By now you've probably heard the news about J.K. Rowling writing a mystery novel under a different name: The Cuckoo's Calling. It was released back in the spring, got good reviews, but sold poorly. Then the news leaked that Rowling had in fact written it, and POW! People talked, sales rocketed, and now it sits at the top of best-seller lists.
Lesson: a great book with great reviews can still see lousy sales without a Name to back it up.
Stephanie Evanovich's debut novel, on the other hand (Big Girl Panties) got a review in the recent People magazine. This author is, of course, related to the uber-famous author Janet Evanovich. The review called the book "fun and fluffy, if somewhat predictable" that uses a "tried-and-true storyline" with a "plot that sometimes strains credulity." But it's written by the relative of a best-seller, it's featured in a major magazine, and according to Amazon lists, it's seeing the kind of sales and rankings that most debut authors never do.
Lesson: a debut novel that's not particularly outstanding or original can get notice and sales simply because of the Name attached to it.
I'm not writing this blog post today to sound bitter or resentful, but simply to point out one of the realities of the publishing world. Name and brand is everything. Authors have to find a way to establish themselves, to set themselves apart, so that their Name will instantly call up a certain image, a certain promise to be found in the pages, and readers will want to buy that book simply because of the Name on the cover.
So....if you're a writer, are you actively doing that? That is our challenge, each and every day. Good luck, and happy writing!