After the stellar success of the Harry Potter series the question was raised whether she’d be successful as a writer outside of the specific world that she’d built for herself. Her next novel, The Casual Vacancy, set records for being the most started book on Goodreads for the day of its release, and sold incredibly well in the UK. Critically, it was somewhat acclaimed, seeming to suffer from some accounts of it being “workmanlike” and “respectable”, rather than touched with greatness. We’ll never know to what degree preconceptions about Rowling and her writing style affected these views, but either way it proved to naysayers that she had the writing chops to move beyond her original series to delve into complex societal issues and grapple with things that had far less to do with magic. The big lesson to take away from this may be to simply put your head down and charge into a situation that you know is likely to be filled with naysayers and critics, trusting in yourself to create the best product that you can.
A year after the release of The Casual Vacancy, there was the release of her first book writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, The Cuckoos Calling. The book originally did not sell as well as it likely would have under Rowling’s name – reaching only as high as 4,709 on Amazon’s best selling list prior to Rowling admitting that she was the author behind the books. At that point the book skyrocketed to #1 on Amazon . Some would argue that this just demonstrates the inability of the average person to figure out whether something is good or not on their own, but I disagree. In a hypothetical world, each person would have enough time to sort through everything and find what they’re looking for. In reality, there is a never-ending, never-stopping deluge of new books and other media coming out nearly every day. In that kind of environment, it is no wonder that the value of an artist’s or writer’s brand has become one of the determining factors.
Further, Rowling’s continuation to work on writing projects , especially ones outside of what she has previously written, demonstrates an important lesson for many people – write because you love it and for no other reason. Not everyone is going to make a lot of money out of writing, and most people will probably, statistically, accomplish little more than being able to buy themselves pizza every once in awhile. Making money has never been a good reason to write, though you should definitely expect and aim to make money for your work, but the reason you’re writing should be because you want do. And at this point, I think we can all agree that this is what Rowling wants to be doing, and she’s kicking butt doing it.