J.K. Rowling’s new novel, The Casual Vacancy, comes out a mere two and a half months from now (September 27th, to be precise) and many news sources are wondering why there doesn’t appear to be any buzz for a book from one of the most successful and famous authors of the last couple of decades.
But to be fair, what is there to talk about? In the last few months we were given a quick synopsis and now we have a not-so-exciting cover.
Perhaps more importantly, Rowling has made it clear that this will be a complete break from Potter — it’s a novel aimed at adults, devoid of magic and she even chose to switch publishers for the project. TG Daily offered this somewhat circular and confusing take which reads like a bit of a puzzle:
Often times a publicist or promotional team won’t put much effort into pushing something unless it’s going to be really big, which means it probably doesn’t need a massive PR campaign to begin with.
I get what the author was trying to say, namely that it’s not as though Rowling’s fanbase needs to be told when the book comes out, or convinced to get it. But I’m not so sure. I will probably buy the book, and I have a feeling that a lot of people will be making purchases more out of curiosity to see what else Rowling can do than out of a genuine interest in the subject matter itself. That said, I think the publisher is keeping quiet because this book is essentially an experiment for the author — one that could blow up in her face and permanently harm her chances of branching out into writing that doesn’t involve a boy wizard. A quiet critical failure is easier to manage than a big, loud, embarrassing one. The book may sell, but if it sucks it doesn’t guarantee sales for any follow-up work. At this stage, if The Casual Vacancy gets slammed with bad reviews, it’s much easier to shrug it off than it would be if there were posters for it on every transit station for the next couple of months.
This is all conjecture, of course — it’s always possible that it’s not receiving much hype because the majority of newly-released books, particularly in North America, just don’t get all that much press, attention or advertising. But it seems to me that the scraps tossed out by the publisher are suspiciously meager and belie a concern that after the initial surge of curiosity sales, the book might not come anywhere close to the wild, unbelievable success that Rowling has experienced in the past. Then again, could we possibly expect it to?