The biggest novel of the summer came from an unknown author. But the book wasn’t a hit until that unknown author was reveled to be a quite well-known author. I’m talking about “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” by Robert Galbraith, aka J.K. Rowling writing under a pseudonym.
The book when published, as many people in the publishing industry now, made barely a ripple. When, through a series of circumstances that appear to be unrelated to Rowling herself, it was revealed that she was the author, the book suddenly became not only widely reviewed but a smash hit.
It was the same book before it became known who wrote it.
But it wasn’t the same brand.
So there you have it: books, even good books, can disappear without a trace, unless the author does something to become known.
As an article in The New York Times pointed out, ” In any event, a publishing contract is hardly a guarantee of critical or commercial success. Much depends on how a new manuscript is treated by the publisher.
The article mentioned that the book – critically praised since its true author turned out to be the Harry Potter genius – would probably never have been published. Who knows?
What I do know is that it’s harder than ever for an author to break out, given that books from traditional publishers are competing with self-published books, many of them high quality and, probably, many of them that find a wide readership probably those kind of books that would never make it past the slush pile. That’s because publishers want what’s tried and true, not what’s original.
In any event, as a bookseller said in the same article, “…not everyone turns out to be a J. K. Rowling. It reminds me how difficult it is for even good books to succeed.” But even J.K. Rowling wasn’t always J.K. Rowling though publishing changed a lot since the first Harry Potter book came out.
Still, you need to be aware, more than ever, of how important it is to build an audience for your book. You may not find a publisher – they’re more and more picky (and they’re not always publishing the best stuff, as any browser in a bookstore can see), but you’ll find readers. That’s what’s most important.