Today, J.K. Rowling is a woman consumed by fear and anxiety. “But, why?” I hear you ask. The answer is simple: Her first book for adults, The Casual Vacancy, comes out the same week as my humble effort, Human Game. The Parabolist of Potter, the undisputed queen of bestsellerdom, knows she has met a worthy opponent. In me, she faces a man with a few books released by respectable publishers but only purchased by a small circle of readers composed primarily of his wife, parents, and yours truly.
Yesterday, I discovered J.K. Rowling’s doomed tome hits stores a mere five days before mine. The poor lass; she’s probably in her Scottish castle, cursing her luck and kicking her priceless objets d’arts. I almost feel sorry for her when I consider the pressure she’s under. Expectations for her first non-Potter book are at a stratospheric level. Not only must she contend with fears of whether readers will embrace her as a “serious” novelist, she must now worry about the infinitesimal ding my book will make in her sales. Sorry, J.K., you can blame my publisher, Penguin, for the scheduling snafu.
True, her book will undoubtedly enjoy five months of pre-release publicity, rife with speculation about the plot and characters. Media outlets will hound her publicist to set up interviews, while pre-orders will likely push her book to the top of the bestseller lists months before it even comes out. But on the actual week when her publisher–Little, Brown and Company–thrusts The Casual Vacancy onto the reading public, a segment of the population will flock instead to purchase Human Game. Who are these people? The same folks I mentioned above: My wife, my parents, and me.
If the fates are particularly cruel, six inches of column space in some random book review section may even mention my book, cutting into the endless number of pages devoted to Rowling’s effort. It will surely be a bitter pill for the Goddess of Gryffindor to swallow.
Let it be known I take no pleasure in reducing one of the world’s most beloved storytellers to a quivering mass of insecurity and self-pity—but such is the cutthroat world of publishing. I wish there was something I could do, but things are out of my hands.