Why the Lack of Hype for J.K. Rowling’s New Book?


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?

7 thoughts on “Why the Lack of Hype for J.K. Rowling’s New Book?

  1. Pingback: Write What You Know (Will Sell): J.K. Rowling Returning to Kid’s Books « Tea Leaves and Dog Ears

  2. I always took it to mean that they were trying to use the mystery of the books contents as the advertising, to sort of raise interest by people being curious about it. You make a good point, though, that there could be some consideration about minimizing potential damage if the book is not received well.

    • It could be either, quite frankly. I’ve received many more hits about this book/post than I expected, but that could be due to the fact that there just isn’t that much information out there. But as a marketing campaign, a conspicuous lack of coverage does seem like an awfully dangerous gamble. You could be drumming up interest. On the other hand, you could be helping people to forget it’s even coming out.

      This is going to sound like an odd comparison, but I looked for weeks to see when Henry IV Part I was playing on BBC2. Couldnt find an air date anywhere, forgot about it, and then found out days later that I’d missed it. The Hollow Crown is starring some of Britain’s best and newest talent and there is so little coverage of it that it’s definitely harming the possibility of future projects. And that’s what I worry about with this book.

      Chances are, J.K.’s written a cute little gem of a detective novel or murder mystery, but if it doesn’t do well, it will be very embarrassing and hurt her chances as a non-Potter author.

  3. It’s definitely odd. In fact, I’d completely forgotten about it. A part of me wonders if they are afraid of providing too much hype and then when it doesn’t (which it won’t) live up to Harry Potter standards, all that will be said is criticism. Hmmm…Thanks for posting!

    • It definitely won’t/can’t live up to Harry Potter, but I think it definitely has the potential to be fun escapism literature and all they really need to do is sell it that way. I hadn’t forgotten about it, but it definitely wasn’t at the forefront of my mind these past couple of months. And even the release of the cover seemed like a fairly quiet thing.

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