Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I beat J.K. Rowling!

I realized this today that in the first ten weeks that my first novel, No Cure for the Broken Hearted was for sale, I sold about five times more copies than J.K. Rowling did with her latest effort!  I beat the pants off J.K. Rowling!  Of course, nobody actually knew the book was written by Rowling until the other day, but I figure that's splitting hairs.

For anyone who has been hiding under a rock and didn't hear, Rowling wrote a mystery novel called The Cuckoo's Calling and released it in secret under the pen name, Robert Galbraith.  It seems she wanted to see how the other half lives in the literary universe.  She still had a major publisher behind her, and all of the marketing muscle that entails.

Rowling's agent and her publishers advertised the book and sent it around to critics for reviews in the mainstream press.  During the ten weeks that the secret held, the book garnered reasonably good reader reviews and managed to sell 1,500 copies.  It was ranked on the Amazon bestseller list at around number 35,000.  (update below)  As soon as the secret leaked, the book shot up overnight to number one on the bestseller list.

For some comparison, my book sold about 7,000 copies in its first ten weeks.  Of course it was priced much lower, but it still leaves me feeling pretty good about that effort.  It also has me thinking about how important branding is, in every aspect of our commercial system.

After her Harry Potter success, it seems hard not to argue that J.K. Rowling is the number one brand in fiction today.  Her last book, The Casual Vacancy, was a major disappointment to readers and critics alike.  Not many people seemed to care much for it, yet it sat on the top of the bestseller list for weeks on end.  Why is that?  Why is branding so important, even when it comes to fiction writers?

I suppose the answers are multiple, though they all have to do with human psychology.  We go for this brand or that one because we feel like we know what to expect from it, or we've heard it's popular and we want to be in the know.  We want to share in the experience.  We want to know firsthand what everyone else is talking about.  Basically, one could argue that we're all a bunch of sheep...

Unfortunately, as a writer I am not a brand.  Anything but.  My latest book, the thriller Natalia, was a departure from my previous romance novels.  At least partly as a result of the genre switch, the book bombed.  I'm not complaining.  Live and learn, but I have to wonder how nice it would be if I were a brand, too.  How nice if everything I wrote shot straight to the top of the bestseller lists!  Ah well, I can always dream.

In the meantime, life is not so bad.  I'm visiting my parents in beautiful Laguna Beach, California.  Today I took a printout of my latest project down to the beach, sat under an umbrella, and edited my pages in the most beautiful workplace I could imagine.  Not too bad at all!

My workplace this morning.
 Update: July 25, 2013:
Well, I read in the paper this morning that The Cuckoo's Calling actually had about 8,500 copies sold across all platforms before the secret was revealed.  So I guess she beat me after all!  Oh well, at least I was (sort of) close. ;-)

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