both of them in the future.   What do you think?  Does an author’s identity really matter?


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20 responses to “J. K. Rowling Publishes Crime Novel Under Pseudonym

  1. It matters to me only in as much as I am halfway through this novel, which is excellent, and I would have liked to have finished it without knowing. I picked it up because of the reviews and I think they were very fair.


  2. I think you will always get some people buying a book based on the author’s name, although, I’ve never read a JK Rowling book yet and knowing she has written a story wouldn’t convince me to read it above anyone else.


  3. I think she always said she’d publish a crime novel under a different name. I thought after The Casual Vacancy she had given up on that idea.

    I haven’t read TCV either, because I didn’t want to really do so at the height of the whole foray. I find that always ruins the experience. You either read too many negative reviews, you get the people who hate it just cos it is JKR, you’ll get the fanatics who would have loved it even if it was complete dribble, which I don’t think it will be. And you had the morons who for some reason expected a fantasy despite it being quite clear it was not!!

    But I am looking forward to reading it, kind of. It isn’t a book I’m naturally attracted to personally, nor is this crime novel which I don’t know if I’ll read anyway. I am curious to see what she’s like as an author outside of Harry Potter and I do have a signed copy of TCV so I’ll be reading it in the future.


  4. Pat

    I feel a little sorry that her pseudonym was discovered. I haven’t read The Casual Vacancy yet, even though I plan to do it in the future… But I think it must be hard for her to have so higher expectations from readers (from the whole world, actually) placed on her work. I think that, as a writer, she might want to pursue new challenges outside the fantasy genre and it is very hard to do it when everyone already has a formed idea of your work. She achieved a tremendous success with the Harry Potter books and she will forever be loved for them. Still, I understand that she might want to do something new and not have it compared or judge according to the success HP books were.


  5. I just can’t wait to hear her say more about why she did it! I’m pretty sure I remember reading somewhere that she originally published with only her initials so that people wouldn’t know her gender and now she’s writing under a man’s name – she seems to have a bit of a bee in her bonnet about the role of gender in how a person writes or is read. Would be interesting to see if she was doing this to make some point about the gender of writers and how it relates to different genres and our expectations. Or maybe I’m just reading too much into the whole thing and she just did it for a laugh!


    • I think it was her publishers who advised her to use the initials J. K. for the Harry Potter books but I would be interested to find out whether or not it was her personal choice to write under a male name and why. There was an economist called J. K. Galbraith (of Scottish descent) so that’s probably where she got the surname from but I don’t know about Robert…


  6. I know authors can feel trapped by their “brand” so to speak. Personally, I’d like to write humorous mystery, but my brand is romantic suspense which is what publishers want me to write as that’s how my readers know me. I understand why she wanted to try something new with a different name and have it judged on its own merits. Publishers, I’m sure would rather she stick with the money making name of Rowling. Remember when John Grisham stepped out and wrote The Painted House? I really admired him and his publishers for this “outside the brand” move. ☺


    • Well, somewhat inevitably she’s shot up to number 5 (now 3.45pm). I think she’s been very canny. A new identity for a new genre. And then, once the reviews are out, she can admit who she really is and capitalise on sales. A very sensible approach.


  7. A lot of writers do this especially when they write in a new genre. Perhaps she felt that people might judge it more harshly if they new she wrote it but I think every book should be judged individually.


  8. markharwoodwriter

    You just broke this news to me, and yes, I hurried to my library’s website to put the novel on hold. I tried to read The Casual Vacancy but found it irritating, but I don’t know how fair my criticism can be. Primarily I felt she wrote strong young characters but that they adult characters, who are given the most attention, were all caricatures – either too good or too bad, or their mouths, regardless, full of silly, soap-opera dialogue. But maybe I just really wanted to see Potter and pals again?


  9. Writing under another name makes sense to me, and I’m glad to hear she’s written something that got such good reviews, and was reviewed on its own merit. Her book is being compared to the Jackson Brodie series of Kate Atkinson, which is a big draw for me. I prefer my mysteries historical, not modern-day, but I’ll read her book.


  10. I do think it matters, for better and for worse. Sure, she had it easier to get this crime novel published, but using a pen name was the right decision especially if you consider how unfair many critics were to The Casual Vacancy.


  11. It’s really, really good, is the thing. I read a lot of crime novels and this was the first one in quite some time that I found myself hoping would turn into a series, as opposed to getting to the end and discovering that in fact a cliff-hanger had been laid for a book two that I wasn’t all that interested in. I’m glad I read it “blind”–I only wish I’d caught up with my blogging and reviewed it before the news broke!


  12. I was a bit dubious at first when the news broke here…was wondering if it was some kind of publicity stunt. But if the reviews are good, I will pick it up. I love good crime fiction, though I really can’t associate Rowling with it.

    Anyone who’s read it, were you able to pick up on her writing style/voice?


  13. Thanks for the tip. I didn’t know about this yet! I thought Casual Vacancy was very good. The only parallel I saw with Harry Potter was her ability to capture “darkness” in people and in the story. It’s a very different story and I never expected it to be the same. I’ll look forward to this crime novel!


  14. It wouldn’t be the first time an author has used different ‘brand’ names. I’m thinking of Iain Banks/Iain M. Banks and Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine.


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