Friday, August 16, 2013

J.K. Rowling and Mystery Fiction by Jacqueline Seewald

Question: When is a rose not a rose? Answer: When J.K. Rowling says it’s not.
Rowling has reinvented herself as a mystery writer. Having myself created a heroine, Kim Reynolds, who sees the need for reinvention, I do not fault Rowling.
Rowling has done something that writers often do. Choosing to write in a new genre, she decided to use a nom de plume, a pseudonym. Clearly, she did not want to be pigeon-holed as a writer of young adult fiction or even literary fiction. Imagine her surprise when the publishing world did not instantly fall all over itself to turn THE CUCKOO’S CALLING into a bestseller. As a novel by “Robert Galbraith” the book sold modestly. When someone mysteriously leaked the real identity of the author  to the TIMES of London, and Rowling verified the story, the book shot up to number one on the bestseller list.
I believe this demonstrates that selling books, particularly fiction in hardcover, has become increasingly difficult. If readers are going to spend good money on mystery fiction, for instance, they want name recognition, a “brand” as it were. Fame still brings fortune in the book publishing industry. Even great reviews which are often rare as rubies do not necessarily guarantee successful publication.
The publishing industry is in a state of uncertainty. Will print go the way of the dinosaur as some predict? Will hardcover, trade and paperbacks be almost completely replaced by ebooks? Selfishly, I hope not. I hate the idea of print becoming obsolete.
But writers must be open to change and diversity. Even famous writers like Rowling are willing to work in a variety of genres. I believe Rowling is correct, that writers should publish in more than one form of media. With this in mind, for instance, a collection of my short stories, BEYOND THE BO TREE, has been made available on Kindle:

In September, my co-authored mystery novel THE THIRD EYE will be published by Five Star/Gale in hardcover:
 Also in September, Harlequin Worldwide Mystery brings out a paperback reprint, the third of my novels they have republished this year, DEATH LEGACY, a spy thriller:;jsessionid=1393C3C686B0F8B9EDEDD9B62B0A54F8?authorid=2189
            So what can writers learn from Rowling’s latest effort as an author? Perhaps that we should not be afraid to venture into new territory and try something different, and that we should never become complacent.
.           As readers and writers where do you feel the future of publishing is headed? What would you like to see happen?
To celebrate the forthcoming publication of THE THIRD EYE, at least one responder will be selected at random to receive a signed Advance Review Copy—just include an email address.


bdtharp said...

I seem to recall that they said books would never catch on and that was a couple hundred years ago. So, I'm not too worried that books are going away anytime soon. I agree it is difficult to sell the hardback without a recognized "brand" name like King, Roberts, or Rowling. I've always thought writers should explore other genres and have done a little of that myself. Good luck with your new book. Thanks for a great post!

Paula Gail Benson said...

Jacqueline, you make a very good point. I know that some authors prefer to work in a single genre for a specific audience, but like you, I think authors should not be afraid to try writing more than a single type of book. J.K. Rowling, Phyllis A. Whitney, and many others have proven it's viable. Great blog!

Betty Gordon said...

Jacquie, thanks once again for an insightful blog. I, personally, don't feel print books will become extinct -- at least I hope not. While I thoroughly enjoy ebooks, there is nothing like holding a book in your hands and marking if you desire. It's kinda like holding the author's words in your hands and bringing them close to your heart.
I believe writers should venture into other genres than the one they have built a platform for. This venture can open avenues that you never knew existed.
I'd love to throw my hat in the ring for "The Third Eye." Email is

Susan Oleksiw said...

Joyce Carol Oats did something similar many years ago. She wanted to be confident that editors were buying her books because they were good, not because her name was on them, so she sent a mss with a pseudonym to an editor, and waited. The mss was accepted. I admire her for that. As successful as Oats is, she was willing to take a chance.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Bonnie,

I hope you are right about books in print staying with us. Somehow I don't feel really published unless my work first appears in print formats.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Paula,

I agree that authors should try a variety of genres.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Like you I write books in different genres. I love writing mysteries and romantic suspense, and still enjoy writing novels for kids.

I think Rawlings' experience shows us how difficult it is for a book to have fantastic sales unless the author is a household name. Anyone can publish a book these days, and free books are available to readers. Both impact the sales of writers.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Betty,

I agree. There is room for both print and ebook formats. Perhaps it will just encourage more people to read.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Susan,

Like you, I respect Joyce Carol Oates as a writer. She is fearless. And she writes well in all genres.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Marilyn,

Like you, I love to write a variety of books: mystery, romantic mystery, romantic suspense and straight romance as well as children's books and YA novels.

joye said...

