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What's in a name?

Posted by
26 Sep 2014

JK Rowling is back in the headlines, but not for her adventures of teenage wizards - she's gone and written a new book, The Cuckoo's Calling, but under the name Robert Galbraith.

Selling what is described as a modest 1,500 copies in hardback before the popular author revealed she was writing under a pseudonym, The Cuckoo's Calling was hidden away in the Amazon bestseller charts at number 4,709 and rejected by various publishers. After some digging by one newspaper, it was found that Rowling was the mysterious author - lo and behold, sales rocketed.

This event suggests that her name, rather than her actual ability, has become the key to her success.

With the rise of celebrity status for authors and other individuals outside of the usual singer/actor circle, the publishing of non-famous novels is becoming few and far between. This situation is, as described by Guardian contributor Joan Smith, not only a "sad indictment of [the] publishing [industry]” but also a reflection on the celebrity-obsessed world we live in.

What Rowling did may seem brave to some - removing the shackles of expectations and trying to start afresh - but is there some cowardice to be found in this event? Rowling's first adult novel The Casual Vacancy didn't fare well with publishers, and that was with her star power attached, so was she just afraid of more bad press? Or perhaps she knew the power of her name and could foresee the surprise, and subsequent sales, when the truth was revealed.

It seems to me that she knew what was going to happen; The Cuckoo's Calling was published by the same company as The Casual Vacancy and someone like Rowling can't be off the radar for long. A name can make or break an individual and, once people relate a name to something, it's hard to shake. By writing under a pseudonym and participating in the resulting press, the disappointment of The Casual Vacancy is forgotten and there is once again excitement around Rowling's name.

Imagine you forget an important meeting or interview - your name will be connected to that event for the foreseeable future, with little you can do to change it. Your name is essential to your being, so ensure people relate it to professionalism, commitment and confidence. Don't get to the point where you have to change your name in order to find work.

So, was this a well thought out hoax or simply a publicity stunt? Either way, Rowling has exposed the petty nature of publishing and opened people's eyes to the plight of people worldwide - if you haven't got the name, you're not going to make it.

Do you think event has exposed this worrying trend for putting name above ability, or was it simply a publicity stunt? Please leave your thoughts below.

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