Does JK Rowling’s recent foray into anonymity prove that, even for rather good writers, achieving recognition and publishing success is pure bloody luck? Or should those wishing that their work was read by the masses plunge not into writing classes, but marketing classes instead?
If you didn’t catch the story, here are the main points from the BBC:
The Harry Potter novelist published the book – The Cuckoo’s Calling – as Robert Galbraith.
The book had sold fewer than 500 copies before the secret emerged in the Sunday Times, according to Nielsen BookScan‘s figures.
Within hours, it rose more than 5,000 places to top Amazon’s sales list.
The digital version is now also at number one in the iTunes book chart.
Sure, some critics like to write about how JK Rowling isn’t actually that good at writing, but she’s not exactly doing badly and is rather better than those that seem to roll their faces across their keyboards, wipe off the spittle and hit SAVE. Like me.
But anyway, what does this say about the industry? Publishers receive thousands of manuscripts from hopeful writers every week, so it’s not hard to see why most of them are binned – some without even being read. I’ve read and heard many a tale about solicited manuscripts also ending up in the shredder. It’s darned hard to get published as a new author.
Times are changing fast thanks to the direct publishing revolution, so should writers also have to change with the times? I think they have to. One-man-band authors must also become editors, proofreaders, marketers, illustrators and everything else besides. I had to do it with my Eerie Britain series, and my short fiction, and it is hard. It’s also not something I like doing very much. As a new writer, I simply want to write in my spare time and learn the craft. Also, I’m more than a little uncomfortable pimping my wares. For those reasons I rather neglect showing my stuff off.
So, is it ALL marketing then? Does the writing even count that much? I mean, take 50 Shades and Twilight. The former is particularly badly penned, while the latter’s quality is not directly in proportion to its spectacular success and, in fact, was utterly panned in some quarters. Did canny marketing ensure the dominance of these two titles? Personally, I am against neither of them; they are not in genres that I read, but I used to think that products did well because of their quality and these two books have rather puzzled me.
I wonder how many authors now divide their time between writing and marketing.