Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Latest Rowling debacle underscores ugly truths about publishing today!

The Cuckloo’s Calling had garnered fewer than 500 sales until it was revealed that it was not a book by first novelist Robert Galbraith, but instead yet another work by JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame.  Naturally, that news sufficed to propel the same volume from 5,076th place up to the top of the charts.

What does this tell us about the publishing world?  (1) Obviously, no one (or at least very few readers) can tell the difference!  (2) Obviously, people buy the author, not the work – or would anyone dare suggest that the same novel by Galbraith was somehow inferior to that by Rowling?  (3) This episode, sadly, provides even more justification for the “insiders rule” policies of so many publishers.  Had the editor not known this was a JK Rowling book, it might have been rejected outright!

The larger issue:  If we hear a wonderful work of art – e.g., an organ fugue that sounds as though it had been written by Bach, a concerto that sounds just like Mozart’s, or a string quartet that could have been Beethoven’s – and we then learn it was, alas, not attributable to one of those titans, does that make the composition somehow less valuable?  If someone found an Elizabethan play of uncertain authorship, would it be “inferior” until it was subsequently proven to be one of Shakespeare’s lost dramas?  This tedious analogy stumbles on.

Undoubtedly, however, JK Rowling has had her chuckle, and she is probably laughing all the way to the bank!

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