J. K. Rowling’s Pseudonym Proves the PR Power of a Name

What’s in a name?

J. K. Rowling has written a crime novel called The Cuckoo’s Calling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, and by doing so has proven two things: Rowling’s writing earns rave reviews no matter what name under which it’s published (because a rose by any other name would smell as sweet), and that her real, Harry Potter-associated name is a veritable gold mine of a brand.

The novel, which was published in April, is set in London and features a one-legged private detective named Cormoran Strike, who is hired to investigate the death of a supermodel called Lula Landry. The book was welcomed with rave reviews, including a piece in Publishers Weekly, which stated that “in a rare feat… Galbraith combines a complex and compelling sleuth and an equally well-formed and unlikely assistant with a baffling crime in his stellar debut.”

Before the news about the author’s real identity broke last week, The Cuckoo’s Calling had reportedly sold around 1,500 copies. Since Rowling was unmasked, however, the book’s Amazon sales have risen more than 150,000%. Let me just spell that our for you for the sake of reiteration: one hundred and fifty thousand percent!

Though we can’t imagine Rowling is disappointed with the jump in sales, it seems she had been relishing the anonymity that came with writing under Robert Galbraith’s name. The author told the Sunday Times of London, “I had hoped to keep this secret a little longer because being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience. It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name.”

Plus, it must have been kinda cool to have adopted an entirely new identity along with her pen name. The publisher provided Mr. Galbraith with this intriguing backstory:

Born in 1968, Robert Galbraith is married with two sons. After several years with the Royal Military Police, he was attached to the SIB (Special Investigation Branch), the plain-clothes branch of the RMP. He left the military in 2003 and has been working since then in the civilian security industry. The idea for protagonist Cormoran Strike grew directly out of his own experiences and those of his military friends who have returned to the civilian world. ‘Robert Galbraith’ is a pseudonym.


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