Your book sound great.
I am a reader that wants to hold a book in my hands. I hope books stay around.

Carole Price said...

I don't think I'm stepping out on a limb when I say print books will never be a thing of the past. People love the feel of a book in their hands. I love to look at my jamb packed bookshelves, sometimes flipping through their pages.

Kathy McIntosh said...

The "new" publishing industry gives us more opportunities to write in several genres. In the past, big publishers (and agents) dictated that writers stick with what was selling well.
It's difficult to establish a "platform" if you have to change names to write in other genres.
Good thoughts in your post!

D'Ann said...

The other day someone told me cowboy romance was dead. What??? I think not. I think written words in many forms will be around as long as people can read.

Irene Bennett Brown said...

I have written award-winning children's and young adult novels, women's historical novels of the west, and more recently contemporary cozy mysteries. I love "playing the field" in genres.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Joye,

Glad to hear you like print too!

Jacqueline Seewald said...


We share similar views in that we both enjoy reading a print book.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Kathy,

The opportunities to publish have increased with e-publishing, but not the monetary gain for the most part. Still, we hear of those who make it big every now and then. It is encouraging.

Jacqueline Seewald said...


Cowboy novels will always hold a great appeal. I don't see that changing.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Irene,

I think it's great that you write in a variety of genres.

Jan Christensen said...

Hi, Jacqueline--what a great post. I totally agree with everything you say. I have to wonder if J.K. had never been "outed" and continued to write under the pen name if she would have built up to best-sellerdom in the mystery genre on her writing alone. Now we'll never know. As for paper books, I love them, and love seeing them on my many bookshelves. But I quit buying hardbacks about twenty years ago when even back then, I thought they were too expensive. The library and used book stores are still my friends. Good luck with all your current (and past) projects! I'd love to win an arc, so here's my email:

Dan the Man with the Master Plan said...

Thanks for this provocative posting on JK. As a hobbyist writer I feel there is no place left for the "undiscovered writer". The market forces have created intense pressure on the publishing houses to increase their commercial focus on cultivating a handful of blockbuster writers. The problem with this is that there is a steady decline in the quality of writing from those "superstars" and independent and undiscovered talent eventually becomes demotivated. I do think this the death knell of the traditional publishing model. The social media model for content development is the 2.0 era of publishing. If enough people follow your writing, then advertising dollar will follow and the crowd will have spoken.

So perhaps this a positive signal for the independent, unrepresented writers in the marketplace of the written word?

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Jan,

I agree with you about the price of hardcover novels. These days Five Star/Gale is mainly known as a library publisher and they put strong library bindings on all their hardcovers. I'll suggest that readers ask their local libraries to buy hardcovers they'd like to read so many can share.

Jacqueline Seewald said...


Your intelligent, perceptive comments are much appreciated. I agree with your observations regarding the publishing industry.

Anna @authenticparenting said...

I have not yet tried an e-book. Maybe one day. While I understand the convenience of an e-book I still prefer the sensory experience that comes with physical books.
This is a very insightful post!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Thank you for dropping by and commenting, Anna.

Maggie Toussaint said...

I'm late to visit blogs, as usual, but this topic has been much on mind this past year. It took me nearly ten years to "break in" to publishing and I've had a front row seat for the last 8 or so years with Five Star and other publishers.

I see a lot of power plays by Amazon and Barnes and Noble valiantly lagging slightly behind. I see publishers acquiring more book rights with contracts to cover contingencies. I see authors branching out to try new things.

The business side of writing is a different beast than the creative, constructive side. A writer has to be multi-dimensional in this day and age. Furthermore, we can't afford to keep our head in the sand and let the market sort itself out. We need to stay abreast of trends and other publishing news and respond in real-time, or run the risk of lagging wa-aaa-ay behind.

Now, if I just had about 24 more hours in a day to get it all done!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Maggie,

Astute observations! You are so right. The business side of publishing and the creative, constructive side rarely coincide. As writers, we nowadays try to reconcile the two, but it is difficult and also time-consuming--as you point out.

Anonymous said...

I imagine that ARC has already gone out but if not, consider me in the draw. I've enjoyed all the comments as one who has not yet gotten to the completed work let alone gotten an editor, agent or publisher. I figure this is just another way to learn about writing and perhaps make the path a little smoother. I learn a lot by reading that's for sure. Judy Dee

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