It looks like J.K. Rowling isn’t going to be the one hit wonder people might have thought. A completely different genre from her successful boy wizard stores, ‘The Casual Vacancy’ is already making itself known with pre-release orders of over one million.
Tipped as the best-selling fiction title of the year, the award which Fifty Shades of Grey (5.3 million copies sold) is currently in line for, The Casual Vacancy’s pre-orders are the highest of the year so far in Waterstones. It is certainly predicted to go straight to Number 1 upon release on today.
The book tackles issues such as heroin addiction, prostitution, single parenthood and teen sexuality, thus targeting an extremely different audience to Rowling’s past successes. There have even been parodies already, with Pan Macmillan publishing ‘The Vacant Casualty’ by Patty O’Furniture. Whether this is annoying or flattering for Rowling remains to be seen.
It’s almost as if it’s her literary debut again. Not that she’ll lose her fame or fortune grounded on the Harry Potter series, but failure or embarrassment related to the new book could end any future trust in a writing career.
It must be noted that the run-up to the release of the book has been reasonably low-key, including few adverts and low numbers of interviews with the author. Many might not have even noticed. It’s clear that Rowling is looking for a fresh start and a change of direction – in great contrast to the mad PR surrounding the Harry Potter books.
But a spot of crisis PR may have been needed had locals from the setting of her new book voiced their offence louder. Rowling claims she based the ‘snobby’ community in the book on her upbringing in Gloucestershire. Residents of the area don’t agree with this portrayal of separation between the middle classes and the council estates, and some have said they are ‘upset’.
Normally one to seem shy and not often appear in the limelight, JK Rowling’s appearance at the Olympic opening ceremony in a dedication to children’s literature demonstrates her influence universally.
A businesswoman at heart, it is clear that Rowling has always been willing to take risks in her career. After numerous rejections from publishers, she did not settle for the easy route and take on a teaching career. Pursuing her passion for writing, Bloomsbury took on Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone in 1997. To date, the 47 year old sold more than 450 million books and her fortune is estimated at £560 million. She took a 1% share of the profit from each film produced too.
Rowling is not only a businesswoman but a philanthropist too. She gives generously to charity, at one point donating £22 million to Comic Relief. In 2000, Rowling established the Volant Charitable Trust, which uses its annual budget of £5.1 million to combat poverty and social inequality.
So we’ll have to wait and see whether Rowling will need to ride on her past successes, or if her new book can make a name for itself.