Mystery novel “The Cuckoo’s Calling” by Robert Galbraith sold about 1,500 copies after its release in April. A few months later, on July 13, sales climbed 500,000 percent, to the top of Amazon’s best-selling list, within hours.
Why? Readers found out the author wasn’t Robert Galbraith. It was J. K. Rowling.
The revelation first came after investigators at UK news outlet The Sunday Times pegged Rowling as the real identity behind Galbraith. In response to investigations by The Sunday Times, Rowling announced that she is the real author of “The Cuckoo’s Calling” despite releasing the book under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.
Times arts editor Richard Brooks told NPR that the first clue to unraveling this mystery book mystery came in the form of a tweet to a Times columnist in a review of the book.
“A very interesting reply (to the book review) came back, which said, It’s not a debut novel. It’s by an existing author,” said Brooks. “So (the columnist) tweeted back and said, ‘Who?’ And a very straightforward, simple reply came back: ‘J.K. Rowling.’”
Brooks, skeptical, investigated the claim. He became suspicious when he found out that Galbraith and Rowling shared a literary agency and publisher and even more suspicious when he couldn’t find a picture of Galbraith. After analysts told him the book was similar to Rowling’s writing style and the publisher refused him an interview with Galbraith, Brooks got straightforward: “Is it Rowling?” he asked the publisher.
Rowling soon after admitted to being the real author in a statement to The Sunday Times.
“I hoped to keep this secret a little longer,” Rowling said in the statement, “because being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience!”
When the book was released under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, reviewers gave both positive and negative feedback. One publisher even turned down the book, noting that it would be hard to sell since the crime genre is tough to sell in. Despite the challenges, Rowling thanked her publisher and editor for their help with the novel and expressed her enjoyment in publishing under a different name.
“It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback from publishers and readers under a different name,” Rowling said in a statement.
“The Cuckoo’s Calling” follows the unlucky Afghanistan war veteran detective Cormoran Strike through London as he tries to prove the murder of a famous supermodel. Reviews of the book have been largely positive since Rowling’s reveal, and sales continue to rise. The U.S. publisher of the book recently ordered a print of 300,000 additional copies.