LONDON — A detective novel secretly written by J.K. Rowling surged to the top of bestseller lists on Monday after the true identity of the author was revealed, embarrassing some publishers who had rejected the manuscript.
Rowling, whose Harry Potter series made her Britain’s best-selling author, posed as a retired military policeman called Robert Galbraith to write “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” only to see her cover blown at the weekend by a Sunday newspaper.
The novel had only sold 1,500 hardback copies since being published in April. But by Monday it had raced to the top of Amazon.co.uk’s best-selling list, leaving high street and online book merchants unable to slake demand.
“For a title that isn’t even in our top 5,000 to shoot to number one so quickly is almost unheard of,” Darren Hardy, books manager at Amazon.co.uk, told Reuters by email.
Hardy said this meteoric rise in sales meant “The Cuckoo’s Calling” has established itself as a contender to become one of the biggest-selling books of the summer.
Publisher Little, Brown, which last year published Rowling’s first adult novel “The Casual Vacancy”, said it was immediately reprinting “The Cuckoo’s Calling” — about war veteran turned private eye Cormorant Strike investigating the death of a model.
“We’re looking forward to publishing Strike’s next instalment in summer 2014,” the publisher said in a statement.
Rowling, 47, said it had been “wonderful” to publish for once without hype or expectation and to get feedback under a different name — even if that meant some publishers rejected her work.
Her Harry Potter series was also spurned by about 12 publishers before the first of her seven novels about the boy wizard was published in 1997.
Kate Mills, fiction editor at London-based Orion publishing, went onto Twitter to admit she knocked back Rowling’s new work.
“So I can now say that I turned down J.K. Rowling. I did read and say no to Cuckoo’s Calling. Anyone else going to confess?” Mills tweeted.
Reviewers as well admitted to missing the book that received largely positive write-ups from those who did read it.
“Mea culpa, mea culpa. Me for @thebookseller on how I missed The Cuckoo’s Calling,” tweeted fiction reviewer Cathy Rentzenbrink from trade magazine The Bookseller who only read the first chapter of the book before abandoning it.
Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller, said it was not unusual in the publishing world to use a pseudonym if authors wanted to write in a new genre to attract a new readership or for women writers who did not want to alienate male readers.
Rowling was not available to comment.