A Writer by Any Other Name
» Tagged as: Cuckoo's Calling , Tagged as: pen names , Tagged as: Rawling
A writer by any other name
A manuscript submitted by a new and unknown author was rejected by a publisher because "it failed to stand out from all the other manuscripts sent by hopeful authors". The author was an ex-soldier, working for a private security agency. Later it was accepted by another publisher. The book had sold only 500 copies in three months. The novel was 'The Cuckoo's Calling' by Robert Galbraith.
Then newspapers started investigating who really had written this novel. How could a man describe women's clothes, appearance of the characters, and how could a debut writer show skills in creating such a gripping novel? They uncovered the real author, by the name of J. K. Rowling, and then the sales shot up overnight. The Telegraph reports that on Amazon.UK the book "rose from 5076th place to the top of the sales chart".
It was long after 'Harry Potter' was first published in 1997, that readers discovered J. K. Rowling was Joanne Rowling (without the K), but now with an OBE. Her seven Harry Potter books had sold over 400 million copies.
Like 'Joanne' becoming 'J. K.', She may have wanted to appear as a man, or this could have been a prank by the imaginative creator of Harry Potter. May be she wanted to test the water again, as a new writer, because of her experience of been rejected by 12 publishers with her first book. Or it could have been a sales gimmick by the author and/or publisher to get more publicity, for the new novel, because Rowling's first adult fiction, 'The Casual Vacancy' did not achieve sales figures of the previous books.
Ever since the modern novel has been commodified, the authors and publishers claimed a right to promote their books and push up their sales using all promotional tactics used by sellers of other consumer goods. Rowling is also not the first woman writer to adapt a name to sound like a man, because of the belief that boys rejected books by female authors.
Rowling was not the first to try to fool her publisher and readers. Dorris Lessing writing under the name Jane Somers was rejected by her publisher Jonathan Cape, in 1984, because it was not submitted to her regular editor. When 'The Diary of a Good Neighbour' was published by Knopf (in USA) and Michael Joseph (UK), sales were very low, which proved Lessing's point that publishers and critics were influenced by the name attached to the book. Lessing claims she wanted "to settle a score with reviewers who hated her five Canopus novels". The sales picked up when later Lessing published it under her own name as 'The Diaries of Jane Somers'.
Samuel Langhorne Clemens is hardly heard of, even one hundred years after his death, because he always used, and has always been known as Mark Twain. Jacques Anatole Francois Thibault, used to write as Anatole France. Cecil Louis Traughton Smith was the man behind C. S. Forester. Eric Arthur Blair wrote 'Animal Farm' and '1984' as George Orwell. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson wrote 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' under the name Lewis Caroll. Mary Ann Evans wrote 'Silas Marner' as George Eliot. The list is long.
Prof. D. C. R. A. Goonetilleke, a world authority on Joseph Conrad wrote in the introduction to the 'Heart of Darkness' that Jozef Teodor Korad Korzeniowski adapted the pen name Joseph Conrad when he published his first book 'Almayer's Folly' in 1895.
According to the 'The Atlantic' Theodor Geisel wrote under his middle name, when he was fired from the post of editor-in-chief from the magazine 'Jack-O-Lantern', and added 'Dr.' as a joke because his father had wanted him to be a doctor.
Some writers use more than one name, like Stephen King using the name Richard Bachmann, "to publish more frequently than a single name would allow. Then later King killed Bachmann, like he would remove a character from his novels. The Bronte sisters used pen names. Charlotte was Currer , Emily was Ellis and Anne was Acton all with the family name Bell.
When Ricardo Neftali Reyes Basoalto won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971 he received it as Pablo Neruda, because by then he had adapted his pen name as his legal name. Benjamin Franklin used more than one pen name, Silence Dogood, Anthony Afterwit, Poly Baker and Alice. Addertongue.
The early writings did not reveal the name of an author because they came down orally and even the epics may have been the work of several authors. Even though Enheduanna (2285 BC to 2250 BC) is considered as the earliest author on record, the book 'Inanna' could have been a poem which had come down orally. The same could be said about Sinuhe (20th century BC), who has been called the Egyptian Shakespeare.
Rowlings is probably following the tradition set since around the 17th century when female authors used male names to hide their gender. During her lifetime very few people outside her family and publishers would have known that George Eliot was really Mary Ann Evans. Sometimes a male would hide behind a female name. A few years ago, when a publisher found a demand for a new female thriller writer, Tania Carver began writing. She was awarded the 2010 Theakstone Crime Novel award, and it was Martyn Waites who walked up to accept the award, because Waites was also Carver.
In our country during the mid-twentieth century writers changed their names to 'Hela', like Ariyasena Ashubudha to Arisen Ahubudu, while Coperahewa changed his first name from Chandradasa to Sandadas.
Not everyone is fooled by pseudonyms. "Ah, my dear Madam, ah, "Mr." Serge Solntsev, how easy it is to guess that the author's name is a pseudonym, that the author is not a man! Every sentence of yours buttons to the left." so said Vladimir Nabokov.