Rejection to Perfection Weekend … Part Two
The best-selling author JK Rowling was pitching her first novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, under her Robert Galbraith pseudonym and it was actually rejected by Constable and Robinson and Creme de la Creme publishers. The Cuckoo’s Calling, a post-war detective novel, went on to be a number one bestseller after eventually being published by Sphere Books in April 2013.
Rowling had chosen to write under a different name in order to publish without hype or expectation, after the phenomenal success of the Harry Potter series. The manuscript for this new book was submitted to a number of publishers and received several rejection letters, two of which Rowling recently chose to share.
This letter from crime publishers, Creme de la Crime shows a short response simply stating the firm does not wish to accept new submissions. It looks like a standard rejection letter. I wonder what their response would have been had they known Mr Galbraith’s true identity. But if you think that was bad then you should read the one below from the British publishing house, Constable and Robinson.
In this letter an executive tells the author that the company could not take the novel on due to its expectation that it would be a commercial flop. The correspondence then outlays an almost step-by-step guide on how she could work to achieve success in the future.
In perhaps the most amusing part of the letter the publisher advises the writer to get advice from a magazine writing guide and not to give away the ending of her book in the summary.
It reads: ‘Double check in a helpful bookshop, on Amazon or in the twice yearly ‘Buyer’s Guide’ of Bookseller Magazine precisely who are the publishers now of your fiction category/genre. ‘Then send to each editor an alluring 200-word blurb (as in book jackets; don’t give away the ending!) the first chapter plus perhaps two others and an S.A.E.’ The letter then goes on to offer tips that could send the writer in the right direction, including making sure it is clear what genre the book is and suggesting she goes on a course.
It says: ‘The covering letter should state as precisely as you can the category/genre of fiction you are submitting.’ Adding: ‘Owing to pressure of submission, I regret we cannot reply individually or provide constructive criticism (a writers’ group/writing course may help with the latter).’
Published by Sphere Books in April 2013, it was not an initial hit. Before Rowling’s identity as the book’s author was revealed, 1,500 copies of the printed book had been sold since its release, plus another 7,000 copies of the ebook, audiobook, and library editions. It surged from 4,709th to the best-selling novel on Amazon after it was revealed on 14 July 2013 that the book was written by Rowling under the pseudonym “Robert Galbraith”. Sales rocketed after Rowling was revealed as the novel’s author by Jude Callegari, a lawyer at a firm that represents her, via a message posted on Twitter, much to the author’s dismay.
What would have happened if the accidental ‘leak’ hadn’t occured ?
Would the book by the unknown author Robert Galbraith have flopped ? We’ll never know. The cat was let out of the bag at exactly the right time.